The note I shared with SSRI staff this morning

I write again after a sleepless night. The disposition of the Breonna Taylor case is plainly unjust, made all the worse by the legal underpinnings of the decision to charge no one with a crime for Ms. Taylor’s actual killing by the police in Louisville, KY. This is yet another instance of a hierarchy of human value being marked by Race in the United States. This week, our nation also passed 200,000 persons who have died from COVID19, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black, Hispanic and vulnerable elderly persons living in Nursing Homes. Much of this carnage could have and can be prevented. An election looms and our nation nears a constitutionally guaranteed ability to decide who we wish to lead us at the local, state and national levels. This is hopeful and empowering, but has largely been taken for granted. Last night, the President of the United States made his most direct comments to date that he will not abide by a peaceful transfer of power should he lose, and he is sowing unfounded seeds of doubt about election legitimacy, in an apparent attempt to keep power at all costs. This is not normal, is dangerous, and is far outside the mainstream and norms of the ideals of the United States.

It would be inappropriate for me to write as Director to you with a political advocacy statement, but I do not view the cross roads we approach as political in the typical partisan sense—the state of our Democracy, warts and all, is at stake. I typically have many policy goals that I hope to be furthered by any election, but my only goal in 2020 is that every person who is qualified to vote and who wants to do so, can, and that all the votes are counted in accordance with our laws and norms, and that we move ahead as a nation after the result is known.

This is a scary time for our nation, and for us here at SSRI and Duke University. I believe strongly in the idea of a Research University—that asking questions and providing evidence-based answers can make the world a better place. Each of you have a role in this important mission. If you need to pull back and rest, do so. If able, I ask you to summon all the courage you have, and to check on one another. If you can muster the energy and heart and have the means, do something to help someone else in need. Try and find a bit of beauty in the world and amplify and celebrate it. Say please, thank you and I love you. Educate yourself about the issues and vote.


Don Taylor

Director, Social Science Research Institute

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

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