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OSU Panel: Calls For Unity Must Be Tempered With Reality

Oregon State University

The call for unity issued by President Joe Biden during his inaugural address this week should be tempered with the reality that not everyone will be on board. That was one of the takeaways from an online conversationhosted by Oregon State University Thursday evening.



The panel featured experts from three universities who discussed the historic events leading up to this week’s swearing-in of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. OSU Associate Professor of History, Christopher McKnight Nichols, said it’s not clear how quickly, if ever, the nation will come together.

“This unity call suggests that you can move beyond extremism, move beyond voter suppression, beyond the Big Lie, beyond the second-ever impeachment of a president, and perhaps rapidly," he said. "The jury’s still out on that, but that kind of a call should give us pause about questions of accountability.” 

McKnight Nichols is also the director of the OSU Center for Humanities

Credit Screenshot from OSU symposium
Sylvestor Johnson is the founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities.

Another panelist, Sylvestor Johnson, is a professor of religion and culture and the founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities.  He said it's hard to overstate the historic nature of the events that have unfolded this month. He said the violence and attempts to overturn the results of a free and fair election have little precedent in this country. 

"I think if you had asked just about anyone a few years ago if that situation would prevail, people may have just laughed, because every change of administration is largely a non-event," said Johnson. "We see people ballroom dancing on TV, but for the most part people are just going about their day. But this time, there was real anxiety and a lot of questions."

OSU says the panel was part of a series started in 2016 to allow students to hear their professors apply their expertise to real-world events.


Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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