I graduated from the University of Virginia in 1976. I had not been back to visit until last fall when I took my wife, Mary, to see Thomas Jefferson’s university. The university itself had changed little, but the downtown and surrounding area was very different. It has become a wealthy, affluent city, a place where the rich and famous have second homes.
Honestly, our trip to Charlottesville last year was a long time coming. My experience as a student there was not that great. Too many fraternities, too much drinking, too much interest in things that I thought didn’t matter.
But that has changed. Today, I am proud of those in the Charlottesville community who refused to let marches advocating racism take place in their city without pushing back.
I have not talked to him, but I would bet almost anything my best friend in college, who still lives in Charlottesville, was at the events that happened on Saturday. Mike Costanzo has worked for the issues of social justice, especially for the homeless, for over thirty years. His challenge has been to get the upwardly mobile community of Charlottesville to care about those who are down and out.
Sadly, it has taken an act of domestic terrorism to fully get their attention. Let’s hope and pray that this is not just a moment in time but a tipping point where the city and the nation as a whole can rally around what really matters – condemning the vile rhetoric of white supremacy and working towards decimating it. Working as one, living side-by-side with those not like me, engaging in ideas where we disagree but disagree with respect for the other are things America stands for. And I hope and pray, we all do as well.