Thousands of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and community supporters assembled on Kyle Field last night for the “Aggies United” event, a gathering to demonstrate unity as a direct response to a non-university invited speaker who has white supremacist views.
The event featured a diverse lineup of speakers and performers, and was co-hosted by television and film actor Hill Harper and Texas A&M Student Body President Hannah Wimberly.
“We can understand what is right and what is wrong; we can understand the difference between justice and injustice,” said Harper. “We can understand the difference between hate and love, that coming together we can affirm the positive and disaffirm and disqualify those that are spouting out hate, disunity and division.”
The event featured a variety of musical performances including singer-songwriter Ben Rector and soul singer V. Bozeman. Several Texas A&M student groups performed as well, such as the South Asian a capella group Swaram and Fade to Black, a hip-hop dance ensemble.
In addition to Wimberly, numerous student leaders spoke, advocating the university’s core values and encouraging unity. The organizations represented included the Corps of Cadets, the International Student Association, LGBTQ Aggies, the Memorial Student Center, the Black Student Alliance Council, and the Yell Leaders, among others.
University faculty, staff and administrators also spoke at the event, including representatives from the Faculty Senate and the University Staff Council.
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and Texas A&M President Michael K. Young each spoke, reinforcing the university’s commitment to providing a welcoming and unified educational environment.
Sharp pointed to the Aggie ring as an enduring symbol of the Aggie family and said that regardless of differences such as skin color, the Aggie family is one. “There are thousands who love you who don’t know you,” he said. “And when you graduate, you will see people wearing that ring who will do anything to help you … so if you are a purveyor of hate and racism, this is the last campus you want to be on.”
Young said no outsider is going to “tell us what Texas A&M is; we decide what Texas A&M is … We are fearless—it leads us it, drives us … We believe in our core values and we try to live them. Love shines the light and leads us in the direction we need to go.”
A number of student athletes were also on hand to represent the support of Texas A&M Athletics, including Aggie quarterback Trevor Knight, who noted the importance in athletics of brotherhood and sisterhood. He spoke of “FOE”—Family Over Everything—and noted that even though Aggies come from many different backgrounds, they are all united as one Aggie family.
Holocaust survivor Max Glauben addressed the crowd, noting he was in the Warsaw Ghetto and five different concentration camps before he was liberated in 1945 by Gen. Patton’s army. “Through kindness and unity, I was allowed to come to the United States,” he said. “Hatred and bigotry must be eliminated … true unity means all of us become ‘upstanders’ instead of bystanders, and treat each other how we want to be treated.”
Numerous messages of support came from outside campus, including from leaders of a variety of religious faiths who spoke on stage, in addition to several film actors and television personalities whose video messages were played on Kyle Field’s big screens.
One of those messages came from legendary journalist and Texan Dan Rather, who said he couldn’t be more proud of the Aggies United effort. He said, “I give you a salute for what you’re doing. You inspire us, Aggies –Gig ‘em!”