Excerpts from a decade of discourse on the issues that mattered.


“Moral leadership requires suasion not censorship, conscience not coercion.”

On public discourse:
Must I provide “moral leadership” to the Penn community? Absolutely. But moral leadership requires suasion not censorship, conscience not coercion. Most of all, it requires insisting that we—all of us—talk about what troubles us. Words are the life-blood of a university. For all their limitations, even if they sometimes drive us apart, words are what bind us together in the academy.
The University and a Civil Society, October 12, 1999

On the role of the university in society:
Given the inescapably global dimensions of the pressing challenges we face, what other institution has the capacity to break down barriers or borders, promote dialogue, foster collaboration and progress, and forge creative solutions to the world’s problems?
Keynote Address at Arcadia University, July 16, 2001

On improving West Philadelphia:
I felt strongly that we had an example of integrity to set for our students. The state of the neighborhood was our business. How could we educate and exhort our students to contribute to society if we did not offer them an institutional example of positive civic engagement? If Penn could make discoveries that saved lives and drove the global economy, then surely we had both the capacity and moral obligation to use our intellectual might to make things right at our doorstep.
Penn Design Talk, March 4, 2004

Ten years ago, few thought Penn had the guts to stick its neck out for its neighbors. Today, we realize that by putting our money and reputation on the line to help revitalize University City, the neck we saved might well turn out to have been our own.
Penn Design Talk, March 4, 2004

On student engagement:
Remember: You’re not in an ivory tower. You’re part of the real world that you soon will be called on to lead. Penn gives you the best chance you’ll ever have—and a much better chance than my generation had—to know this world in its many racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural dimensions. Seize it while you are here.
Convocation Address, September 2, 2003

On universities and the economy:
Pennsylvania is rich in raw intellectual and entrepreneurial materials. We have great colleges and universities, and we’re especially strong in emerging life sciences. We have an energetic governor who can see where the Commonwealth needs to go. And we have great people in this state. But we in Pennsylvania must agree to create a knowledge industry juggernaut out of these raw materials that will take the economy to new heights.
Pennsylvania Press Club, January 27, 2003

On women having it all:
Study after study has shown that women who were career-oriented, had commitments to personal relationships and families, and had a diversity of outside interests seemed to be healthier. They were more stressed, and often a little more anxious, but in hard end-point biological measures, such as illness and mortality, they were healthier…. So while I understand fully the costs, I also commend to you the opportunities provided by trying to have it all.
Address at the Inaugural Event of the Women in Leadership Series, February 25, 1998

On the importance of doubt:
Ideas can be comforting things—especially so when we are absolutely certain in our belief; powerful in our rhetoric; steadfast in our commitment to action on their behalf. But it is precisely then that ideas are most dangerous, when we are least likely to think through the powerful connections between rhetoric, behavior and ideas.
Memorial Service for Yitzhak Rabin, November 6, 1995

On the power of dreams:
Many of you are familiar with Extreme Sports like wakeboarding, speed climbing and vertical skateboarding. And like me, perhaps a few of you dream of competing in an X Games Olympiad. In fact, the other evening, I executed a flawless whirlybird on my wakeboard. Then I woke up.
Convocation Address, September 2, 2003

Originally published on May 13, 2004