Friday, August 28, 2009

We Deal in Hope

I’m a fan of the movie The Magnificent Seven, a remarkable translation of Kurosawa’s masterpiece – “The Seven Samurai” - to the Western genre. In the movie, a large group of marauding bandits come to a village to loot it of food and other supplies. But the villagers have managed to hire a group of seven gunfighters to defend them from the bandits. Recognizing the difficult challenge the gunfighters might pose, the leader of the bandits offers to make a deal with them. In one of the most memorable lines ever uttered in a Hollywood western, Steve McQueen, who plays one of the gunfighters, responds: “We deal in lead, friend.”

The University of Rhode Island deals in hope. As I mentioned previously, it is a special feeling to come to work in a place with the word “Hope” emblazoned on its seal. According to the state government web site, the word “Hope” was added to the seal for the colony in 1664 and is probably inspired by the Biblical verse: “We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19). As a university, URI is all about hope – the hopes of our students, the hopes of their families, the hopes of the citizens of Rhode Island, indeed, the hopes of our nation and much of the world. Every day our emblem reminds me that our goal, first and foremost, is to help people realize their hopes and dreams. I think that is why Congress created the land-grant university in 1862 and that is why our role has never been more important.

Over the past week or so, I have seen and heard the hopes expressed that URI can continue to provide the opportunities for students to pursue their goals and simultaneously to expand its research activities. As I shared with the Providence Chamber of Commerce, the South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce, and many others, fulfilling these hopes is the heart of URI’s mission and a critical contribution to building a better economic future for the people of Rhode Island. The opportunity for upward mobility, a strong basic standard of living, a compassionate and generous society, and a life lived in joy and good health, are hopes we all share. I believe, and will always believe, that a quality education is essential for these hopes to become substance. And that is what the University of Rhode Island is all about.