(as prepared for delivery)
Our hearts reach out in sympathy to those who were affected by the awful acts of violence in Orlando, from the friends and family members of the victims to all of us here and around the world who feel their pain and share in their mourning.
In the wake of such tragedy, it is heartening to know that we have the ability to come together as a community.
We are artists, activists, leaders, students, faculty, staff, and community members. We are members of a family, the University of Michigan family, that for nearly 200 years has stood for greater understanding, enlightenment, and hope.
Most importantly, we are humans striving for a better and more peaceful society; humans who hail from communities all over the globe. And when lives are so horrifically taken by terrorism and hate, we all suffer – as such attacks are an affront to all of humanity.
June 14th is Flag Day in our nation, a day during which we commemorate the stripes of our freedom, and the stars that, together, form our union and make us one, indivisible, nation.
But today, our flag flies at half-staff, while our hearts are in full mourning.
Now, we again face a test of our ability to unite, as a nation and as a community.
I hope we can respect each other and understand that deadly attacks and their aftermath affect each of us – even as it is impossible to understand the hate or alienation that would lead someone to senselessly and cruelly end so many lives.
We must fully and clearly reject all forms of discrimination, hatred, and violence.
We must remember that our differences are precious – that those of all religions, ethnicities, beliefs, sexual orientations and gender identities make us a complete community. Always.
Because it is in our moments of grief and fear that we may be most vulnerable to losing sight of our values. The values of understanding, enlightenment and hope, of religious freedom and equal rights that are the greatest traditions of the Michigan family.
The values that let us instead focus on helping those who are grieving, and bringing about the peace and love that remains far too elusive in our society.
As someone who grew up in Brooklyn, NY, almost in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty,
I urge everyone not to forget the words of poet Emma Lazarus on a plaque attached to the pedestal of our nation’s symbol of welcome:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
Let us not forget, we are a nation built of immigrants.
Thank you so much for being here to support those suffering in Orlando, here in Michigan, and elsewhere.
Now I would like to introduce our next speaker, a four-time alumnus of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor.