Mobs incited by President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 in response to the results of the 2020 presidential election. In the wake of the riots, Andover hosted a second All-School Meeting (ASM) on January 12 to reflect upon the gravity and impact of the insurrection.
During the ASM, members of the Andover community had the opportunity to hear from Head of School Dr. Raynard Kington, Congressman Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) ’97, Kate McQuade, Instructor in English, and Christopher Jones, Instructor in History and Social Science.
Kington began the ASM recalling the moment he first met Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-Tex.)—who served from 1973-1979—when passing through the Capitol as a college intern. Jordain gained attention for her televised speech supporting the impeachment of President Richard Nixon before the House Judiciary Committee on July 24, 1974.
“My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution,” said Jordan in her 1974 speech, which was played at the ASM.
Kington proceeded to note the symbolism behind the presence of Confederate battle flags inside the Capitol’s walls, which illuminated the bigotry still widely present within the nation. According to The New York Times, historians say that “Wednesday was the first time that someone had managed to bring the flag into the building as an act of insurrection,” meaning that the flag had never before entered the building, even during the Civil War.
“When those criminals desecrated that Capitol, those of us in communities who have had to fight, and continue to fight, to secure our place as full citizens of this country, or perhaps even more insulting to see such disrespect and to see those Confederate flags in that building, one that was built with slave labor in almost every facet of its construction, because we know that we can’t ever take those principles for granted,” said Kington.
Kington then expressed his encouragement towards taking an active stance in protecting American democracy as opposed to remaining silent, inspired by Jordan’s determination for upholding values of equality in the Constitution.
Kington said, “It is hard to imagine a clear example of the subversion of the Constitution that attempts to block the certification of a newly elected president by violence. Will ‘We the People’ be idle spectators to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution? That is the question that we must now answer, as a community, and as a nation.”
Moulton, who has represented Massachusetts’ sixth congressional district since 2015, further connected the idea of an “idle spectator” to his life experience as a current Congressman. Moulton shared President John F. Kennedy’s favorite quote by Edmund Burke, one that he believes has served as his motto while serving in the Marine Corps and Congress: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Moulton added, “I consider myself fortunate to have been able to go to Iraq, even though I disagreed with the war. I consider myself fortunate to be a member of Congress, even during these dark and divided times in congressional history. I got there because I didn’t do what everyone else was doing. I didn’t apply for the typical job after college, I didn’t sign up for the comfortable career. Instead, I took risks. I did what I thought was right, even if I thought it was dangerous or uncertain. I tried to actually do something about the things, the values that I cared about.”
According to Moulton, spending his teenage years at Andover served a pivotal role in developing critical thinking abilities that have been helpful in dealing with American issues. Moulton encouraged the Andover community to not only embrace themselves in life, but also to think about how one can act, stay engaged, and seek ways to change the nation during this time of discord.
“Part of my purpose in coming here today is to challenge you. Never underestimate the power that you hold, even in the moments when you feel powerless. Because frankly, everyone else around you feels the same way right now. And they’re waiting for people to stand up and show them what it means to have some real courage,” said Moulton.
Alana Chiang ’24, a student attendee of the event, found inspiration from Moulton’s story of taking more difficult routes in life for the purpose of serving justice. Chiang relayed feeling shocked upon hearing about the events at the Capitol.
“Like Congressman Moulton, I think that it is important to hold the people involved in the capitol riot accountable. What they did was an outright attack on our freedom and our democracy. At this point, I am just concerned for the future of our country,” said Chiang.
In his subsequent remarks, Jones found historical evidence to examine imagery of the individuals participating in the riot at the Capitol, which included Confederate battle flags printed with white supremacist and Nazi imagery, such as Crusader crosses, Camp Auschwitz T-Shirts, and anti-Semitic tattoos. Similar to Kington, Jones shared that seeing the Confederate battle flag in the Capitol speaks to an uncomfortable truth that American democracy and history has always been rooted in white supremacy.
“As someone who spent a lot of time studying the American Civil War, I have to tell you that the most indelible was a horrifying image from January 6—a day full of horrifying images—[which] was the picture of the Confederate flag brazenly unfurled in the halls of the U.S. Capitol Building. The flag of enslavers, the flag of treason had never been displayed inside the U.S. Capitol until last Wednesday,” said Jones.
Jones continued, “Thankfully, we are more democratic now and it used to be. But the ideology of white supremacy has never been diminished, just because democracy has expanded white supremacy, is an adaptive ideology, always changing.”
Maya Lai ’23 shared a similar sentiment with Jones’ observations about the broader veins of white supremacy underlying the country. She also juxtaposed the authorities’ treatment of the riots with that of many Black Lives Matter protests.
Lai said, “I think that people should not be surprised that this is happening, because this is the horrific but transparent reality of how corrupt white supremacy and having privilege is in our country. If these people and rioters were not white, and in fact someone of color or a different socioeconomic class, the results would be very different. You saw this with the Black Lives Matter protests which were carried out in a peaceful manner.”
After giving examples of events in which democracy prevailed, Jones described the events of January 6, 2021 as an inflection point, questioning whether it will be a renewal of American democracy or a signal of its accelerating decline.
“It is the people who will decide this, and that includes all of us. If we seek an American nation built upon a functioning, multiracial democracy, then let the lessons of January 5 and January 6 guide us. We have to be prepared to work for it. And we have to stand up to those who will surely fight to destroy it,” said Jones.