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 newhow
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 contestwhile
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 Citys 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 wont
let it stop, we cant let it stop, for our mission is to help young
men get ready to make the world a better place.
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