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Reflection on an Historic Election

November 9, 2020

Dear GSAPP Community,

This Saturday saw the culmination of months of uncertainty and a harrowing near-week of waiting come to a peaceful resolution with the election of Joseph Biden as the United States of America’s 46th president, together with his running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. We welcome President-elect Biden’s call for healing as we build towards a hopeful future.

We are living in historic times, as a raging global pandemic continues to affect people’s lives and livelihoods around the world; as climate change continues to intensify devastating storms, unprecedented droughts, and ravaging fires across territories; and as social and racial inequities persist systematically across so many facets of the built environment. This election, often described as representing a crucial inflection point not only for this country but for the entire world has been nothing less than historical itself: with awe-inspiring courage and unwavering determination combined with unrelenting voter rights mobilization, this 2020 American election saw the highest turn-out for the country in a century. A victory for American democracy, this faith in the power of people to produce change, one voice at a time, is awe-inspiring and hopeful for the many around the world still struggling to be heard.

The historic nature of this election is also embodied by the victory of Kamala Harris, the first woman to be elected to the vice presidency in this country, as well as the first Black woman, person of South Asian descent, and child of immigrants to the United States. A long overdue shattering of a powerful glass ceiling, Harris’s commitment to addressing and ending the systemic racism still prevalent across too many institutions in this country propels this foundational issue and its relentless injustices from city streets—and the remarkable efforts and impact of the Movement for Black Lives—to the highest office in the country, with a sense of urgency for transformative policies and collective action across all spheres of society. Harris’ own personal and professional trajectory is a re-affirmation of the US as a land of and for immigrants.

Registering Paris’s mayor Anne Hidalgo’s “Welcome back America!”, it is the hope of renewed collaboration across nations that has been ushered in with this election, with the United States once again positioned to re-engage international and multilateral efforts to work together for a more equitable and sustainable planet. As a true partner rejoining the Paris climate accords, the United States could re-enforce with unwavering commitment the urgency of combatting and preparing for climate change and protecting and supporting the most vulnerable people, places, and species around the world, preserving the possibility of a future for the next generations.

Out of the past weeks, months, and years, I hope we can all take this moment to take stock of not only the overwhelming challenges facing all of us as citizens of this planet but also the inspiring potential of coming together to care for one another in our dedication to daring to imagine, design, and build a more creative, equitable, and sustainable world.