University of South Florida

We do what we do. Every day.

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:

There is much that makes me proud to be an American. Our economy, research enterprise and university system are the envy of the world. We have landed humans on the moon, explored our solar system, and even sent probes into interstellar space. And we just developed multiple curative vaccines for a deadly pandemic and began its distribution in only nine months. But what I am most proud of is our democratic republic which, aided by a truly remarkable and enduring constitution has preserved our liberty for over 230 years. So, on Wednesday when I saw the picture of Capitol police with guns drawn crouching behind a hastily thrown up barricade, to protect the House of Representative’s Chamber from a crazed ignorant mob I quite literally wept. It was hard then to discern the better angels of our nature.

We must remember that “America” is an unfinished story whose main characters consist of flawed men and women thrown together with competing interests, varied experiences, distinct cultures, and vastly different worldviews but who are nonetheless expected to sustain a vibrant consensus-driven democratic process. It is not surprising then that our American experiment is regularly challenged by those who would threaten democracy for their own selfish ends. Thus, the tattered threads of our democracy can only be held together by a common national vision and the courage to seek and speak truth, to our leaders and each other to stay true to that vision.

John F. Kennedy once wrote that to be courageous, a person “does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.” His book Profiles in Courage describes a small group of American statesmen who put principle before parity at great political and often personal cost. Fortunately, Wednesday night, as awful as it was, and the days that followed, have brought forth a few such men and women and that should give us hope.

As citizens of our great country, we at USF Health must ask ourselves how do we move forward in the face of the rage, tribalism, and anti-intellectualism we saw on Wednesday as well as the growing disdain exhibited by so many of our fellow citizens for our most hallowed traditions and fundamental institutions in recent years? Our democracy has taken ill, and as committed healthcare experts and providers we need to do our part to ensure its recovery. How in the world can we do that? The answer is, we continue to do what we do every day: we heal the sick, advance knowledge and teach our students. We restore people’s faith in America, one patient and one student at a time by the strength of our humanity, our morality and our veracity. To paraphrase a great American thinker, if in our perennial aspiration toward a more civil society, we can strike a reasonable balance between change and order, economic mobility and social stability, then we might yet bring about a new birth of freedom, the shining city upon a hill and a beacon to all mankind of our sometimes-troubled American dream.



Charles J. Lockwood, MD
Senior Vice President USF Health
Dean USF Health Morsani College of Medicine
University of South Florida



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