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Commemorate Yesterday, Anticipate Tomorrow

Are our thoughts on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, more about the past or the future? Do we commemorate events of yesterday or anticipate tomorrow’s journey in life?

Both, we reply with certainty. We embrace the past, acknowledging its greatness and its weakness, celebrating its joy and grieving its sadness. We await the future, dreaming of what might be, creating what will be. Both.

The quality of our lives today and the character of our lives in every tomorrow depend on succeeding generations of Americans and citizens worldwide who shoulder responsibility for both yesterday and tomorrow.

One of the hardest things to know in life is how to act so as to make a real difference. We cannot know how to make a difference if we do not imagine a new way of acting. And we cannot imagine a new way of acting if we know only our own experience, if we sense only our own pain and sorrow, if we celebrate only our own joy and abundance.

How might we know? In what space might we imagine? Could Chicago be this place?

Our city of Chicago is an “edge-habitat,” a place where people cross borders and encounter others. Edge-habitats teem with roughness and conflict, misunderstanding and violence. Yet edge-habitats also hold promise for transforming swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, as imagined by the Hebrew prophet Isaiah.

As students gathered for the start of the school year at North Park University, I encouraged them to embrace the city of Chicago as a sanctuary, a holy place. This city is a sacred space in which we simultaneously encounter God and meet others, a space in which we can learn to imagine.

For citizens everywhere, as much as for university students, the city is both text and context for learning. Chicago is the most important book we have to read, the most important classroom in which we study.

Borders meet in the city. One person’s habitat— Ireland, the Ukraine, Somalia or Mexico—meets another’s habitat. One person’s language—Tamil, Serbian, Vietnamese, Arabic, Tagalog—creates a new melody in harmony with another’s language. One person’s gift of teaching, another’s gift of healing, yet another’s gift of commerce, and still another’s gift of preparing food connect us to each other.

This interconnectedness tears down the border walls stone by stone, prompting the edge-habitat to teem with life—a life in which we can imagine a world of understanding over misunderstanding, of care for another’s life as much as care for my own, of bringing peace on earth and good will to all.

By knowing our neighbors in Chicago’s global village we will learn how to act so as to make a real difference.

Dr. David L. Parkyn
President
North Park University
Chicago

Next Steps

Read more September 11 Remembrance essays.

President Parkyn at North Park University