category: President's Blog

March 2022: …In Like a Lion

March 2022 President's Blog

We all know the old saying, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.”  This bit of folklore from the world of weather has long predicted that the month’s early roar will ultimately yield to something kinder and gentler as April approaches.  The adage seems apt again this year, but alas it has little to do with the wind, snow or rain.

On February 24, Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine.  Just days later, as we enter the new month of March, we continue to witness the largest conventional war in Europe since the end of World War II 77 years ago.  Nobody knows yet how this will all play out, how many people will die, how long it will last, or whether the conflagration will spread across the continent.  Nobody knows if America might get drawn in.

Photo: AFP 

I’m not about to use my monthly blog to tell anybody what they should think about this conflict in Europe.  I will use it, however, to suggest that we all pay very close attention.  We live in a highly interdependent world…what happens in faraway lands is likely to impact us right here at home. 

Candidly, there’s nothing new about global interdependence.  The assassination of an Austrian archduke in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 ultimately led the United States into World War I (aka “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars”).  France’s military defeat at a little place called Dien Bien Phu in 1954 set in motion a series of events that eventually took thousands of US soldiers to Vietnam.  The machinations of a wealthy Saudi, Osama bin Laden, headquartered in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, produced the events of September 11, 2001 and prompted our subsequent War on Terror. 

In the immediate term, we should see some local ripples from Russia’s attack on Ukraine.  Gas prices could easily continue their upward climb.  Economic markets will likely demonstrate volatility.  Military personnel stationed here in the States will leave their families and get redeployed to Europe in hopes of shoring up NATO defenses.  Companies doing business with Russian counterparts will be impacted by sanctions.

More importantly, everybody who follows the news will be confronted by the sights and sounds of human tragedy.  In war, innocents die.  Some may call this “collateral damage,” but that’s just a euphemism for the men, women, and children whose lives are cut short because they were caught in the line of fire.  In war, noncombatants who aren’t killed often become refugees, fleeing to neighboring countries.  Large numbers of desperate refugees can, sadly, lead to humanitarian crises.

So, what are we to do?  As promised, I won’t editorialize or offer policy prescriptions in this blog.  I will ask the Gardner-Webb community to pray for Europe.  I will ask you to join in praying for a restoration of peace.  I will ask you to join in remembering that there are other ongoing wars (more than 20 with at least 1,000 combat-related deaths in the past year) spread across our globe…people in the crosshairs of those conflicts need our attention and our prayers just as much as the Ukrainians do.  Those wars don’t make our nightly news, but that doesn’t make them any less frightful for those who endure them each day.

I will also make an appeal as an educator.  As Americans, we are undeniably better able to deal with threats that emerge overseas if we actually take the time to know more about the world that surrounds us.  Students, regardless of your major or your intended profession, use your time at Gardner-Webb to improve your understanding of the other peoples who inhabit this globe of ours.  Take that course in international economics, in world history, or in political science.  Improve your fluency in a foreign language…we’re so far behind the rest of the world in this area.  Study abroad, albeit preferably in a location without an ongoing war.  Revive our Model United Nations program.  Get to know the international students who attend GWU.  Watch the news…and talk about it with your roommate or the person sitting across from you in The Caf.  Do something, do anything to better engage with current affairs.  As an educated person, you’ll be more informed; as a democratic society, we’ll be stronger.

March 2022 has indeed come in ferociously like a lion.  Some might say it’s come in like a bear, Russia’s longstanding symbol.  As Christians, our longstanding symbol is that of the lamb…we get that from the Bible, not the Farmer’s Almanac.  As Christians, as Americans, and as members of the Gardner-Webb family, let us pray and work for the triumph of peace represented by the lamb.

Dr. William M. Downs

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