Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, September 14, 2001
For the record
'A great injustice has been committed'

The following is the text of remarks by President John Hennessy delivered at the campus service on the Main Quad Sept. 14, 2001.

This past Tuesday [Sept. 11], 5,000 innocent Americans died. In the space of less than an hour our country and all our lives were forever changed. Today, it is appropriate that we focus our thoughts on those in our country whose existence has been permanently altered by this tragedy. Each of these individuals who lost their lives in New York City, in Washington, D.C., or in Pennsylvania has a family, a circle of friends and coworkers, for whom this tragedy is very personal. It is for them that we should pray.

As we go forward in the days ahead, I hope that we will be motivated first by compassion and charity for those who have suffered and will continue to struggle with their grief. I also ask you to remember that some members of our community will have been personally touched by this tragedy. Others will need our support as they struggle to understand what has occurred and how it will change our future.

I hope that as we seek out the criminals who committed these horrendous acts, we will be driven by a search for justice rather than vengeance. I also ask that we all remember that the color of a person’s skin or his national origin or her religious beliefs do not make them a terrorist or imply that they harbor any sympathy for the individuals that perpetrated this crime. A great injustice has been committed against our country and our fellow citizens; it should not be used to excuse further injustices against others.

David Starr Jordan chose for Stanford’s motto: "The Winds of Freedom Blow." In the months ahead, this motto can serve as an inspiration for each of us, as we struggle with questions about the meaning of our freedom, the cost of maintaining a free society and what sort of country we want to live in. The horrendous events of this week will, no doubt, change our views. It seems to me, however, that if we alter our commitment to a free and open society, we will have given these terrorists a victory, which they do not deserve. Instead, we should ensure that we understand the value of our freedom, assess what it will take to preserve that freedom and ask what America’s role should be as a leader among the free nations of this world.

When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated for his second term on March 4, 1865, America was in the waning days of a terrible Civil War -- a war that had taken the lives of 500,000 Americans. Lincoln concluded his short speech that morning with the following words:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

This afternoon, I ask all of us, first and foremost, to remember and pray for those that have borne the cost of this terrible tragedy -- the innocent victims, the families who have lost a loved one and the friends who have lost a comrade.

And, I pray that we as a nation and a community will go forward to build a better world that strives to achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.