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University News

Community gathering focuses on unity

Event seeks to create empathetic environment following series of national tragedies

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 11, 2017

President Christina Paxson P’19 and the Interim Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Assistant Provost for Global Engagement Shontay Delalue addressed the community in an effort to promote peace and inclusion.

The Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life hosted a community gathering Monday afternoon on the Main Green to buttress the essentiality and necessity of compassion, inclusion and justice during the school year.

Janet Cooper Nelson, chaplain of the University, said that the event was partly in response to the difficulties the world is currently facing, such as devastating natural disasters, expressions of bigotry in Charlottesville, the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the war in Syria.

“It’s very important to the chaplains that we acknowledge the substance and the depth of the content that students are bringing to their studies, as well as the challenges in the world that need our attention,” Cooper Nelson told The Herald. While this is a spiritual matter, it is also a matter of ethics, morality and community, she added.

In her opening statement, Cooper Nelson put particular emphasis on the necessity of empathy. She alluded to the significance Sept. 11 has in the United States and the power it holds in bringing people together. But the event was not a memorial for an earlier time, she said. “Our hearts seek to keep time with one another, to find a quality of mindfulness, even prayer, to risk real empathy, to be aligned with the concerns and the needs of this time,” Cooper Nelson said.

After Cooper Nelson spoke, faculty, staff members, students and administrators read different works that revolved around the theme of empathy.

President Christina Paxson P’19 read a poem called “Third Heaven” by Peter Cooley, which was written in memory of Hurricane Katrina. She said she changed her selections for reading over the weekend in response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

Chelse-Amoy Steele ’18 shared a personal reflection in which she spoke of racism’s presence in contemporary American society, noting that the only ways to combat racism are to not give up the fight and to have empathy. “Now is the time that we must act with timeless empathy and the deepest compassion towards the community around us and to ourselves,” she said.

Elizabeth Hoover, assistant professor of American studies, read an excerpt from “Lines from a Mined Mind” by John Trudell. She chose the piece to emphasize Trudell’s message that humans need to be empathetic toward one another.

Along with the readings, musical pieces were performed during the program. Irene Tang ’19  played Bach’s Sonata No. 3 in C Major on the violin and the Jabberwocks concluded the program by singing “Alleluia” by Richard Marx.

The diverse array of speakers at the event chose their own material to read. “We invited people who we thought would have some thoughtfulness to bring to the day,” Cooper Nelson told The Herald.

Cooper Nelson said she hopes those at the event received insight on the importance of unity.

“Having empathy, for another as well as for the world, is not something that comes without work,” Cooper Nelson said. “I’m hoping that each of us … is hoping to offer something peaceful and lovely.”

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