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From the president

Seventy-five years ago, Congress designated Nov. 11 as a day to salute our veterans, those who have entered harm’s way to protect our freedoms.

The celebration initially was called Armistice Day, not only to mark the armistice signed on Nov. 11, 1918, to end World War I, but also to remind us that the ultimate goal of those who must fight is peace.

In recent years, Veterans Day has passed on our campus almost without notice. Perhaps this neglect has been due in part to our academic schedule that dictates classes must be held on that holiday. However, I expect the larger reason has been that the tranquility we enjoyed over many years has dulled our memories of the hard sacrifices made by our veterans.

Unfortunately, we abruptly and painfully remembered two months ago that our comfort and security cannot be taken for granted. The events of Sept. 11 ought to give us pause on this Sunday and prod all of us to honor and thank those who have served in our military forces.

Take some time this weekend to visit the memorial in front of Millett Hall honoring Col. William R. Higgins, kidnapped and killed by terrorists in Lebanon, as well as other Miamians who have died in the armed services. The memorial reminds us vividly that when we ask our servicemen and women to restore order in some corner of the world or to protect our nation’s security, they take great risks in doing so.

The university community, especially, should appreciate those who pledge to defend our Constitution. Gen. Joe Ralston, the 1965 Miami graduate who heads NATO’s armed forces, made this point to me recently when he spoke on our campus.

During the question-and-answer period following his address, Gen. Ralston was asked point-blank about those on campus who criticize our country in time of war. His answer surprised people in the audience, for it was an impassioned endorsement of a free expression and the university’s obligation to harbor ideas.

The general turned to the ROTC students in the audience and implored them to remember their responsibilities to protect the rights of Americans to speak freely and to ensure that colleges and universities remain bastions of free inquiry.

The freedom to challenge ideas provides the foundation of our university’s mission and is essential in our search for truth. We should not forget that this freedom was hard-won, and that Veterans Day provides an important opportunity for us to thank and honor those whom we have called upon to protect it.

Date Published: 11/08/2001
Volume: 21   Number: 15

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