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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

9/11 Interfaith Prayer Vigil

Dahlgren Quadrangle
September 10, 2010

Thank you very much, Kevin, and thank you all for being here. I had a friend who once wrote a book about higher education and he was developing the theory that he was using for trying to understand the nature of a community—a college or university community. He was a sociologist and he came up with a set of framing questions. He applied those as he went around the country and tried to understand different kinds of institutions.

I remember when he was describing this to me and I remember one of the questions; one of them really struck me. He said, I always ask this question wherever I go: Where is the place in a university community where you really can capture the sense of that institution, its identity, its core, its spirit? And he told me that many years ago and I’ve reflected on that over the years. And I’ve always felt that this was that place for us. When I think about what it means for us to gather here in this quadrangle and to have this opportunity to be together on a day like this, to remember as we do today, it’s very powerful for me to be here with you.

I want to thank you all for joining us today and I want to thank those who have come before me at this podium offering prayers and songs and reflections.  It’s a very important moment for our community. It’s a very important moment for our country. For us to be able to gather together like this as a university community means a great deal to me personally and I’m just truly honored to be able to be with you all in this place

We all know that 9/11 touched us deeply as a campus and as a community. Those of us who were here during those days remember – the smoke rising from the Pentagon, the sudden silence on D.C.’s busiest streets, the skies, empty. And we as a community lost two dozen members, including 11 of our alumni, a member of our faculty and her family, a member of our faculty who served in the program that now is housed in the building right behind me. We will never forget any of the 3,000 individuals who lost their lives that day—as well as their loved ones, the ones that they left behind.

We must never forget.

But we also must remember. We must remember how we came together during those days as a family and as a community. We came together as students and staff members, as professors and parents. We joined together in religious services and interfaith vigils. We gave one another our empathy and our encouragement, our solace in grief and our consolation in anger. We offered one another countless acts of kindness, as we remembered our loss, respected our differences, and restored our hope. We discovered a spirit that we must also never forget.

And so our remembrance, here on this Hilltop, is unique, for it carries with it a vibrant recommitment to one of the deepest convictions that we share as a community: that as we engage with one another, a spirit of love, a spirit of togetherness, a spirit of compassion, a spirit of engagement, a spirit that seeks to harness what President Lincoln called our better angels, a spirit of striving to become our very best and to bring out the very best in one another…that this spirit animate our lives and our work here together. This spirit must infuse everything that we do here as a community. This is the spirit that rose from our community on that day nine years ago, and it is a spirit that can animate us everyday – as individuals and as members of the Georgetown family.

We need to harness this spirit more than ever today. So, during this moment of memory and mourning, let us renew our commitment to this spirit of togetherness with a new energy and intent. Let us pledge to go forward as we did nine years ago, united as a community, undivided in our respect, in our compassion and in our love.


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