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From the President

Confronting Injustice: A Statement from Dr. Heather Wathington

To the Girard College Community,

Today, George Floyd was laid to rest as the world watched. His horrifying death, the latest in a string of unjustifiable murders, is significant because it has awakened many to the reality of everyday Black life in America—Black Americans encounter death and fear the specter of death constantly, without respite.

This collective trauma that defines the Black experience has been told by countless voices for years, yet there is a systemic unwillingness to recognize the conditions under which Black Americans live and die and to make amends for these injustices. We hope that George Floyd’s untimely death and the nationwide protests for justice cause systemic racism to yield to the democratic ideal that “all men are created equal” and that black lives matter in the United States as never before.

To correspond with this pivotal moment, Girard College continues in its mission to serve children who are directly affected by the inequity of a broken system and provide opportunities to level the playing field for future generations. We work closely with our students to develop the strong leaders that will lift America up to its promise. In fact, our students are already leading, already acting to stand up for their values, supporting their neighbors and becoming beacons of justice in their communities.

Girard College is uniquely positioned to lead a substantive and evolving dialogue on the matter of social justice. After all, we know intimately the value of civic action and racial progress. The struggle for racial equality desegregated Girard College a little more than fifty years ago. Cecil B. Moore and the Philadelphia Freedom Fighters circled a segregated Girard College for more than a year to demand equal access for all. We stand on their example and legacy, and we will build upon this legacy by equipping our students, of all backgrounds, to lead lives that matter.

As we move forward together, we promise that:

  • Our students will know that they are heirs to the struggle for social justice.
  • Our students will know the voices of freedom that cry out from those who have come before them.
  • Our students will know to confront the inherent contradictions between the nation’s aspirations to human worth and dignity for all people and the persistence of its failures, divisions and hierarchies.
  • Our students will know that they hold a distinctive responsibility and a precedent-setting challenge to end racial disparities in health, education, wealth, and life expectancy.
  • Our students and staff will live with the knowledge that our nation’s possibilities are boundless when we ensure justice and equity for all.

This is our promise, and this is our mission. There is much more to come before we achieve lasting change. Tonight, we started by hosting a town hall so that students and families could speak out and share their frustrations and fears. Going forward, we invite all in our community to bring their ideas, their passion, their grief and their trauma to bear in the effort to realize the dream that so many have fought for before us.

We hurt together and we heal together. Help us fulfill our promise, help us find justice.



Heather D. Wathington, Ph.D.
President, Girard College


Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestor gave,
I am the hope and the dream of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Excerpt from “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

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