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Dean's Blog: Mandela quote of "Hope" helps us stay the course

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm
Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

At the beginning of this semester, we selected a few meaningful quotes to help guide us through these unprecedented times. These sentiments appear on our t-shirts, stickers, and social media channels as a means of support. Of inspiration.

“Your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

Many may recognize this quote from Nelson Mandela, the great anti-apartheid revolutionary, Nobel Peace Prize-winning president of South Africa, included as a way to motivate against difficult circumstances.

Throughout 2020, we have looked beyond our unimaginable fear of a global pandemic, bolstered by the hope of a safe campus, classroom, and laboratory environment or the evolving ability to leverage technology to build meaningful virtual connections, all to provide a high quality science education, foster innovative learning opportunities, and perform important research.

Mandela also said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world."

Rather than fear COVID-19, our Mason scientists seek to better understand it, how it evolves and spreads, how to detect it and fight it with antibodies or a vaccine, even how to analytically track its course. We rely on our science to bravely explain away our fears and solve problems.

Our science community at Mason continues to hope, for a continued safe return to campus, planning for a safe spring despite the uncertainties of health and politics on the horizon. We continue to design the classes and labs our students need to best chase their own hopes and dreams, to be a doctor, to save a species, to discover a planet, to better understand our climate, or to find a cure.

At last week’s Dyslexic Edge event, I heard Cliff Weitzman, a young, innovative entrepreneur describe how he tapped his ‘adversity quotient’ to design Speechify, a text-to-speech app to help him cope with his learning challenges. He chose to look beyond his fear and bring hope to millions of others.

And throughout his life, Nelson Mandela relied on hope to see him through adversity, imprisonment, and injustice.  

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing our lives to that of Mandela. Yet, we find ourselves in very difficult times and our struggles are very real. Science can’t explain or find an answer for everything (yet).

My hope though, is that we all will be motivated by these collective dreams of our students and will channel Mandela’s mantra—especially on those days when it can seem we are at the edge of our limits of energy, creativity, and patience. May we continue to choose wisely in our professional decisions, instructional decisions, voting decisions, parenting decisions, driven by optimism and fueled by our hopes while bravely facing our fears, whatever they may be.

Visit the Dean's Blog for more insights from Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm.