‘Unprecedented’ Again

Ohio Wesleyan President Shares Reflections on State of U.S. Democracy

By Ohio Wesleyan University

Rock Jones, Ph.D.

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University President Rock Jones, Ph.D., shared this message Jan. 7 regarding the state of the nation and our democracy:

Unprecedented. I had hoped to leave this word behind in 2020, relegating it to describing the year that COVID-19 emerged and launched a life-changing, worldwide pandemic. Yet, less than a week into the new year, unprecedented applies again – this time in response to an attack on the U.S. Capitol and, more importantly, on American democracy itself.

In covering yesterday’s assault on Capitol Hill, OWU alumnus and ABC News’ Nightline co-anchor Byron Pitts ’82 shared his hope that the violence would create the turning point needed to help Democrats and Republicans – indeed, all Americans – begin to work together to find meaningful solutions for pressing problems.

I agree. On Wednesday, the world witnessed the danger of divisiveness, mean-spiritedness, and mob rule, all of which represent the antithesis of our nation’s fundamental values and of democracy itself. With swift action by the U.S. House and Senate to accept the state-certified results of the fall presidential election – supporting a peaceful transition of power on January 20 – I hope true healing can begin. This road to recovery will be difficult and demanding, but possible. Issues involving racial discrimination, environmental degradation, and economic disparity are among those that must be addressed.

I truly believe that higher education is one of the catalysts that will help the nation to heal and move forward. At Ohio Wesleyan, we strive every day to educate moral leaders for the global society. We strive to use our OWU Connection program to help students understand issues from multiple academic disciplines, from different global perspectives, and from real-world research and experience.

All are vital perspectives that teach us to value difference, to respect human dignity, and to honor the virtues of a democratic society, the benefit of civil discourse, and the responsibilities of educated citizens. In the process, we hope our students learn to seek understanding where there is discord and to make peace where there is conflict, and to become thoughtful and empathetic leaders who inspire rather than incite.

One of the hallmark institutions at Ohio Wesleyan is the Arneson Institute for Practical Politics and Public Affairs. It honors the legacy of Dr. Ben Arneson, who challenged his students to sign a pledge committing themselves to a life of service to the common good. Professor Arneson arrived at Ohio Wesleyan more than a century ago for a career that spanned more than 30 years. Over the decades, the pledge’s power and purpose has become woven into the OWU fabric. The pledge reads, in part: “With a view to serving the public interest and regardless of the nature of my future vocation I pledge that, upon leaving college, I will devote a portion of my time to active and definite participation in public affairs.”

I encourage everyone – wherever you may be in life – to adopt the intent of the Arneson Pledge and to work to make a positive difference in the world in ways that support the equality and dignity of all others and that improve the common good.

Such collaboration and cooperation may sound unprecedented these days, but my fervent wish is that such well-intentioned work is one day considered routine, commonplace, and, yes, even precedented.


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more undergraduate majors than many universities its size and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature program, The OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at owu.edu.