This weekend the University of Rhode Island welcomed over 3500 new students to our community. Over the summer, dozens of new faculty and staff also joined us. It is the nature of universities – every year we say goodbye to many of our company, and then welcome those who arrive. Even though our members regularly change, the values of our community, and our responsibilities to one another, remain consistent.
At times, and all too frequently it seems to me, we are forced to part with members of our community far too early, and far too tragically. So it was again this summer, with the passing of Mario Rousseau – a truly remarkable young man who, through his leadership in BOND and in numerous other ways, had made a significant impact on the lives of many members of the URI community, and on the university as a whole. His life mattered. His life still matters.
Events across America and across the world these past several months speak more forcefully than ever about the necessity and the urgency of building communities that span our differences. I remain convinced that America’s public universities present outstanding opportunities to accomplish this, and building a diverse community that cherishes equity is one of our most important priorities at the University of Rhode Island. In essence, our goal is to build a community where we all say to one another: “Your life matters.”
I hope that everyone here will endorse the centrality and importance of this endeavor. Our world is torn by terror, mired in prejudice and mistrust, poisoned by politics, and consumed by self-interest. But I believe that it is possible to see the world, not as it is, but as it could be.1 Imagine URI as place where each of us lived out the simple, straightforward tenet that: “your life matters.” I cannot think of a better foundation upon which to build the community we aspire to.
1This is something I’ve long believed. You can find versions of this sentiment in the manifesto of Acumen (a global leadership development non-profit, see acumen.org) and at the conclusion of Disney’s 2015 Cinderella, and likely elsewhere.