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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

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Remarks by President Tilghman at Commemorative Assembly

I want to welcome all of you to this commemorative assembly on this historic green, where many of us gathered last fall just a few days after the tragic events of September 11. I want to say a special word of welcome to new members of our University community, and to members of the surrounding communities who have come to join with us to reflect on the attacks a year ago on thousands of innocent individuals, on our nation, and on some of the most fundamental values of our global society.

We are gathered today to remember, to reflect, and to reaffirm our individual and collective commitments to response and to renewal. We come together as a community so we can share with each other the grief and the anger that we still feel, so we can take comfort from one another, and so we can strengthen our resolve to bring those responsible to justice. We are also here to recognize our common humanity with peoples of all cultures and nationalities, and to renew our understanding of our collective responsibility for each other's well-being.

At times like this, words and music are important and bring comfort. But moments of silence allow each of us to reflect in our own individual way on these horrific events and our responses to them. Before we proceed with the rest of our program, please join me in a moment of silence.

One of our purposes today is to keep alive the memory of those who died in the World Trade Center, those who died in the planes that crashed into the towers and the Pentagon, those who died in the plane that was so courageously diverted into a Pennsylvania field, and the hundreds of police, firefighters and rescue workers who gave their lives so heroically providing help to others. We, of course, have a special place in our hearts for the 13 Princetonians among them, and we are proceeding with plans to create a memorial garden in their honor just behind this green, in the space facing Nassau Hall that lies between East Pyne and Chancellor Green. Those buildings will become a new humanities center, and we hope to have the renovations and the garden completed by this time next year.

As many of you know, Princeton's response to the attacks of last fall took many forms. Literally within hours some members of our faculty were in New York assessing the damage to buildings adjacent to the World Trade Center, while others were meeting with students or preparing programs that provided opportunities for inquiry and understanding. Students, staff members, and alumni immediately began reaching out to those in need of help, joined in the relief efforts, and developed both individual and collective responses to a broad range of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs.

As an institution, we developed four programs. One, Arts Alive, allowed several hundred Princeton students to provide workshops and accompany more than 10,000 schoolchildren from communities most directly affected by the attacks on September 11 to live arts and cultural experiences in New York City. Another created a scholarship program and a Princeton alumni mentoring program for students at John Jay College for Criminal Justice in Manhattan, a school that lost more than 100 of its alumni -- police officers, firefighters, rescue workers -- on September 11. A third has provided support for research by our faculty and our students into issues related to the events of September 11. And the fourth will take place in the next two days when families directly affected by the September 11 attacks will participate in a program designed especially for them at the Princeton-Blairstown Center in northern New Jersey.

At the core of each of these programs is personal engagement, and a desire both to assist those directly affected by the attacks and to contribute to renewal and recovery. Each of these programs is in some way still ongoing, and each seeks an impact that will extend well into the future. There are other programs, conferences and courses being offered this fall that have similar goals, and I encourage each of you to find your own way to contribute your particular talents and energies. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, a Princeton honorary degree recipient, in his address at Gettysburg, it is for us the living to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us, to resolve that those who died shall not have died in vain, and that all peoples of this earth shall have a new birth of freedom, in governments of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The full text of other speeches from the Commemorative Assembly are available online.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601

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