President's ForumWinter 2011

Raising the standard: Flag fete reinforces hospitality, civility

The University of Indianapolis celebrated one of my favorite traditions again this year, remembered fondly by many alumni: the annual Celebration of the Flags. For the first time, the ceremony was held outside, on Smith Mall. It was a glorious fall day, with scores of colorful flags waving against a clear blue sky. The campus has never looked prettier.

We’ve made it a practice for more than two decades now to set aside an afternoon to honor our diverse cultures with the procession of flags, a sampling of international foods, and activities that help us learn a bit more about those qualities that make us unique—and those that bind us together.

With so much of the nation’s attention focused on the factors that differentiate and divide us, our flag celebration had added significance for me this year. We’ve become a very partisan, opinionated nation. Media attention is so focused on our differences and disagreements that I fear we are losing sight of the human qualities we share, regardless of race, gender, politics, religion or nationality.

For some reason, the qualities we have in common—whether we hail from Indiana or Iraq, Kentucky or Kenya—are too often drowned out by the strident voices of the few who are bent on dividing us by emphasizing our differences. Civil discourse is too often replaced by uncivil shouting matches.

By design, college is a time for students to broaden their horizons through exposure to diverse viewpoints, thoughtful research, and well-informed debate. At UIndy, where so many nationalities and faiths are represented, we have always been deliberate about hospitality and civility. It is part and parcel of our United Methodist heritage and our mission as a university, where respect and rational discussion should go hand in hand. We are eager to embrace each opportunity to affirm those values. We appreciate and celebrate our diversity, recognizing that we are more alike than different.

As you well know, this is a warm, welcoming place. I hope you’ll join us again soon for one of our many cultural or athletic events in the new year—and celebrate with us some of the many qualities we have in common.

Beverley Pitts, President

the authorMarty