Letter to President Obama

To date, 289 college presidents have joined Emerson President Lee Pelton in a pledge to lead campus discussions next semester on how best to address gun violence in America and in offering President Obama any assistance he may need. College presidents wishing to add their names to this initiative may do so by emailing

Dear Mr. President,

Following your eloquent remarks at the Newtown memorial service, I am writing on behalf of the many college and university presidents who have signed this letter in support of your plans to “use whatever power [your] office holds to engage [our] fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”

We are writing to lend our individual assistance as well as that of our academic communities in supporting a long overdue national conversation about mass killings and gun violence.  

We acknowledge, as you have, that these are complex issues that bring into play competing interests that will require us to balance the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms with the concerns of those calling for more stringent restrictions on gun ownership.

Nevertheless, we ask that urgent attention be paid to developing measures that would have the effect of curtailing easy access to assault weapons, especially guns that can hold up to 100 rounds of ammunition without reloading and have no place in the hands of civilians.

After the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School where young children and adults were gunned down in a blink of an eye by rapid fire weapons of human destruction, we believe that it would be nearly impossible for anyone with heads that think and hearts that feel to conclude that the status quo is acceptable.

We also ask that serious and sustained consideration be given to a comprehensive assessment of mental health and other societal issues in the United States that might have contributed to the numerous mass killings that our nation has endured in recent years.

History requires that we not stand idly by. We will be judged by our actions in the days and weeks ahead, by how we answered, as a nation and as individuals, the question "what will we do?"

Our nation looks to colleges and universities to solve its most pressing problems and these are issues on which we stand ready to provide a way forward.

We, therefore, pledge to do what we do best in our academic communities: engage thought leaders, faculty, students, staff, trustees and friends in meaningful debate and dialogue, which, in turn, might lead to positive action.

We write to you in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the nation’s most effective prophets and servers of the community, who said, “I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.”

Thank you.

M. Lee Pelton
Emerson College