Hope after a dark day

Dear Members of the Harvard Chan School Community,

Before dawn this morning, Congress officially certified the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Kamala D. Harris. It brought an end to a disgraceful and downright terrifying day—one that left four people dead and shook the very foundation of our democracy.

None of us will ever forget what we witnessed: An angry mob scaling the walls and breaking the windows of the U.S. Capitol, clutching symbols of hate and ransacking the offices of our elected officials and their staff, many of whom were forced to shelter in place, fearing for their lives.

Nor can we forget how casually that seditious mob was handled by some members of law enforcement. It was a stark reminder of the reality we in public health confront every day: In America, the color of your skin often determines how you are treated.

While yesterday’s insurrection came as a shock, it should not have come as a surprise. It was directly incited by the sitting president of the United States, the culmination of rampant dishonesty and division that has been sown for years. It’s the same epidemic of distortion that has helped fuel the unfettered spread of COVID-19, killing more than 360,000 Americans to date.

Indeed, yesterday was one of the longest, darkest days in what has been a long, dark chapter of our history. And, yet, I remain full of hope. Because in the end, it was also the day in which the will of voters—and our democracy—ultimately prevailed.

Today is a new day. And with fresh awareness of the challenges before us, we must continue our journey toward healing—both from our country’s deep and painful divisions and from this devastating pandemic.

Our work toward that end has never been more important. Thank you for all you do to care for the health and well-being of one another and of people around the world.

By acting together, we can and will make the world a healthier and more just place for all.

Be well,


Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development,
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School