Dear Samford community,
I have the great honor and privilege next week of being installed as Samford University’s 19th president. What a joy it has been for my family and me to be a part of this incredible community once again. I thank you for the many ways you have welcomed us home to Samford.
More than a dozen events during next week’s festivities have been planned by various colleges and schools as well as by the inauguration committee to highlight important aspects of Samford’s Christ-centered educational mission. These events cast important light on the faith, service, community, and educational elements of our shared mission.
One of the events leading up to the inauguration ceremony – a planned lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and noted presidential historian Jon Meacham – is intended to highlight his work in analyzing the current state of civility and discourse in our country. Mr. Meacham travels the country to give similar speeches to various groups and organizations. I personally find his insights to be both challenging and inspiring.
It has come to our attention that Mr. Meacham has previously spoken at a Planned Parenthood chapter event. Some in our community have assumed erroneously that Samford’s invitation by extension endorses any perspectives or viewpoints Mr. Meacham may have about the sanctity of life and abortion rights. I can assure you that no such connection should be inferred. Mr. Meacham is not planning to discuss these issues in his remarks.
Although I am disappointed by the narrative that has combined important conversations about pro-life issues and Mr. Meacham’s planned appearance at Samford, it is vitally important to me that next week’s events unify and draw our community together to celebrate the history and future of Samford University, a place we love and for which we all care deeply. Unexpectedly, Mr. Meacham’s planned lecture has become a divisive issue, one that takes attention away from our opportunity to celebrate Samford. I regret that this has happened.
Many among the Samford family, including elements of Samford’s Student Government Association, have recommended that we postpone Mr. Meacham’s lecture. This recommendation simultaneously recognizes the potential distraction the event may cause from next week’s celebrations and the importance of free expression and the exchange of ideas. To invite Mr. Meacham back to Samford at a more appropriate time to an event not so closely connected to the symbolism of the inauguration seems to me to be a wise path forward. Therefore, my office will reach out to Mr. Meacham to schedule a date in the future when he will come and talk with our community.
Finally, please allow me to underscore the vital importance of free expression and civil discourse in an academic community like Samford. Our mission as a Christ-centered institution of higher learning is to stand boldly at the intersection of society and the church and to convene important conversations about how to live faithfully in the world. That mission calls us to invite speakers and artists to campus who challenge our perspectives and who share wisdom and insights. Samford is a diverse community made up of faithful people who disagree on many important issues. Let’s enter those conversations courageously with a goal of learning from one another and extending the love of Christ to all. I believe we can do that well.
I look forward to celebrating with you next week.