On Feb. 19, President Thomas Keefe sent a letter to the University of Dallas student body addressing the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In my three years at the university, we, the student body, have not received many emails from President Keefe. A quick search through my mailbox finds messages about the flu outbreak of 2017, buildings’ ribbon cuttings, a call to help Hurricane Harvey relief and a very short statement from 2016 explaining that weapons will continue to be banned from campus. But the email sent on Feb. 19 was very different from each of those.
Unlike the others, this one wasn’t connected to the university. The actions and events that took place in Florida did not affect our community, and as far as I am aware, do not pose an imminent threat to us. The email stands out by its length and personal tone. It does not contain information pertaining to an event the school was hosting, extra safety precautions that would be put in place, or reassurance that UD was equipped to deal with a similar situation. What, then, was the purpose of sending this email?
Here at UD, we are given all the tools to think for ourselves. We learn not only to debate, but to listen and understand what the other says before formulating a reply. We are taught to read critically, but with open minds, so as not to impose our own ideas and voice on the writing. We experience the importance of diverse ideas and cultures as we spend a semester in a city very different from our American home. We celebrate simple pleasures in order to develop deeper friendships and share our personal joy with the community.
Now Keefe is calling us to another mode of education equal to, if not more important than, the rest.
“We must lead by example, bearing witness to truth and charity, and fostering a culture of genuine civility,” Keefe wrote in the letter.
Keefe is calling us to put to use all of our other tools, and, with our actions and voices, to enter the community outside of our Bubble.
We are blessed to be in this Bubble. This Bubble doesn’t protect us from a shooter wandering onto campus or evils that an individual can bring to the life of another, but it does foster an environment of growth, safety and unity that I tend to believe is unique not merely to our country but to our world. It is a fruitful environment, but fruit needs to be distributed and seeds planted, or the fruit will die without purpose.
We have a responsibility to go out into the world and challenge the things we know to be
wrong. When we choose to stay in comfortable, like-minded company, we are wasting the formation we are so blessed to receive at this university. Keefe’s email is a call to take what we have learned and engage the outside world with it. We are not called simply to live safely and happily: We are called to live in a way that betters our home, society and future. We can only do this by entering the world with the goal of engaging with it.
In his email, Keefe addresses us not as students, but as fellow adults. He recognizes his unique ability to call our special and intelligent community to action. He realizes the great impact we as a community and as individuals could have on the future of this issue.
Keefe has taken up the task of holding us to the ultimate goal of the gift of our education — to listen, to hold firm to our beliefs, to ask tough questions, to search for truth, to show love to others, to have fortitude toward our purpose, and most importantly, to remember the people and the things that give us purpose. Mass shootings are not something we can ignore, nor will they stop without our efforts.