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Winrock International

Thoughts on January 6th

CEO Rodney Ferguson reflects on the horror and the hopefulness of a pivotal day in the United States

President and CEO Rodney Ferguson recently addressed Winrock staff about the events of January 6, 2021. Here are his remarks:

Yesterday was one of the darkest, most troubling days in American history. To see what is perhaps the most iconic symbol of American democracy desecrated, and public servants terrorized, and a vital moment in the peaceful transfer of power befouled by a group of lawless domestic terrorists, was nothing short of horrific.

But I would ask us all to consider the less visible activities of the last 48 hours. Two new senators — one the son of a woman who picked someone else’s cotton, the other the grandson of Jewish immigrants — were elected to the United States Senate. The White House will soon be occupied by a Catholic son of a postal worker and a Black and Indian-American woman. And while under assault, dedicated government workers thought that their first priority was to protect the electoral college vote lists from theft or destruction — and did so, preserving the documents that would later that day be used to certify the lawful election of our next president and preserve our democracy.

Most of us work at Winrock because we want to help disadvantaged people here in the U.S. and around the world enjoy a better life and live on a healthy planet. At a time when the COVID pandemic has killed millions of people around the world and ravaged the global economy, it is shameful that people here in the U.S. must navigate this madness and that our global leadership is questioned. And yesterday’s actions make it even more difficult to exhort other countries to adopt practices that we seem to no longer adhere to ourselves.

What we witnessed yesterday — that the dregs of hate are potent and powerful — is terrible and almost inexplicable, so I won’t try to untangle its causes. But I continue to believe that after we awake from this dreadfully long evening, the sun will rise on a country perhaps scarred and embattled but intact, and still committed to equality and progress. There have been many, many moments in our history when our actions belied our ideals. During those times — the Jim Crow era, the age of McCarthyism, the Vietnam War — it would have been easy to give up on the United States or question our morals and values. This is one of those times. But instead of the darkness, I think of the nurses and bus drivers and farmers and social workers toiling through the pandemic despite great risks. And of those government employees who shepherded votes to safety yesterday. And of all of you, from Senegal to Uzbekistan to Thailand to El Dorado, Arkansas, who are working tirelessly to improve the lives of so many.

I hope that every one of you is safe and healthy, and — strange though it may sound — hopeful. I am grateful for my association with you every day.