Reaching for Higher Ground

2015-16 Theme: And Justice for All

The Declaration of Independence gave citizens “certain unalienable rights, among those are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Pledge of Allegiance has us vow we are “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” These words suggest we have chosen to come together as one nation, but have we?  Are we one homogeneous nation, or an alliance of individuals?  Can we create a just society in the United States, where our differences don’t define or divide us?

Consider whether “liberty and justice for all” is the reality for every American, including, but not limited to…

  • those living in poverty
  • those seeking a quality education
  • those living with mental health issues
  • those navigating the criminal justice system
  • those on the gender and sexual identity spectrum
  • those designated as racial, ethnic, religious minorities

RHG seeks to better understand our differences and commonalities by challenging our preconceptions about the other. How might we at UNI be active participants in promoting liberty and justice for all?

Education: Today’s educational settings, for all ages and populations, are charged with educating the most diverse citizenry in American history. These settings are often multi-lingual, multi-racial and certainly include representatives of many creeds, cultures and socioeconomic statuses. In addition, every setting has a broad array of neurodiversities -- each with its concomitant variances. How do we turn the community of learners with its tendency toward reinforcement of social norms into a place where the strengths and needs of all are respected and engaged? What is the obligation for educational justice of every person at UNI?

Economics: Access to economic success is not open to all people in the United States. The economic future of citizens may be uncertain. How can life, liberty, and happiness be attained if economic success and a stable economic future is not possible? Is capitalism working and for whom is it working? How can we overcome embedded historical practices and fears to realize the potentials of our differences? How can we tap into the markets, cultural strengths and skills of all Americans? What changes need to occur to ensure that all can pursue the rights granted in the Declaration of Independence?

Social Justice: When we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we vow “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”; however, we are in fact a divided nation which does not have liberty or justice for all. For example, consider disproportionate minority incarceration, chronic homelessness, and the dearth of mental health support. Social justice concerns become even more complex when multiple issues coincide. What social responsibilities do we have at the personal, institutional, local, and global levels to work for liberty and justice for all?

If you have suggestions or ideas about speakers, events or other programming for the 2015-16 Reaching for Higher Ground: And Justice for All project, to be led by you, your department or a partnership, or to be explored by the Reaching for Higher Ground committee, please contact us to share your thoughts.


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