This fall Syracuse University hosted an important and essential dialogue on world peace called Small World/Big Divides: Building Bridges in an Age of Extremes (see story).
There is such a fractured facade of peace in our world today—not only between those with historic and conflicting claims—such as Israel and Palestine—but also the so-called “clash of civilizations” between East and West, which in truth is many clashes, most rooted in blindness and obsession.
As war, death, and despair encircle our world, it is essential for us, as educators, to promote dialogue and offer solutions that can create pathways to peace. That is why we came together at this time—because we believe that universities, both private and public, are places where honest, difficult dialogue can and must happen and where solutions for the most urgent and pressing issues of our day can be formulated.
With that in mind, we purposefully called our event a “summit”—to remind people that we as citizens and communities can claim some of the responsibility for finding solutions to world peace, rather than leaving it solely to heads of state. The conviction that we as individuals can have a role in building bridges in an age of extremes lies at the heart of our University’s vision of Scholarship in Action.
Our summit provided an opportunity for leading diplomats, human rights activists, faculty, students, community leaders, and citizens to exchange perspectives and explore practical ideas that can serve as a foundation for the implementation of real-world strategies. It was a privilege for me, and I hope for the more than 600 people in attendance and those who joined us across the globe via C-SPAN and the Internet, to take part in a significant, meaningful, and forthright discussion on issues critical to us all.
Our summit reminds us that to move toward real-world solutions, we must engage in honest, difficult dialogue, listen to one another, and embrace our communal responsibility to humanize one another. As an institution of higher education, we cannot assign the search for peace only to those in positions of direct influence. On campus and in the community, we can act to leverage the public arts and humanities to signify our differences and affirm our common fates. We can bring students from war-torn countries to our campus for inter-group dialogues with our students and community members. And we can build inter-cultural and inter-faith coalitions in our region. The University can and should be a place where ideas are transformed—through action—into reality.
Chancellor and President