December 18, 2012
Dear Members of the Extended Skidmore Family:
Our hearts go out to the parents and families of those who have been lost in last
events at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and to the firefighters,
police, clergy, and so many others who have been seeking both to bring comfort and
sense of this seemingly senseless event. Our feelings of grief and accompanying outrage
only heightened by the fact that the gunman specifically targeted the most vulnerable
us. On the other hand, there is no limit to our admiration for the members of the
school staff who
took swift action and, in some cases, gave their own lives to protect the children
in their charge.
I am heartened that many in our community already have found ways to express their
condolences to the people of Newtown – including more than 50 Skidmore alumni, parents,
friends – and stand in solidarity with them. Harnessing both new (Twitter and Facebook)
(cards and letters) technology to acknowledge their suffering and pain, you are engaging
in a very
human and humane act that is itself an important and powerful first step toward addressing
collective grief. As the 17th Century British poet John Donne observed, we are all
our humanity: “every man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”
Friday, when so many such connections were severed in an instant, we were reminded
of the inestimable value of every life and the fragility of the social fabric that
creates the context
for any form of human existence. At the same time, Robbie Parker, father of one of
murdered at Sandy Hook, was surely right to say, "We are better than this."
Seeking to make sense of things is, of course, the core of what an academic community
and there is much yet to be discovered and understood about these horrific events.
understanding alone is not sufficient to achieve the healing we seek. As President
Obama said in
his remarks during last Sunday evening’s memorial service, “We have to change.” His
apply to us as well, as members of a national liberal arts college: we too must change.
to learn better how to engage in difficult dialogue with both a critical mind and
a spirit of
respect. We need to reach out more consistently and effectively to those in our community
have felt marginalized. We need to reaffirm the impulse to harness knowledge in service
making the world a better place – to help our students understand the connection between
personal values and public policy, as well as our shared responsibilities as citizens
democracy. We need to teach these things to our students – and allow them to teach
us as well.
We are, indeed, better than this. So let each of us do what lies within our power
to prove the truth
of this statement through the opportunities, challenges, and support we offer to our
through a renewed commitment to make real – both here and in the world at large –
that define us as Skidmore College.
Philip A. Glotzbach