Most of us are drawn back to the places that shaped us and set us down our current course.
This past fall, I spoke at an event for a group of people who had at one time called Baltimore home. As I said that morning, for them and many others, returning here can be both rewarding and challenging.
Like many American cities, Baltimore is a place of great despair and equally great promise, burdened by the weight of inequity but brimming with hope and potentiality. Yet the concentrated nature of the disparities here is particularly arresting.
And a returning native can't help but confront it, as Frederick Douglass—the renowned orator and reformer who spent his youth in slavery in Baltimore—discovered when he returned to his former home to speak nearly six decades after his escape north. Although he did not shy away from addressing the realities of his youth, he also spoke movingly about the possibility of change in the face of profound inequity.
Such change, he contended, would require what he termed "close, active work."
I am not a native Baltimorean, but over the past 10 years I have come to call Baltimore home and to appreciate Douglass' assertion that the paradoxes of this city are not a cause for paralysis but a call to action.
Of course, the question is how. The answer, I believe, lies in the close and active work that we all can undertake.
Indeed, this spirit of steady, intentional impact animates so many of our collaborations across the city.
We see it in our partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools, which supports innovative programming like P-TECH at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, where students take college-level classes in addition to their high school course load as they prepare for employment opportunities at places such as Johns Hopkins. It is the driving force behind Vision for Baltimore, a program that unites Hopkins researchers, the Baltimore City Health Department, national and local nonprofits, and Hopkins alumni–founded eyewear company Warby Parker to get eyeglasses into the hands of every elementary school student who needs them—by the end of this year. And it has spurred HopkinsLocal and BLocal, our economic inclusion programs that intentionally redirected spending to hire, buy, and invest locally, with nearly 500 new employees hired and more than $86 million invested in Baltimore so far.
Partnerships and efforts like these are occurring across Baltimore. Indeed, actions like these are as endemic to this city as are its challenges. And Johns Hopkins remains committed to delivering on the promise of our city and to bending its trajectory—and that of our neighbors and neighborhoods—toward a stronger future.
Ronald J. Daniels