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Pepperdine Caruso Law Benefactor Rick J. Caruso (JD ‘83) Publishes Letter to the Community Regarding the Death of George Floyd

Last fall when we announced the change to the name of our school, I said that there was no one else whose name better exemplifies the values of the Pepperdine School of Law than Rick Caruso. None of us knew that our community would be soon tested so severely; first by a pandemic and then by the death of George Floyd. In a characteristic demonstration of his commitment to our community, Rick published an open letter addressing our call to duty in fighting racism. He has graciously allowed us to republish the letter here in its entirety.
--Dean Paul Caron


Dear Angelenos,

Tomorrow I reopen our properties to a country and city in pain. I am anguished by the brutal death of George Floyd. I hesitated to issue a statement, because like so many of you, I was overwhelmed by so many emotions and needed time to listen and learn. My silence is not an act of disregard, rather it is the result of deliberate consideration.

We are a nation called to duty. As someone who has a voice in this city it is my duty to speak up. Marian Wright Edelman once said, "If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You can just do it one step at a time." Each of us can and should change the world one person at a time.

But what will we do to ensure that this moment marks a turning point toward equity and progress for the Black community? What can we do individually, as a community—and as a country—to redeem ourselves?

Redemption requires effort and commitment. It is the act of recovery, of reclamation, of repossession. It is the work of retrieving something important that's been lost. In this case, what we've lost is something we've never fully found: a way to live up to the ideals and aspirations of equal justice, and the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and deserve equality.

Redemption requires that we tell the truth, and that we speak it clearly. The fundamental truth of human equality is destroyed by a racism that is woven into the fabric of this country: in order for all lives to matter, Black lives must matter. People of color face systemic challenges to fair application of the law, equal pay, housing and healthcare in this country.
Redemption requires accountability. I believe that we need to hold our leadership accountable. Our elected and appointed leaders have a sacred duty to protect us and ensure equal treatment under equal laws, including fair and equitable treatment by police. I believe there are those that have failed us. We must speak up instead of staying silent, to be part of a movement for change and not merely observers on the sidelines.

Redemption requires admission. It requires contrition. I know I can never fully understand what the Black community experiences: the fear, pain and anguish of oppression and inequality. Over the past two weeks I have listened and tried to gain understanding. What became very clear to me is that, as well-intentioned I have been, and as hard as I've tried, I've fallen short. I've tried my best over many years to help in the best way I know how to support and work with organizations that serve the most underprivileged children in Watts. I realize now that I need to do more and haven't done enough and for this I am sorry.

Many of us live busy lives but we must all pause and reach out and bring someone along and touch someone's life that has been hurt by injustice. I will take this opportunity to recommit to doing more and deepen my resolve to work with Operation Progress and SCS Noonan Scholars as they pursue their mission to deliver high quality education to children in Watts and South Los Angeles. Education is one of the best ways to root out the underlying causes of inequality and injustice, and gives Black youth permission to dream. The success stories at Operation Progress and SCS Noonan Scholars are powerful and give children a fighting chance by combating inequality of opportunity. But all of this great effort will be squandered if these children grow up in a world where their elected and appointed leaders are not held accountable for continuing this fight against inequality and injustice. For this reason, I will be forming a coalition of leaders to demand a social justice reform bill that will forever transform our state. Each of us is called to duty, each of us can choose a path to help make a difference — one step at a time.

And as we begin anew, I hope that our properties can be a place of connectivity, of meaningful change and a place of joy and understanding — a place for every member of the community to gather. In the meantime, we stand in solidarity with all who have joined the demonstrations. We are with you every step of the way. The work before us will be hard. We will have missteps and setbacks. But as we embark on this journey of healing and change, I pray with all of my heart that God will restore the health of the heart and soul of our great community. I pray that God brings us into a time when unity, diversity, safety and respect are the norm and standard by which we all live by, shoulder to shoulder in harmony and equality.

I believe in the fundamental goodness of humanity. I believe in the good people of our great city.

God bless,
Rick Caruso