PRESIDENT RUNTE ISSUES LETTER TO COLLEAGUES
September 18, 2001
Dear Members of the Old Dominion University Community,
I would like to thank you for remaining calm last Tuesday and for supporting each other in your personal sorrow at this time of tragedy, which the world will never forget.
The Old Dominion community deeply mourns the loss of students: Craig Amundson of Ft. Belvoir, Robert R. Elseth of Burke, Lt. Col. Karen J. Wagner of Alexandria, and close relatives of Shaun Mason of Springfield, Tamatha A. Patterson of Alexandria, Jonathan S. Saporta of Virginia Beach and Jennifer L. Strauss of Virginia Beach.
I hope you will all join me in sending condolences and messages of support. This is a time when we must join together and seek not only to understand but to find and be inspired by the most generous and courageous gestures of our fellow human beings. We have received messages of solidarity from around the world. They must form for us the basis for a new hope, a renascent belief in the beauty of freedom and the passion for peace.
We have perhaps taken too much for granted the freedoms we enjoy each day. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were hard won by our forebears and were embedded in our Constitution, the cornerstone of American society. These values must be cherished and defended with vigor.
At the same time, we must remember that the horrible acts of the terrorists do not reflect the thoughts or deed of their fellow citizens. Our foreign students are just as shocked and horrified as you and I about Tuesday's events. They are alone and far from home. They need our comfort and kindness all the more. I know it may require a certain amount of courage to reach out to them at this time, yet a sign of peace is the most beautiful gift one can give. It is in offering it that, in return, you will receive more than you ever imagined. Aristide Brian said that to make peace you need two people: yourself and the neighbor across the street. We all have a neighbor and we all have the possibility of contributing to the process of peace and reconciliation.
On the night that Martin Luther King Jr. died, people of all walks of life streamed into the street to join hands and sing softly, "We Shall Overcome." Recently I heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak of forgiveness as the quality essential for peace, and it reminded me of the ancient Japanese Haiku which says that flowers falling from the branch of a tree may be transformed into butterflies. That transformation depends on people's wills, on their desire to share.
Peace is the communion of all peoples in the interests of beauty. The word for peace in the Masai language, osotua, also signifies beauty. Without peace, there can be no beauty. The same word also means umbilical cord. We are all united through peace and beauty. We are all children, sharing our human frailness, our love.
May we all find peace in our hearts to share with others. May we find renewed resolve to protect our freedom, renewed hope in humanity, and the strength to build and rebuild not only our shattered lives and buildings, but also our belief in the possibility for human solidarity, in the possibility for the transformation of the future.
Old Dominion University is establishing a scholarship in memory of the members of our community and their loved ones who have lost their lives in this tragic event. Donations may be sent to the Old Dominion University Educational Foundation, c/o the Office of the President. The faculty have agreed to be liberal in their understanding of students personally affected. The University soon will announce a policy concerning the refund of fees to military personnel who are unable to continue their studies at this time.
Our campus is the site of vigils, prayer services, and drives for water, socks and funds. The trees bear yellow ribbons, symbols of our solidarity in our grief. Together, let us find the courage to continue our lives and to dedicate them to the highest goals.
This article was posted on: September 18, 2001
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