Feature image: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A year after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building during the certification of the 2020 election results on January 6, 2021, Joel S. Hellman, Dean of the Walsh School of Foreign Service, shared the following message:
“The events of January 6th, 2021, shattered the way many people — both at home and abroad — viewed our country and our democracy.
As I wrote on this tragic day last year, the assault on the U.S. Capitol was led by an anti-democratic mob that included racist and anti-Semitic elements. The images of hand-to-hand combat between participants in that insurrection and law enforcement officers looked eerily similar to those of us more accustomed to studying political violence in other countries. For our scholars who examine how systems of government rise and fall, and what the messy and complicated processes of democratization look like, January 6th provided an unwelcome case study only miles from our Georgetown campus. And to our faculty who’ve spent the past decades focused on violent extremists overseas, it was yet another reminder that the biggest threats in the years since 9/11 have often come from inside our own house.
We are a school dedicated to studying the world. Born from the ashes of World War I, the School of Foreign Service came of age during a time when American citizens saw firsthand what a powerful impact our nation could have when we fought for democratic principles around the world.
We know that foreign policy does not happen in a vacuum. We in the United States are not immune to the autocratic tendencies we see growing more powerful in countries in every region of the world today. It is the work of all of us, and especially our students who have committed themselves to the values of service, to recognize that very real threat and to work against it.
I will end by reiterating my call for accountability. Our country can only demonstrate the strength and resilience of our democracy by bringing to justice those who committed crimes related to the insurrection. And we must fight the forces of autocracy and anti-democratic fervor gripping too many of our fellow citizens here and around the world today. Whether it is tackling climate change or managing a pandemic, every global challenge we face is made more difficult when we cannot agree on facts and view every policy debate as a zero-sum political debate to be won. I remain hopeful today, in large part because of the work I see our amazing students doing, that we can emerge from this dark period of our history with a brighter future ahead.”