Happy Thanksgiving, Forsyth Tech Family!
I often use the phrase “imagine without boundaries.” I hope that concept motivates us to open our minds and capture the infinite possibilities that abound for shaping our future and achieving our shared vision. However, a year ago as I penned my first Thanksgiving message as your President, I could never have imagined what lie ahead for all of us in the new year. At the time, I believed the year to come was filled with opportunities for us to elevate and embrace the important and edifying work of building a culture of belonging to ground and guide us as we worked together to become a catalyst for equitable economic mobility, empowering lives and transforming communities.
“The best plans of mice and men often go awry.” Perhaps this is an appropriate descriptor for 2020 – a year that will most certainly find a place of prominence as a defining moment within our world’s history. This year will certainly reframe our normal and alter our future in ways we have yet to fully realize, and 2020 will most assuredly leave its indelible imprint on all of us and become a defining moment in our collective life’s stories.
The challenges and disruptions this year have ascribed themselves easily to a comparison of a storm. Many times, this year, I personally felt anxious and found myself comparing my uneasiness to the apprehension I experienced each time a hurricane approached our coast when I lived on our coast in Carteret County. I remember the exhausting storm preparations we completed before each landfall — stocking up on food, filling the bathtubs with water, boarding our windows — securing our property to keep us as safe as possible. Once that work was complete, my family and I would hunker down together, inside our then windowless home, riding out the storm in the darkness, listening to the howling winds and the pounding sideways rain, as the storm swirled furiously, out of our control, all around us. When you are amid a hurricane, you are at the mercy of the storm. You cannot control it and you cannot make it stop. It is a frightening experience, and often all you can do is bow your head, say a prayer, and weather the storm until it runs out of rain.
I use my experience of riding out a hurricane as an analogy for 2020. So much of what we have endured this year has been outside our control and we have had no choice but to hunker down together and hold tightly to our families, friends, and each other as we weather the storm until it runs out of rain. Unfortunately, the 2020 storm has not yet run out of rain. COVID-19 continues to pound away at us, we continue to fight the injustices of prejudice, bigotry, intolerance, and discrimination, our country remains starkly divided politically, and we are in the middle of a global recession.
As we prepare for our annual Thanksgiving holiday, a day specifically set aside as a time for Americans to celebrate our blessings and offer thanks for a bountiful harvest, it may seem like 2020 has robbed us of much to be grateful for. This year, for many, the holiday will look very different. Weathering the storm of 2020 has taken its toll on us. We have all been riding this storm out together, but our experiences have not all been the same. Many among us have been battered harder than others, and we are all tired and struggling to remain hopeful.
Yes, this Thanksgiving will be different, as the storms of 2020 are not quite ready to let go of their hold on us, and it may seem like we have less to be grateful for than in years past. Yet, I suggest that perhaps this season of gratitude and this time for celebrating our blessings is even more poignant and important. President Abraham Lincoln officially declared the holiday that created our national Thanksgiving Day in 1863 in midst of the Civil War. In his proclamation, President Lincoln entreated all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or suffers in the lamentable civil strife … [to] heal the wounds of the nation.”
Lincoln’s poetic words are especially relevant for Thanksgiving 2020. These storms will end. I remain optimistic and hopeful for a better 2021. With the new year, it is my fervent wish, that the turbulent storms of 2020 will finally run out of rain, and we will be able to open our windows wide, survey the damage with clear eyes and open minds and hearts, and forge ahead together with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose.
I recently read an article about gratitude that posits it is much more than merely the act of saying thank you or being grateful. There is much evidence that strongly and consistently associates gratitude with improved health, stronger relationships, better ability to deal with adversity, and greater happiness. Perhaps this Thanksgiving more than ever, we need to be especially grateful.
Our Psychology Professor, Kathryn Alves-Labore, shared this quote, from American college English teacher and author, Clara Claiborne Park, with our President’s Advisory Council this week:
“This experience we did not choose, and which we would have done anything to avoid, has made us different, has made us better.”
We are stronger than the storm.
As students, you faced the challenges that 2020 has thrown at you with courage, remaining remarkably resilient and bravely continuing on in your quest to achieve your dream. You kept moving forward even as many of you lost your jobs, had to homeschool your children, and faced relentless challenges and disruption. As faculty and staff, you accomplished the seemingly impossible, creating a virtual environment to sustain teaching, learning, and support services for our students to the highest caliber and greatest extent possible. You loved and served our students with excellence, even while dealing with your own personal effects of the storm in your life.
As we leave for our Thanksgiving holiday this week, as we approach the end of the storm that has been 2020, and as the hope and expectation of 2021 dawns, I wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving!
When I give thanks for all my blessings on Thanksgiving Day, please know I will offer a special word of appreciation, thankfulness, and gratefulness for each of you. Your courage, grace, and resilience inspire me daily. I am humbled, honored, and exceedingly grateful for the privilege of leading this esteemed institution of higher learning and all of you.
We are a place of promise, because of you. Happy Thanksgiving, Forsyth Tech!
Dr. Janet N. Spriggs
Forsyth Technical Community College