Skip to main content


A Call for Uncommon Good for the Common Good during Uncommon Times

By Dr. Lawrence Burnley

In the midst of a social climate marked with profound ideological, political, and theological differences, sometimes expressed violently, it would be difficult to find anyone who would disagree that we are living in uncommon times. Indicators of the uncommonness of this moment in our history are the following:

  • We find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic that has resulted in over 9 million confirmed cases of people who have contracted a virus called COVID-19.
  • This pandemic has claimed 916,000 lives worldwide, with over 200,000 deaths in the United States.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically laid bare the violence of systemic forms of oppression – racial, sexual, ability, and class – resulting in the catastrophic disproportionate impact of this disease on Black, Brown, and poor people.
  • Reminiscent of an early period in this nation, vigilantism is reemerging as an acceptable norm by far too many among elected officials and within the law enforcement community.
  • In recent years we’re seeing an increase in hate crimes. According to an FBI report, the number of violent hate crimes reported in the United States in 2018 was the highest in 16 years. FBI data released in November 2019 shows that physical assaults against people also increased, accounting for 61 percent of the incidents.
  • Leadership at the highest levels of our nation’s government withheld the critical information about the threat posed by the pandemic that continues to cause death and economic strife for so many.
  • Armed right-winged racist extremists emboldened by our most senior national leaders are met with little resistance by law enforcement when they become a clear and present danger to anyone who disagrees with their values or views of reality.
  • Unarmed Black and Brown men and women continue to be the object of violence, often resulting in death, at the hands of those sworn to “serve and protect” and who are more often than not held to the same standards of law.
  • Children are torn away from their families seeking a better life in the “land of the free and home of the brave” at our borders. These children, and their parents, are held in concentration camps (detention centers) with some dying while living in dehumanizing conditions.
  • We are now seeing efforts at the federal level to prohibit professional development, education, and training aimed at understanding, disrupting, and dismantling systemic racism.

These are indeed uncommon times; times that make it exponentially more difficult, and more urgent, to strengthen our resolve to be a university for the common good. However, in the midst of these extraordinary challenges are extraordinary opportunities and many are seizing the moment. In the midst of these uncommon times marked by increased violence and human suffering driven by greed and the attempt to hold onto dwindling levels of abusive power and privilege, there is evidence of the emergence of an uncommon good.

The University of Dayton, and other institutions across the country are doubling down in their commitment to advance diversity, equity and inclusion demonstrated strategies, to become institutions where persons of all social identities have an authentic sense of ownership and belonging. UD and other institutions are not only saying that we committed to inclusive excellence in this moment where efforts by many seek to thwart the moral arks movement towards justice. We are naming our commitment to being an anti-racist institution. Such a commitment represents an uncommon good. Professional sports teams are walking off the playing field in protest of the violence by some (not all) within law enforcement and a system of justice unwilling to hold perpetrators accountable. Such expression of protest represents an uncommon good. Sparked by videos showing an unarmed Black man being shot by vigilantes while jogging; another unarmed Black man being murdered by one sworn to “serve and protect” begging for his life saying, “I can’t breathe;” and news of an innocent Black woman sleeping in the “safety” of her home being shot to death by police officers, people across this country are saying, “No more, I’ve had enough. Black lives do, in fact, matter.” It is common and very good to see Black people in urban centers of the nation proclaiming “Black Lives Matter.” What is uncommon are the masses of people across this nation and around the world peacefully, with resolve and in the power of their unity, saying “Black Lives Matter!” The diverse (race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religious, and the beautiful ways these and other identities intersect) mosaic and symphonic expression of intolerance to social injustice and the demand for justice represents the manifestation of an uncommon good on and beyond our campus.

Informed and driven by our Catholic, Marianist identity and mission, the University of Dayton affirms the dignity of the human person as a creative and social being created in the image and likeness of God. We are committed to be a university of the common good. We need to be clear that to accomplish such an altruistic outcome in these uncommon times, we must choose to be, with God’s guidance and strength, individuals and members of a unified community. We must be willing to engage in acts of uncommon good for the common good.

Next Post

Pandemic from a Disability Studies Perspective

Dr. Meghan Henning discusses how during the COVID-19 pandemic persons with all manner of bodies find themselves to be vulnerable to something that they can’t see, and public health measures heighten our collective sense of bodily vulnerability - something that persons with disabilities have always known.
Read More