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PLU creates space for listening, offers support for Lutes seeking meaning and healing amid 2016 election results

Posted by: Date: November 9, 2016 In: , ,
Krise speaks at chapel

PLU President Thomas W. Krise speaks to Lutes at Wednesday’s chapel service. (Photo by John Froschauer/PLU)

By Kari Plog '11
PLU Marketing & Communications

TACOMA, WASH. (Nov. 9, 2016)- Silence blanketed the Ness Family Chapel during Wednesday's service. Thomas W. Krise, president of Pacific Lutheran University, told students, faculty and staff — some with tears in their eyes — that now is a time to reflect on where to go as a nation amid Tuesday's election results.

“Here we are the day after one of the most rancorous and hate-filled elections this country has ever witnessed,” Krise said, stressing that in order to rebuild a shattered body politic everyone must understand all people at the center of the divisiveness. “Perhaps a place to start is to look at what lessons we can glean from other nations that have gone through divisive elections.”

That’s the approach PLU is taking moving forward, learning from the experiences that have cut Americans — including Lutes — deeply. The effort begins with compassionate listening, Krise said. He called for “talking circles” throughout the community, where people of differing viewpoints can come together in a space and listen to one another.

The first gathering will take place Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 5 p.m. in Red Square.

“These talking circles can lead to humanizing strangers,” Krise said in his sermon. “And now, post-election, they could re-humanize enemies. This doesn’t require that we try to like each other; it requires only that we try to see and hear each other, that we feel the pain and pride and hope and fear of our assumed enemies.”

Wednesday night’s gathering is one of many ways Lutes may seek support in the days and weeks following the country’s presidential decision. Student Life Council has dedicated space in the Anderson University Center — rooms 206 and 212 — to gather in community and offer a place for safe expression of civil discourse. Members of the Division of Student Life will be staffing the space to connect with those who need support.

“This is also a place for people to express emotions safely,” the council said in a statement. “The space is also for students to ‘just be.'”

Additional gathering spaces are open in the Diversity Center and the Center for Gender Equity.

Krise, fighting back tears, stressed in his sermon Wednesday that PLU’s mission is built to tackle challenging issues like those all people face moving past this divisive election cycle.

“The word ‘care’ in our mission statement is especially important today: PLU is and will remain a place that honors, respects and protects people of all kinds: of all races and ethnicities, all religions, all classes, all sexual identities, all nationalities,” he said. “We Lutes will work together to do what we can, in our institution and in our communities, to build a model for the way forward for our nation, for our society, and for the world.”