New Year’s Message
To: The Trinity Community
From: President Patricia McGuire
Re: New Year’s Day 2006
Water — beautiful, ominous, destructive, life-giving — holds center stage at the start of yet another new year. I spent part of New Year’s Day 2006 walking the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. More gulls than people strolled the beach at Sandy Point State Park on this cloudy morning with wind gusts surprisingly cold despite the forecasts for unseasonable warmth. A few brave young men huddled far out on the rocks with fishing poles, probably more to enjoy some camaraderie on this holiday than out of any hope of catching dinner.
The light ripples across the cold Chesapeake were a sharp contrast to the images of raging rivers and mudslides in northern California today. I think of all of our alumnae and friends in that region, and send Trinity’s thoughts and prayers to them during this latest natural disaster. When will it all end? We wonder if this is a mere planetary cycle, or the beginning of the long-predicted atmospheric meltdown.
Water wreaked havoc on millions of lives in the last year, from the tsunami-ravaged shores of Sri Lanka to the utter catastrophe of New Orleans; other serious floods and hurricanes that once would have held headlines for days quickly receded to inside pages as larger disasters rolled across the landscape. In Texas and Oklahoma, the absence of water is now the problem, with wildfires scorching the earth. Meanwhile, scientists report clear evidence of rapid ice melting in the Arctic. Wild weather is becoming normative.
The view at Sandy Point illustrates the dilemma of water in human life. The Chesapeake Bay is beautiful, seductive, a place where people naturally want to gather, to visit, to live and work. But this beautiful body of water is in serious crisis because of development in the watershed, with the toxic run-off from farms in New York and Pennsylvania coursing down the rivers and streams that feed freshwater into the Bay. Arcing high above the Bay’s waters, the magnificent Chesapeake Bay Bridge is a monument to the genius of architecture, and an inescapable symbol of our dependence on automobiles to reach nature’s beautiful places. Along the beach, even in these desolate winter days, the flotsam of human carelessness litters the shoreline — snack wrappers and plastic cups and those six-pack plastic holders that are death wraps for so many birds and sea creatures.
So, what do these images have to do with my New Year’s message to the Trinity community? The delights of human advancement and the ethical challenge to use our knowledge and talents well, as stewards of human life and of the earth, are central concerns of the higher learning enterprise. These are also concerns that are central to the Catholic social justice teachings.
At Trinity, we have used the phrase “Education for Global Leadership” as a statement that expresses our intention to ensure that our students have a large view of the world and their leadership roles within it. Perhaps no set of issues transcends global boundaries more clearly than those surrounding economic development, environmental protection and the drastic consequences for all of humanity if pollution and environmental destruction continue unabated.
In early 2005, with the murder of Sr. Dorothy Stang, SND, in the Amazon region, the Trinity community began to focus even more clearly on the issues of justice and environmental concerns that were her life’s work, and that are central commitments of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. At that time, we resolved to use the occasion of Founders’ Day to focus on these issues each year.
Founders’ Day will occur this year on Thursday, April 20, 2006. I propose that we use this occasion to continue our learning and dialogues on issues of justice and the environment, with a particular emphasis on learning more about global warming. These are issues that should be of great concern to all disciplines, not just Environmental Science, which certainly has a large role in this discussion. But the issues also implicate concerns for Business and Politics, Sociology and Economics, Philosophy and Education, Religious Studies and Psychology, and all other disciplines.
As we did last year, I ask the faculty to develop specific approaches to teaching about these critical issues throughout the semester, leading up to a major symposium on Founders’ Day. I invite your expressions of interest and willingness to work on parts of the program, as well as ideas about who we should invite as speakers and guests.
We have other important work to do in the year ahead: a Middle States report and team visit in April, a master plan for campus development, the foundation for a new capital campaign through which we will gain the resources necessary to realize our vision for the University Academic Center.
Our lives at Trinity are constantly in motion, always busy, intense, sometimes too frenzied. All the more reason why we need to use days like this to take a walk along the beach to think about issues larger than ourselves, larger than Trinity, issues that can challenge us to do better in our own work because of what we can contribute to their ultimate resolution.
Resolution. A solution; a sharper picture; a vow to take action. Let’s resolve this year to keep “Education for Global Leadership” more clearly in our vision. Let’s resolve to find better and more effective ways to infuse Trinity’s value commitments to justice and honor, to faith, to hope and to peace in all that we do for our students and the communities they will serve and lead well beyond our days here.
My very best wishes go with each of you for a happy, healthy and peaceful year in 2006.
Happy New Year!