Even if you don't live in the New York–New Jersey area, I'm certain you have seen the coverage of the devastation that was left here in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in late October. At Wagner, it marked the second consecutive year that Carin and I, along with a number of our administrators and staff members, spent the night of the storm with some of our students in Spiro Sports Center. It was an opportunity to bond with a small group of our students as the winds howled outside. When we ventured out the next morning, it was clear that the destruction was much more profound than anything we've encountered here in recent memory. Though the campus endured the storm with only minimal damage, the situation was dire for many of our neighbors.
There was clearly much need, and what has touched me the most is the response from our own students. Even before most of them were able to return to campus, they were seeking ways to help. Greg Balaes '13, our SGA president, and his peers created Wagner Cares to focus the work of student volunteers and funnel supplies where they are needed most.
These efforts are a most meaningful response to this challenge, because our students have shown that the lessons they learn in our classrooms and in their fieldwork have become a part of their internal makeup. The Wagner Plan is, in large part, about a civic ethos. That ethos is strong on our campus; it is who we are.
Seeing this also reaffirmed to me how important it is for us to continue to fight for the kind of education that we are able to provide here at Wagner, even as American higher education faces increasing challenges.
Wagner is part of a tradition where exploration of ideas is critical, as is argument through reason and evidence, and, perhaps most importantly, the promotion of compassion and empathy.
At the very beginnings of our republic, Franklin and Jefferson understood that to sustain a democratic government, a democratic culture would be a necessity. This culture would nurture independent thinkers, pragmatic problem solvers, and creative innovators.
They understood that the liberal arts would free people from becoming prisoners of their own limited experiences. The world they were building placed high demands on citizens to understand civic duties and responsibilities and democratic practice. The republic required engaged citizens who prized their personal freedom, but who also cherished and nurtured the welfare of their communities.
In this critical moment when higher learning and responsible citizenship are needed more than ever, we must support institutions that stand for the fundamental values of democracy, an open society, and a reverence for the dignity of life. This is what we do at Wagner.
LEARN MORE: Go to the Wagner Cares website.