The Fierce Urgency of Now: A Call to the Community

Note: Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow issued a statement to the Augsburg community on August 17, 2017, in response to recent events in the United State and the world. His statement is below.

Paul C. PribbenowDear Members of the Augsburg Community,

Events in our country and around the world during the past several months have reminded us that the spectre of fear and prejudice and bigotry are very much present in our common lives. Whether it is violence in the name of white supremacy, rhetoric demonizing immigrants and refugees, policies discriminating against those of various sexual and gender identities, or the general rancor and polarization in our political discourse – all of this illustrates the need for citizens to come together with courage and resolve to fight back, to stand with love against hate and prejudice, to seek opportunities for genuine conversation and common purpose.

The Augsburg community is by no means immune from the dynamics of this volatile social situation. At the same time, however, dedicated and principled work over the past decade by faculty, staff and students has positioned Augsburg to be a model for how a community can navigate the throes of shifting demographics, progressive social mores and the polarizing fear and anxiety that characterize our public lives.  In fact, it is precisely because of Augsburg’s faith, academic and civic traditions that we are poised to show a way forward in the 21st century.

And now is the time for us to lead. As inspiration for the work we must pursue as a community, I have returned to the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who, in his 1963 speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, said “(W)e are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” Now is the time for urgent reflection and action.

King’s words were prescient:

“…our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. The large house in which we live demands that we transform the world-wide neighborhood into a world-wide brotherhood (sic). Together we must learn to live as (siblings) or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”

In particular, I am struck by Dr. King’s insistence that “…we are challenged to work all over the world with unshakeable determination to wipe out the last vestiges of racism.” Here, fifty years later, we must return to this very challenge, to what King called the need to celebrate our “world house,” comprising black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu – to which we might add, liberal and conservative, urban and rural, straight and gay and more.

The Augsburg community is a microcosm of “the world house.” It is our rare and compelling call to live as a people united by ecumenical loyalties, called to illustrate for all to see how love for one another, what Dr. King called “the supreme unifying principle” claimed by all great world religions, might be the path forward in a world torn to its very core by the forces of hatred, prejudice and violence. The time is now.

Faithfully yours,

Paul C. Pribbenow