Calling on Our Nation’s Shared Strength
This has been an extraordinary and terrible week, marked by a national tragedy greater than anything that has occurred in our lifetimes. All of us have been affected, all of us have been hurt and stunned by what has happened. We are here today because there is great comfort to be found in being part of a community, to gather and reflect on what has happened, to mourn those who are lost, and to support and embrace one another in the face of such terrible hurt.
At a time like this, we all are tempted to succumb to our emotions, which run from paralyzing grief to blazing anger to unshakable fear. We fear for our health and our safety; we fear we may have lost something precious; we fear our lives have changed, perhaps forever, in unknown and frightening ways. But we must not allow such fears to stand or cripple us. As a country and as a people, we all need assurance that events like those on Tuesday can never — and will never — happen again. We must join in unity and support of our leaders, helping them find the wisdom and course to preserve the integrity of this nation and the safety of all the people who have made this their home.
As enraged leaders around the world have said, there can never be a safe haven, a place of refuge, anywhere on the planet for those who show no regard for the sanctity of human life. These terrorists, these perpetrators of such horrific acts are different from us — we in this community and throughout our country cherish life and freedom and democracy; we are a compassionate people; we mourn our losses and remember our heritage.
And so now we must remember that ours is a country made up of people who almost all came from somewhere else. We came from Europe and Africa, Asia and the Middle East, South America and Mexico and more. We gave our national character and traditions and history to this new land, making a quilt of our different cultures, woven together with a common love of freedom and a fundamental faith in the goodness of the human spirit.
The strength of our nation, and our university, lies in this diversity of people and their common beliefs, and this strength must bond us in the coming days as we face whatever lies ahead. We must work together to ensure that all people — of all colors, all ethnicities and religions — continue to feel safe and welcome on this campus and in this community. We must allow all people to draw upon our shared strength, as we pray — in the language of whatever faith is ours — for a return to a time of security and peace.
We must find courage in knowing that even from this tragedy — too enormous to comprehend — will come stories of great bravery and remarkable compassion — of people who, in the face of death, thought not of themselves but of others; people whose memory we now honor with our prayers and our tears.
Let us strive from this moment on to honor them also with our actions. Let us find strength in their strength, hold our heads high, and lift up our hearts with pride in this nation that has brought us together and with faith in the goodness and humanity of our friends and neighbors. Life, as we are reminded daily, is a gift to be cherished. When we look back to this time a year from now, it is important that we be able to look back upon our actions and our choices with pride, confident we upheld our responsibility to keep our nation secure and we did it as people of courage, strength and compassion.
— Dr. Albert C. Yates is president of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. His remarks are from the university’s Sept. 13, 2001, memorial service.
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