In the message below, IES Abroad President and CEO Gregory D. Hess, Ph.D., wrote to the organization after the Derek Chauvin Trial guilty verdicts were announced on April 20, 2021.
With today's announcement of a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, we felt it was vitally important to connect about this today.
For weeks, the world has been watching the United States, bracing for how we act to reaffirm humanity—whether we choose to create ties that bind or further deepen the divisions that have fueled racial injustice in United States for generations.
One man’s actions have had the world riveted since the murder of George Floyd last May. And the collective actions of individuals on the jury of Derek Chauvin’s trial have symbolically signaled who we are and what we care about. And now justice has been served.
As the President and CEO of IES Abroad, a global organization that has unflinchingly fostered cross-cultural connections for generations since 1950, this trial has forced me to consider how my own actions as an individual, and as a leader, defy a troubling status quo or maintain it.
I have worked with intention throughout my career to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion. I am proud to lead a workplace family of caring human beings across the globe who are committed to forging racial justice and positive change, globally, through study and internships abroad.
Chauvin’s trial and its aftermath remind us of our country’s unfinished business, our culture’s unreckoned history of slavery, bigotry and bias, and its emotional and physical toll. The impact is all around us. In fact, trauma and death from hate and bias have visited the family of at least one of the dedicated professionals who reports to me. Gretchen Cook-Anderson’s beloved uncle, a Black father and husband, was jogging in his Chicago-area neighborhood when he was shot in the back and killed by an admitted White Nationalist 22 years ago, who also killed a Korean student attending Indiana University, and wounded six Orthodox Jews, three other Black men, and a Taiwanese-American man during a murderous multiday spree. I can only imagine how such a tragedy reverberates across the generations.
One of the things I have come to deeply respect about the mission and work of IES Abroad is that we exist to push beyond established racial, cultural, religious, gender and other boundaries. We will continue to provide young global citizens the tools of empathy, expanded world view, critical thinking, problem-solving, language and cross-cultural understanding that actively counteract bias and systemic racism, and promote equity and inclusivity. To this end, we look to our alumni to be a force for eliminating racial and economic disparities in their chosen fields.
I do not expect that the world’s lens on the actions of Derek Chauvin will mark the last occasion wherein racism itself will be on trial in America. And though I agree that the arc of the moral universe is long, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said years ago, and it bends toward justice, there’s an urgency for it to bend sharply now.
IES Abroad’s 71 years of dialogue, deep learning, and service have taught us that one person’s actions—and indeed ours collectively—can cause the world’s scale of justice to tip one way or the other. And there’s no question which end of that scale we are on.
We welcome you to join us on this journey, across borders and across differences.
You can read our previous statement in response to George Floyd's murder last summer, as well as how our work at IES Abroad is a crucial part of the fight against systemic bias and racism.