I write this after watching the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States and the swearing-in of the first female and Black vice president.
Though still operating at physical distances from one another, we, in many ways, have grown closer together through the shared experiences of life during a pandemic, social unrest, and the transition of leadership in our nation’s capital. We have been able to reassert who we are as a people and what our country stands for. We celebrate our mutual respect for each other, embracing our differences, finding ways to create more inclusive spaces for Cal alumni and students to connect with each other and the world around us.
The Cal Alumni Association (CAA) reflects on the best of what UC Berkeley instilled in us. CAA’s work transcends income, race, and gender. Our alumni established The Leadership Award in 1934. The one-year, merit-based scholarship brings together undergraduate students at Cal who demonstrate innovative, initiative-driven leadership with an impact. We ask each of them, “How are you going to make your mark at UC Berkeley?” and prepare them to continue to lead in their fields and local communities after graduation.
The destructive events of January 6, 2021 will forever be part of our history. Yet just two weeks later at the United States Capitol, a Black woman was sworn in by a Latina Supreme Court justice. Reflect on that for a moment. A daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, who immersed themselves in the democratic process right here in Berkeley, is now the vice president of the United States. Last fall, the campus welcomed its most ethnically diverse incoming class. I thought of them as I watched Vice President Kamala Harris complete the swearing-in ceremonies for Senators Alex Padilla, Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff. Our students are able to see that these powerful positions are no longer exclusive; they are part of their continuous leadership journeys.
As we begin to heal after a tumultuous 2020, I found these words from Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb, both comforting and inspiring: “But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.”
Clothilde Hewlett ’76, J.D. ’79
Leadership Award Scholars at the 35th Annual Leadership Award Recognition Luncheon on March 2, 2020, one week before remote instruction would begin at Berkeley. | Image by CJ Poloka of Charles Poloka Photography