FROM THE PRESIDENT
We Write the
David Lean's great epic film, Lawrence of Arabia, Peter
O'Toole's T.E. Lawrence, already accused of madness for daring
to cross the murderously scorched and waterless Nefud Desert to
reach Aqaba, resolves to go back and rescue a member of his expedition
party whom everyone else has given up for dead.
Ali and his friends plead frantically with Lawrence to abort his
pointless and dangerous mission, because, as one comrade says,
"It is written!"
replies with one of the most memorable lines in movie history:
"Nothing is written." As he rides off alone, Lawrence
defiantly predicts: "I shall be at Aqaba. That is written"--he
points toward his head --"in here!"
patiently retraces his itinerary, finds the missing man alive,
and returns parched and famished to the camp, repeating his words,
"Nothing is written." As Sherif Ali later concedes,
"Truly for some men, nothing is written unless they write
me this is not only an inspiring rallying cry from a great movie,
but a practical and necessary posture to take as we charge into
the new year. Especially after witnessing countless acts of giving
and even ultimate sacrifice by so many brave men and women, I
believe even more strongly in our individual and collective power
to take control of our own lives, recover the joy of living and
learning, and prevail in our unending fight against ignorance,
injustice, and evil.
I write these words, I am aware that many members of our University
community--including a large number of students--find themselves
afflicted with fear, heightened anxiety, or, in some cases, depression.
More than ever, we must continue to rally together to help a friend
or colleague in need or great distress.
the same time, we seem to be weathering the post-September 11
storm remarkably well. No one can confidently predict the end
of terrorism, but there are growing indications that both the
war on terrorism abroad and homeland defense effort have reduced
the terrorist threat. Even New York, which seemed drained of its
vitality just two months ago, now feels like New York again. The
bounce, verve, and energy are back.
we cannot backslide into a false sense of security and complacency,
we should feel safe and secure enough to write our own lives and
pursue our goals and dreams. Penn's scholars--faculty, students,
and staff--share a unique privilege: We wake up each day with
a chance to make new discoveries that can save lives and bring
more joy, comfort, and prosperity to the world.
also greet each day as members of a community whose rich diversity
of persons, groups, views, and academic disciplines boosts our
moral and intellectual capacity for greatness. Nourishing our
diversity, therefore, not only creates a more dynamic and vibrant
community; it also enhances our understanding of the world whose
problems we seek to solve.
this context, this month's celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr.'s birthday takes on even greater importance. Infused with
the fires of the Prophets, Dr. King goaded society to live by
what Abraham Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. When
faced with the brutal laws and legacy of Jim Crow, he did not
despair. Nor did he resign himself to "segregation forever."
Rather, he chose to write a different script for humanity and
posterity to follow.
know we are living through perilous and challenging times. We
need to mobilize our wisdom, our energy, and our "soul force"
to meet every challenge, fight injustice, and reach higher ground.
What better way to begin the new year than to participate in the
events, programs and community service projects that form the
heart of this year's annual observance and celebration of Dr.
King's birthday. (The full calendar of events can be found at
theme of this year's celebration is Remembering the Dream,
Living the Vision. I encourage everyone to join in drawing
inspiration from Dr. King's dream of equality, and in living by
the lights of his enduring vision of freedom and justice for all.
make sure we write the next chapter of history ourselves.