Letter 19

DAY 19

Corrine Carvalho

Professor of Theology
University of St. Thomas
February 7, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the 117th Congress,

I don’t envy you. In fact, I admire you that you have taken up this near impossible task of bringing healing and reconciliation while also leading the nation forward using your own moral compass. It takes courage. It also takes time.

The anger that is tearing apart our nation right now took time to fester, and it springs in large part from fear. As an educator, like First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, I believe the role of education is essential for social transformation. Its aim should not be to teach the right ideology. It should be to teach the ability to think, discern, and join empathy with knowledge.

“…the role of education is essential for social transformation.”

For my part, as a scholar of the Old Testament who teaches at a Catholic University, I have seen how history continues to repeat itself. I have felt like we are living in the period of Judges when Israel faced multiple challenges and lacked effective leadership. The tragic refrain of the book, which traces how Israelite tribes turned on each other instead of facing the real problems that faced them, still rings tragically true: “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:21). That connection with the past has not been lost on my students this year.

Perhaps the most poignant moment in my classes this past year has been reading the story of Moses who kills an Egyptian and who has to flee because the Hebrew slaves are angry with him (Exodus 2:11-15). I teach in the Twin Cities, where no bystanders assaulted the police officer who killed George Floyd. There was no Moses that day. But my students, who are predominantly white, understood why. They could see how resistance too often brings more trouble to marginalized communities. They suddenly understood systemic racism in action.

So I join Dr. Jill Biden in saying that education is essential for the creation of a new tomorrow. I have hope with you in office that this will happen, although I am too much of an historian to expect quick change. Is it too late for healing? Like many other Americans, I know we need it.

With Gratitude,

Corrine Carvalho

Dr. Corrine Carvalho
Professor of Theology
University of Saint Thomas

the author

Corrine Carvalho is Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. Her area of research is the Old Testament, particularly the literature of the Exile. Dr. Carvalho’s most recent publications include “The Ethics of Survival in the Book of Lamentations: Trauma, Identity and Social Location,” in Scripture and Justice: Catholic and Ecumenical Essays, ed. by A. Portier-Young and G. Sterling (Lexington, 2018) and “Drunkenness, Tattoos and Dirty Underwear: Jeremiah as a Modern Masculine Metaphor,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 80 (2018). She is currently editing the Oxford Handbook on the Book of Ezekiel.