The Equity Team's engagement with our community members has shown us that achieving greater equity in the Caltech community—really, in any community—requires one key effort from each of us individually—embracing a bit of bravery over comfort: being the only person in a group to object to a sexist joke, even with just the words "that's not ok"; accepting and applying constructive feedback about how you manage and relate to others; relying on respect, not alcohol, in pursuing a potential romantic or sexual partner; choosing not to stereotype people on any basis, including race and gender; or trying compassionate guidance over condemnation for someone who stumbles while sincerely grappling with their biases.
For inspiration to be a little braver, we look to John Lewis, the American statesman and civil rights icon whom we lost in July. The Caltech community had the honor of hearing directly from Lewis, then 78 years old, at the June 2018 Commencement ceremony. In his remarks, Lewis imparted a philosophy by which he lived his life: "to stand up, speak up, and speak out" when something is not right, fair, or just. Lewis told us he was arrested 45 times during his life as he worked to advance the rights of marginalized persons—desegregation in public schools and spaces, voting rights, health care for the poor, and international students' rights, to name a few. During his address, Lewis encouraged Caltech graduates and members of our broader community "to speak up," even through a "kind word and helping hand to those who feel forgotten and alone."
Let us be emboldened by Lewis' words and by his lifetime of actions to work together in building an ever more equitable community at Caltech.