A Day of Remembrance and Reflection

Statement from President Robert Caret

September 11, 2002

In honor of our country and in memory of our alumni who lost their lives on September 11, I have ordered that the flags on campus be flown at half-staff this Wed., Sept. 11.

As we mark the end of a year since the terrorist attacks on our nation, I would like to reflect briefly on several things we have learned. First, I was inspired by the way our faculty, staff and students came together out of concern that community members with Middle Eastern origins might be denigrated or harmed in retaliation for the terrorist acts. We enjoy a very diverse campus, one that is not only diverse statistically, but one where we work to give people the opportunities and tools to consider our differences as enriching. The events of September 11 tested our commitment to that goal. From individual acts of kindness to mass vigils, San José State University showed both compassion and support at a time when many were feeling outrage and anger.

While we have learned much over the past year, we have also clarified several questions that challenge us to go further. The balance of protecting the individual freedoms we value and the institutions that organize and regulate society is a delicate one. Whether we talk about physical security or the freedom to discuss difficult and controversial issues, we find ourselves shifting the emphasis to find a place where both can thrive. This is a question that academics have wrestled with before and each new generation must confront anew. San José State does not pretend to have the answer. However, one of the most important tools toward our understanding is education -- education that provides a broader perspective, education that gives us the ability to empathize with others, to put ideas and concepts into historical perspective and to find solutions to complex issues.

The second question has to do with the human need to belong. We try to break down the size of our community into knowable groups. The theme song from the old sitcom "Cheers" included the line, "a place where everybody knows your name," in reference to the need for recognition and belonging. People seek a comfort level on a campus by belonging to clubs, departments, living units, student government, team sports and a variety of other groups. They also group and regroup by projects and task forces to accomplish things that none of us could do alone. And yet, when we group by language and ethnicity, we worry that we create a comfort level for some members while excluding others. Once again, there is no one answer to the question of how people group and regroup to achieve and feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Universities offer a unique opportunity for people to come together to work, live and learn about and from one another. This has been our commitment for nearly a century and a half. I urge each of you to recommit to that today.

Finally, let me thank each of you for the many conscious and unconscious acts of support you have made to one another throughout the past year.