Now We Will Come to Know Ourselves

Foundation President Will Ginsberg reflects on Charlottesville, New Haven and the future of our community
By / August 24, 2017
Photo courtesy of The New Haven Independent

Nearly 300 people gathered Sunday August 13, 2017 in New Haven, Connecticut, at the corner of Chapel and Church streets, in the wake of a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Va. that left one young woman dead and more than 30 wounded after white nationalists gathered for a "Unite the Right" march. Photo courtesy of the New Haven Independent; credit Markeshia Ricks.

In recent weeks, many in the field of philanthropy have joined with leaders from all walks of American life to denounce the brazen and violent display of hatred that despoiled the streets of Charlottesville on August 12. Recoiling at the resurgence in our midst of the demons that have written humanity's darkest stories, philanthropy has re-asserted its shared values of civility, unity, generosity and inclusion.

In Greater New Haven, while at any given time we may have our differences on the issues of the day, these values have always been the bedrock on which our community is built. Over the years, these values have been our guide as we have surmounted our challenges and realized our aspirations.

Since last fall, our message at The Community Foundation has been Community Now More Than Ever. These words are our way of saying that what is urgently needed now is a recommitment to these core values, for they are what connect us to one another, to this place that we share, and to our common destiny as one diverse and indivisible community. And these words are also our way of saying that that the times we are living in demand that we do more than proclaim our values; we in Greater New Haven need to stand together and work together.

"In Greater New Haven, the time of testing is upon us."

The headwinds are fierce. Even beyond the ugliness and divisiveness of the national mood, proposed new Federal policies combined with Connecticut's budget catastrophe threaten so much of what we have long invested in and cared about in our community.

Last November at The Foundation's annual meeting, we foresaw that we might soon be tested more severely than at any time within memory, and we expressed our determination to meet whatever tests may be coming. Today, nine months later, it is clear that the gloomy forebodings of autumn 2016 have become the deeply alarming reality of summer 2017. Yale historian Timothy Snyder expressed it well recently in The New York Times, first quoting the wisdom of Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska that "we know ourselves only insofar as we have been tested," and then adding his own post-Charlottesville comment: "we are being tested and so we will come to know ourselves."

In Greater New Haven, the time of testing is upon us. Will we stand up to the powerful forces that would substitute hatred and demonization for the inclusive, unified and optimistic spirit of community that we have so painstakingly built over the decades? Will we step forward and continue to take responsibility for one another and for our shared future?

We are seeing signs already that our community will be up to the test. Let us continue and strengthen our resolve.

Now more than ever, it is up to each of us to undertake the urgent daily work of strengthening connections, embracing and supporting those on the margins, and creating a future where the many and not just the few will have the opportunity to build a better life.

Now more than ever, the future of the Greater New Haven community is up to us.

Will you join us?