Remarks by Maureen Monagle '04
Co-chair, Arts Alive program
Commemorative Assembly, September 11, 2002
"There is no strength without unity," reads an Irish proverb.
On September 11, 2001, we, at Princeton, stood united. As some
of us struggled to locate loved ones in New York, others gave blood,
worked at Red Cross stations, and ventured into the city to help
in the rescue efforts. But in the aftermath of tragedy, many sought
to make a deeper and more lasting impact.
June, a group of Princeton students attended a performance of "The
Lion King" on Broadway with Arts Alive. Princeton's guests that
night included 100 people who had lost parents and spouses on September
11. Sitting behind us during the performance were a mother and three
red haired, freckle-faced children. All wore the fire badge of their
father, a New York City firefighter who valiantly answered the call
to duty on September 11 and never returned. It was Dana's birthday,
the first without her father, and she was thrilled to be at her
first Broadway play.
We often underestimate the impact that live arts can have upon
people. That June night, as we watched a story about the loss of
a father and the grief, guilt, and ultimate understanding of his
son, the impact of the play upon these children was clear. The lyrics
of Endless Night, a song in "The Lion King," are as follows:
trying to hold on
Just waiting to hear your voice
One word, just a word will do
To end this nightmare
know that the night must end
And that the sun will rise
I know that the clouds must clear
And that the sun will shine
After seeing the performance, one mother wrote "My daughter lost
her husband, a New York City firefighter, on September 11. There
are very few things that she has looked forward to since that day,
but she was so excited about receiving tickets to 'The Lion King.'
If your organization's intentions are to bring joy and awareness
of good things in a sometimes-cruel world, through the magic of
stage and all its counterparts, then you have achieved your goal."
In the last year, Arts Alive has enabled more than 10,000 children
affected by September 11 to attend live arts events. But the impact
of Arts Alive was far greater.
Children learned about astronomy from Princeton astrophysics graduate
students at the Rose Planetarium. Third graders in Queens learned
about the literary concept of "anthropomorphism" before going to
see Beauty and the Beast, and middle school students in the Bronx
learned about Shakespeare from Princeton students dressed in 17th
century costumes. Seventh graders broke stereotypes when every member
of a class sang his or her name operatically, and one class that
had seen "Aida," even learned the hieroglyphic characters to spell
out "I Love New York." There is no question that Princeton students
enhanced the live arts experiences of the children. And, in turn,
the children instilled confidence and hope in Princeton students.
Weeks earlier, the same children had watched bodies being carried
through the streets from the windows of their classrooms. They had
endured months in makeshift schoolhouses, and they had lost parents
and loved ones. The strength and resilience of New York City, and
of America, were seen in the smiles of the children as they danced
to "Be Our Guest" and reenacted fairy tales.
A question that we heard repeatedly was "Where is Princeton?" Michael
Ritter, a member of the class of 2003, wrote an editorial in The
Daily Princetonian last year that raised this question. I pose it
to you again today. Where is Princeton? It is certainly in classrooms
and lecture halls, in performance spaces and on athletic fields.
But in the aftermath of September 11, Princeton extended far beyond
Fitz Randolph Gates. Princeton was in the classrooms of New York
City. Princeton was in the suffering cultural venues of New York.
Princeton gave thousands of students their first exposure to live
arts and enabled them to dream. If only for a few hours, Princeton
relieved children affected by September 11 from some of their suffering.
Where is Princeton? Princeton is, and always will be, in the nation's
service and in the service of all nations.
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