Founders’ Day Remarks

Greetings! Welcome to our 2021 Founders’ Day Convocation. Thank you for joining us today.

Founders’ Day remains a long-standing tradition at Wake Forest. It is one of just a few times during the course of the academic year when we gather formally, with academic pomp and circumstance, to celebrate our University. But beginning last year, we also approach this event and our history with new eyes, deeper awareness and a growing perspective. This is deliberate and intentional and necessary.

Even as we evolve our commemoration of Founders’ Day, we carry on some of our worthy traditions. We will hear from our senior orator, and we will recognize outstanding individuals in our Wake Forest community through the presentation of the Medallion of Merit, the University’s highest honor.

Last year, on behalf of this University, I officially recognized and apologized for its participation in the slave economy of the South. That moment was an important step in the critical work of understanding our past, improving our present and creating a promising future.

Since then, our community has taken action on a number of fronts to become a more welcoming and equitable campus. While the pandemic could have postponed this progress we had begun making, it only served to inspire it. And in the last year, we have seen inequities laid bare in our nation quite dramatically, and that has only ignited an urgency to our efforts. Later in this ceremony, the co-chairs of the President’s Commission on Race, Equity and Community — Erica Still and José Villalba — will share some of the progress our community has made in the last year.

Though we are not able to gather together, I hope you will find this Convocation an opportunity to reflect on the story of our past and renew our commitment to work toward progress together. Thank you for being part of this important and ongoing effort.

On November 4, 2019, we celebrated the unveiling and dedication of the Wake Forest University Indigenous Land Acknowledgment plaque honoring the indigenous peoples and tribal nations that call our campus their homelands. To begin our program today, we will hear the first public reading of that acknowledgement.

Again, thank you for taking time to be with us today.

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