WIU Interim President Martin Abraham Town & Gown Remarks: Calling for Action – Sept. 26, 2019

Well good evening. Thank you all for being here. This is truly an amazing turnout for what
I know is going to be an excellent event. This is my first time. I’m here in Macomb for about three months
and this is my first Town and Gown, and I really am thrilled to be here and I hope all
of you have had a chance to meet Nancy, sitting up front over here. I know she was around and making the rounds
and trying to get to meet as many of you as she could. And I’m glad that she’s able to join us as
well this evening. I want to reflect a little bit on the last
couple of months, the last few months here, my time being in Macomb and Western, and starting
to think about some of the things that have been going on and there are a lot of good
things that are happening. I’ve really been thrilled. As I thought about this, I thought this was
a perfect opportunity to share a request with everyone here this evening. And I’m going to get to that in just a moment. I know that you’ve been out and you’ve listened
to me the past couple of months, I’ve talked a lot about some of the things that I really
have come to appreciate about being here in Macomb. How the community and the people at the University
have come out and welcomed us with open arms and been all about making us feel completely
at home here in Macomb. You really have done a phenomenal job at that
because we’ve really gotten a great feeling of welcome and I know I speak for Nancy when
I can tell you that we are truly grateful for this wonderful reception that we’ve received. But here’s where my request comes in. And I want you share this request with everybody
you can, friends, co-workers, family members, I want you as a community to be as welcoming
to all of our students, to all of our faculty, our staff and our visitors, as you’ve been
to me and Nancy. – clapping – I’m calling on you to put that
same energy, compassion, and intention that you’ve demonstrated to us into welcoming others. Whether they’re here for a day, a week, four
years, or permanently, for decades to come. And I can tell you I’ve heard from so many
people how Macomb just grows on you. You come here, you talk about only being here
for a couple of years, and then, people stay. And I’ve heard that from people who have told
me that multiple times, many stories. So, Mayor Inman and I have really been working
hard, leading a group, we’ve had a lot of good participation with this. A group called Moving Macomb Forward. We’ve had three – actually six sessions – over
three days. Two of them out in the community in various
locations and one actually that really resonated last night at the University. last night at the University. And quite frankly, some of the things that
I heard from our students was really heartbreaking. Not just as a president, but as a member of
the community. Many of our students and members of our community
feel disenfranchised and marginalized. Some feel unwelcome, confused and scared. I heard from students who came to Macomb because
we have a reputation for being open and inclusive. They’ve loved their experiences at Western
but because of some of the events that have been going on recently, in particular, they
just don’t feel comfortable here anymore. And in fact some of them have changed their
plans to stay here for graduate school. We need to change that. And that change needs to start here, tonight,
with everyone, and not just here, but beyond here. We are I know working hard as a community
to ensure that we are inclusive and welcoming. That’s what these forums that we’re hosting
are all about. They’re a start but they’re certainly not
the finish. There’re a start to rectifying what has occurred
and to help all of us come to terms to become a welcoming and inclusive place. It’s going to take more than just these community
forums. I’ve said many many times, Western needs Macomb. And we need Macomb to be here for Western
in all ways. As a community, we need to be intentional
in our choices, our actions, our words, and our behaviors. We must embrace the diversity and all the
richness that diversity brings to our community and our University. The University can’t do this alone, we can’t
be in silos. Each of us has the ability to be change agents
for the better. To set the right tone and the right direction. To educate individuals and raise awareness. To speak out and right the wrongs. Please join me and the Mayor, working not
just tonight, not just tomorrow, but every single day to ensure that Macomb and Western
returns to that reputation for being a wonderful community for all to live, to work, to learn,
and that we value and support a very diverse community. I thank all of you for coming out, I thank
all of you for supporting Western. You’ve been a tremendous ally and tremendous
asset and a great partner for everything that we’re trying to do. Thank you all for being here tonight. It really is an honor to be serving as Western’s
acting president and I can tell you that I’m thrilled, Nancy and I got out last week, we
got our drivers licenses, so we’re now here as official residents. Appreciate it, enjoy the evening. Thank you. Clapping.

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