June 10, 2020

A Message to the CNAS Community

By Richard Fontaine

Dear Members of the CNAS Community,

The protests that have swept across all 50 states call for change that is both modest and monumental. Modest, by condemning the killing of George Floyd and so many others, acknowledging that black lives matter, and demanding an end to racial injustice. And yet monumental, in that America in its long history has never expiated the racial sins that attended its founding. The thousands who fill our streets aim to right that historic wrong.

I’ve watched and listened closely over the past days, deliberating over how to communicate my own horror at the death of George Floyd, my frustration that his killing may not be the last, and my hope that it is exactly that. As a white male, it is difficult to fully understand the experience of those who endure racial discrimination.

All of us must try.

The national security community is often more comfortable focusing on human rights abroad than civil rights at home, and on protests elsewhere instead of demonstrations in our streets. But today, those very protests create a historic opportunity to move toward long overdue solutions. The goals of the protests are good, decent, and worthy of support. At hand is nothing less than the chance to build a better, fairer, and more just society.

That means reflecting not just on the specific tragedy that gave rise to the protests. There is a great deal of healing in order, but more important still is the need to address the longstanding conditions—systemic racism, deep inequality, and injustice—that gave rise to George Floyd’s death in the first place.

At CNAS we do not take institutional positions on policy matters. But we do have organizational values, including respect for the dignity of all people, a belief in fundamental equality, and a desire to build a diverse, inclusive workplace and society. We see diversity as a profound source of national strength. And we aspire to a better version of America, which has made so much progress in two and half centuries, and yet has so far still to go.

We will take further concrete steps at CNAS to exhibit the values we cherish. We will do our part to change the mindset that has tolerated racial inequality. And just as we look at the spur for today’s protests as so deeply tragic, so will we look on the forces it unleashed as inspiration to be better—as individuals, as an organization, and as a country.

This will require the input and action of the entire CNAS community. Please share your thoughts with us and help us improve. As a team, we can use the historic moment we are now witnessing as the catalyst for a better future.


Richard Fontaine
Chief Executive Officer
Center for a New American Security (CNAS)

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