Happy New Year!
Dear friends in the Trinity College Community:
As 2004 burst upon the calendar with raucous celebrations and blazing fireworks from Sydney to London to Times Square and Disneyland, the irrepressible optimism of the human spirit was clear. In New York, Broadway’s Great White Way ran orange as revelers donned tens of thousands of furry orange top hats — a haberdasher’s wry cross between the Cat-in-the-Hat and the Orange Alert. Millions of people around the globe gathered in public places to enjoy the moment, and, not so subtly, to defy the chronic drumbeat of terror and fear that spills through our days in this still-young century.
News flashes of counterpoints to the parties made the festivities seem even more urgent: police sharpshooters on the roofs of hotels to be sure the people partying below stay safe; a British Airways plane held for hours at Dulles, and other international flights turned back to their points of origin; another deadly blast in Baghdad; the heartbreaking rubble of Bam, Iran.
The year ahead already promises more Breaking News. An election year is never insignificant, and with the international crises and uncertain economic conditions, the months ahead will surely compel our attention and interest in questions of leadership and politics, war and peace, economic and social justice in this nation and around the world.
For Trinity, these issues lie at the heart of our enterprise in teaching and learning. We are people on a mission, infused with the heritage we share in the vision of St. Julie Billiart and the Sisters of Notre Dame, to use the power of this education to take action to help others, to quest for justice, to work for peace. As I walked around this very peaceful and quiet campus today, I found myself marveling once again at the vision and courage of the wise women who founded Trinity more than a century ago. They chose a beautiful, pastoral campus close to the heart of this powerful city. The beauty of the campus provides an ideal respite for study, reflection and renewal. But our close proximity to the corridors of worldwide power demands that we move out from this quiet place, that we employ this education to engage with and to influence for the good the decisions that affect so many people around the globe.
Our Founders did not think small. They knew that what they were doing was revolutionary for that time, and in its own way, even today: an institution of higher learning particularly dedicated to the empowerment of women, for the sake of influencing the whole world for the better, for the sake of living the Gospel completely. The purposeful and resolute work of our Founders gives us the example to think about the resolutions we are making today for our work together in the year ahead at Trinity.
First, let’s resolve to stay focused, in all that we do, on our chief purpose here at Trinity: to ensure the success of our students in mastering their studies here as a basis for building lives of purpose and conviction, rooted in honor, motivated by justice, infused with faith, hope and charity.
Second, let’s try to find more ways to manifest publicly Trinity’s active engagement with the critical issues of our time through convening symposia with scholars and students from all over, inviting the major actors to discuss and debate with us, publishing student and faculty research and opinion on the causes and solutions of war and poverty, peace and justice.
In particular, since 2004 is also the 200th Anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame by St. Julie Billiart, I propose that we plan a major symposium for the fall on the condition of women’s education around the world. A recent UNICEF study reported that 65 million girls around the world are currently denied adequate educational opportunity. The Sisters of Notre Dame have always had a primary mission to educate girls, women and the poor, and their ministries now circle the globe and reach into some of the world’s most troubled, impoverished nations. Trinity is the ideal location for a major convening of policymakers and educators to address the critical link between eradicating poverty and promoting the education of women and girls. If you are interested in working on this project, please let me know.
Finally, let’s renew our resolve to think big, to live without fear, to act like those orange-hatted new year’s revelers on Broadway, defying the darkness, being just a little wild and crazy for the sake of celebrating the joy of our humanity, the life and light of God within us.
May the power, wisdom and love of the Trinity go with you and your families throughout 2004! Many thanks for your hard work, generosity of spirit and talent, care and concern for each other and for Trinity.
With good wishes in the new year,