The Start of Spring Semester 2020
Date: January 28, 2020
TO: THE NYU COMMUNITY
FROM: President Hamilton
Dear Members of the NYU Community,
This year our winter break -- normally a much-welcomed respite that enables us to re-energize ourselves for the spring semester -- took place in the shadow of sad and troubling events: the spectre of hostilities in Middle East; wildfires in Australia; the impeachment process in Washington; horrific acts of anti-Semitic violence in our own region; and the emergence of a disturbing new illness in China (about which our Student Health Center has established a helpful webpage with important information and updates).
Yet when I joined a contingent of students and staff organized by the Bronfman Center to march in the rally against anti-Semitism in early January, I was struck that the prevailing sentiment wasn't fear or despondency -- it was hopefulness and resolve and courage. I was reminded both of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose legacy we will honor early next month, that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that,” and of the words of Rev. William Sloane Coffin, a Yale chaplain who said, "Courage is the first virtue; it makes all the other virtues possible."
One of the great rewards of a life as a faculty member is to be refreshed by the passion of students. Their fearlessness and determination to make the world better, to try to fix even the seemingly most intractable of problems, fills me with optimism even when newscasts might make me feel otherwise.
There are many challenges looming -- from the routine demands of tests and papers and research projects to the great and persistent struggles of climate change, dislocation, extremism, hate, and disease. It is all too easy to give way to fright - to stop those from other nations at our borders, to suspect others because of their differences, to restrict people from our classrooms or campuses notwithstanding the guidance of health agencies. I take comfort and pride in being part of a community that refrains from taking the counsel of its worst fears, that so clearly is up to the world's toughest challenges, and that so surely will make a positive difference.
Good luck with all your spring semester work.