Thinking Out Loud: The power of showing up

To the Case Western Reserve University Community:

Last month I had the opportunity to recognize faculty and staff members for their above-and-beyond contributions during the pandemic. I was moved by their stories of “showing up”—their willingness to engage with the reality they were facing by undertaking new and extended responsibilities at a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. Their efforts were resolute and selfless. 

As the vulnerability researcher Brené Brown has said, “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” All of you—staff, faculty, and students—have done this over the past 13 months. You showed up to class and work in a new world despite feeling vulnerable and ill-prepared. You demonstrated resilience, courage, and dedication. In my mind, you are all heroes.

From custodians whose diligent efforts to keep our campus sanitary have been absolutely essential, to members of the Office of Resiliency whose work has become central to everything we do; from researchers whose studies helped us better understand the virus and how to protect vulnerable populations, to students who are volunteering at vaccination sites and local nonprofits to respond to a wide range of needs in the Cleveland community. You showed up in extraordinary ways.

Sometimes it may feel like there is no alternative but to show up. I felt that way when I enlisted in the military in the 1960s, when I led Tulane in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and most recently, when I agreed to be interim president of CWRU at this moment in time. Every situation presents us with a choice. We get to decide whether we want to show up or not every single day. There are many things we could do with less commitment, without giving a part of ourselves, or avoid altogether. 

I’m inspired by people who “show up” in life. Showing up isn’t the easy choice, especially when we aren’t certain if we are up for the task and what the outcome of our efforts will be. But showing up is the spirit that can get us through anything—a presentation we are nervous about, a difficult task or conversation we have been dreading, and even a pandemic that has turned our life upside down.

No matter the situation, let’s always have a bias for showing up. Only then can we look in the mirror and take pride in knowing we were there when needed.

Keep thinking, enjoy your weekend, and take care,

Cursive signature that reads "Scott" for Case Western Reserve Interim President Scott Cowen



Scott Cowen
Interim President