"How do we teach people to keep living their lives without ignoring these events?"


Fall/Winter 2001

From Center Hall

by Andrew T. Ford
President, Wabash College

Did the world change forever on September 11, 2001? The lives of many people changed forever, and our hearts and prayers go out to them. Many pundits believe that the world of international affairs, the world of domestic affairs, of tourism and leisure, and of many other worlds, have changed also. While not describing exactly how these worlds changed, they suggest that Americans will have to live with more uncertainty and fear than ever before. Many people found it hard to pull themselves away from the riveting television images of the collapsed and burning World Trade Center. Watching hour after hour of continuous news, with so little new—how many times could we watch the second plane slice into the WTC Tower?

The College itself struggled to find the right balance between following those events and returning to some semblance of normalcy. We did not cancel classes, but we moved a religious service to a larger location, hosted a gathering in the Chapel, and conducted a candle light service. Although one-half the teams in our athletic conference decided not to play football on the following Saturday, September 15, we decided to hold the contest—while publicly voicing our concerns for our young men, for those who had died, and for those still suffering.

Less than a week later, Anne and I flew into New York City’s La Guardia airport on previously scheduled college business. There were only two other passengers on that jet; the vacant seats were a constant reminder of what had happened.

Perhaps the real change for all of us will be meeting the challenge of continuing “business as usual” in a world of fewer and fewer “usuals.” Even as I write these words, the United States and Great Britain have launched an attack against the Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. More images, more riveting news, and yet we must go on.

How do we teach people to keep living their lives without ignoring these events? We care about the world we live in; we, with our students, want to be well informed, but we do not want these events to paralyze us or make us insensitive to the pain and chaos they are creating.

As you would expect, I think about the rigorous liberal arts education. At Wabash, students always face too many things they have to do and want to do; consequently, they learn how to focus, to budget their time, to set priorities, to understand their values, to recognize what is happening within and around them. Such self-awareness and self-discipline is needed now perhaps more than ever.

And so, we go forward almost, but not quite, doing what we have always done, recognizing the world has changed but not stopped. We won’t let it stop, we can’t let it stop, for our mission is to help young men get ready to make the world a better place.

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