I am extremely grateful for our leaders in Student Life, Father Larry, our Office of Multicultural Programs, other religious leaders that support our community, and, of course, our student leaders who made this event possible.
To those students, I am in awe. I am in awe of your ability to come together and create this event, that helps bring us all together during these incredibly trying times. And, I thank you for sharing those beautiful and moving prayers.
Tonight, you have helped reinforce our sense of community. This is so important, particularly at this time. At RPI, we have much in common.
Indeed, it is likely those common interests that brought us to RPI in the first place. But, we also have differences. However, I believe that our religious, cultural, and political differences mean that we are able to collectively expand our perspectives on the world. We learn from each other.
If we aspire to ‘Change the World’, we can only do that by expanding our individual perspectives on the world. By learning together, we can achieve our shared aspiration to change the world. It can help us understand each other, respect each other, and come to love each other, despite all our differences.
This morning, as I thought about what I wanted to say to you, I was reminded of one of my favorite autobiographies by a university president. One written by Howard Johnson, who served as President of MIT during the 1970’s, a period when college campuses were in turmoil. Johnson entitled his book ‘Holding the Center’, a title inspired by the writings of Irish Poet William Butler Yeats in 1919. In the context of his book, what Johnson was referring to was the work of trying to hold together an institution (the center) that could be torn apart by the turmoil of those times. What you have done tonight, what we have done tonight, is to hold the center of RPI, to keep this Institution from being torn apart.
I ask that you keep up this important effort. Support each other, with kindness and compassion, as a community. Lean on your faith, your mentors, and your peers, and together, we will all hold the center.