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Dr. Henry Zimon message from the president

September 11 and Liberal Education

I want to step back from our intense campus response to the attacks of September 11 and my concerns with security and safety here at Albright to provide some personal thoughts and perspectives on the event – to climb from the dance floor up to the balcony, so to speak.

Some of you know that the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon literally nosed into the windows of my old office. Some of you may know that my responsibilities in the Pentagon actually included both counter-terrorism and homeland defense. And a few of you know that my daughter Amanda is an Army lieutenant on active duty who has been alerted for deployment. You can imagine how all of this makes for quite an emotional state of mind.

My most prominent emotions are gratitude and outrage, fear and resolve, faith and hope.

My feelings of outrage need little explanation, but my feelings of fear are more complex. First, I am obviously fearful that more attacks are possible and likely. I am fearful that we have underestimated the economic impact on our Nation, and on entities like Albright College. Finally, I am fearful that the Nation gradually will become complacent again and will fall back to business as usual. (I have intentionally omitted fear for our daughter because I am confident that she and her unit are well prepared for the call. My wife, I don’t mind sharing with you, understandably has more concerns.)

I am confident about the steps taken by our country’s leaders and our allies, and our resolve to bring about near-term justice and to confront global terrorism.

I have been asked if I would like to more directly help confront our adversaries. In fact, I have volunteered to return if needed. But I do believe that I am serving in an equally meaningful capacity in caring for and helping to prepare our next generation of citizens and leaders.

As I look back at the events that unfolded in September, I see the worst of times, but also the best of people – the best of Albrightians. We came together as a community without borders. We put aside petty concerns. We forgot about what we needed and focused on how much we could give. We held each other up and gave each other hope. We cried together, we mourned together, and together we have begun to heal.

Higher education, like the rest of the world, has changed. There are no manuals for what we have experienced. As colleges and universities, we are working with one another, with our communities, our governments, to bring our institutions and the higher educational process back to their feet as safely and effectively as possible.

As our students attend classes in the days since September 11, they notice changes in their educational experiences and life on campus. Life has changed for us who support them as well.

I believe that in challenging times, the true significance and value of liberal education is highlighted. Eudaimonia is a Greek word that means striving to live a complete and well-rounded life – physically, socially, spiritually and intellectually. I believe that the recent tragic events have led us to reflect upon the fundamental questions raised throughout a liberal education: the relationship between the individual and community; the nature of good and evil, the meaning of life and death, the essence of the messages in the world’s great religions.

And the significance of values such as integrity, faith, justice, personal and civic responsibility.

I believe that as we work through these hard questions, we can trust that the values and perspectives of Albright’s education will be there for us to rely on. I welcome your thoughts on how we might better approach the changed face of higher education.

Whatever the future holds for us, I know we will emerge stronger only if we embrace it together.


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