Responding and Moving Forward from Events of Jan. 6th, 2021

“[People] often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.”
                     – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. 1957

Dear Colleagues,  

We find ourselves in a moment that is both historic and burdened by unprecedented challenges. On January 6, 2021, the form and function of our democracy was violently attacked, and human lives were lost in the process. This was not an attack on any political party or ideology, it was an attack on all of us. This means we must all be involved in responding.  

Black and white vector image of U.S. Capitol dome

To be clear, it is not a political statement to acknowledge that this moment is troubling. We can and must distinguish between peaceful protestors, rioters, and lawbreakers. Our laws protect the first group and prosecute the second two. These facts transcend politics.

This is a time to once again check in on each other. While this team can’t reach out to each employee individually, we do care about every one of you. We want to know how you are doing. How are you? What do you need in order to feel safe? How are you coping with the challenges of this moment? It is okay to feel confused, lost, or angry right now.  

We sometimes see and treat these incidents as episodic issues. But they are connected to a deeper and more systemic problem. While disagreement and debate are normal and necessary, toxic polarization – in which those who disagree with you are seen as a monolithic enemy and an existential threat – is dangerous and cripples our ability to come together and solve serious problems.  

Building the broad-based coalitions and movements necessary to rebuild trust and transform social and political systems in a deeply divided society is a huge challenge. How do we reconcile the legacies of racism, oppression, and hate openly espoused by many of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol?  

Granite monument of Dr. Martin Luther King
MLK Memorial. Photo credit: John Brighenti at Flickr.com

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., whose life and legacy we celebrate this week, “only in the darkness can you see the stars.” As federal employees, we have each taken an oath to the Constitution. As NPS employees, we protect and preserve the places and stories that form the fabric and culture of the United States of America. Engagement in this moment, this time of personal, societal, and national distress, is directly relevant to our mission.

At this time of intersecting crises in the United States, there is a great need for those of us committed to universal human values like respect, dignity, equity, inclusion, and justice to come together, to support one another, grounded in our unifying beliefs. Maintaining our focus on these values will help us build the future we know is possible.

We would like to share with you some resources that might help. Let us know what resources you need, and what resources are helping you. And please join the conversation on the Common Learning Portal (CLP) Commons group–a space for dialogue, processing, reflection, and support. Do you have something that has been helping you get through this time? Share it in the Commons group or in the comments section below. We will continue to update this list as helpful resources become available.

– The Office of Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion, (and employee-centered friends and colleagues)

Resources within Thematic Areas 

Communication and Leadership: When it feels like there is no information and no one showing their care for others, that’s the time for all of us to step into the vacuum and act as leaders – helping others and taking clear actions to make our world better. 


Facilitating Conversations: Our power lies not in telling, but in asking, listening, and inviting others to engage. One of the best things we can do is to continue engaging in dialogue and conversations with each other to help find shared paths forward. 


For Supervisors: You don’t just shuffle paperwork as a supervisor – you are a leader who your team looks to for support, guidance, and strength. The core of being a supervisor is taking care of people, paying attention to what they need, and helping them be better people through their work.


Oath of Office: As Federal employees, we swear an oath to the Constitution’s defense – upholding its principles and defending it against threats within and beyond our nation. That oath has a long and storied history which has held real meaning for generations. 


Physical & Mental Health and Wellness: As much as we might like to pretend we don’t, we all bring our emotions and mental state to our work every single day. Taking care of your whole health – body and mind – is paramount. 


Acknowledging Racial Trauma & Terror: People in the landscape that became the United States have struggled with the legacy of racial animus and segregation for over four centuries. This problem is not new, even though it feels that this moment is an inflection point where real, positive change could happen. 


Structured Conversation Toolkit for Supervisors: This toolkit will help support you as you address issues impacting their lives, work, and community with the people who work with you. It provides guidance to help you host structured conversations with your team members. Using these conversation prompts and facilitation resources, you can create an environment of respect, inclusion, and safety.​

In January 2021, two new discussion options were added – inspired by the stress of the January 6th riot and assault on the U.S. Capitol and its impact on employee health and well-being. These new options focus on speaking honestly and the oaths we take as federal employees.

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