Parsons speaks at Elon's 9/11 convocation


More than 2,500 students, faculty members and staff joined together in Elon University's Alumni Gym for a 45-minute gathering to commemorate the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. With music provided by the Elon University Camerata and the fifth grade class from Elon Elementary School, the community paused to remember the victims, honor the heroes and consider the ways each person can contribute to the ideal of world peace.

Elon President Leo Lambert led the program. One of the keynote speeches was presented by Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications. Following are his remarks...

Most of us try to do right. We obey the law, honor our promises, play games by the rules and wait our turn in line. We respect the rights of others, we're courteous to strangers and we even leave tips at places we expect we'll never go to again. Scholar and author James Q. Wilson believes we have a moral compass within that directs us toward good.

But not everyone uses the moral compass. When our media tell of evil and misery, savagery and greed, they do so because, thankfully, evil is not our norm. If our daily lives were full of evil, then the newsworthy stories would be the occasional outbreak of decency and compassion. We'd be amazed at parents who sacrifice for their children. We'd be shocked that someone gave to a charity. We'd be astonished if someone were polite to us.

The good news is, we expect people to act good, and we are shocked when they do not.

Like many of you, there was nothing heroic about my 9/11. I stood huddled with students beneath the large-screen TV in the lobby of McEwen, watching in disbelief. But I also watched a national spirit arise from the ashes of destruction.

We became a more generous people. Blood donations skyrocketed in the aftermath. Charitable contributions poured in. We wanted to help one another. And while we have now returned to every-day routines, a season of trauma reveals our true selves.

As a journalist, I discovered my profession still believes in serving the public good. On 9/11, television became our national gathering-place. Networks provided nonstop news coverage for four days, at a tremendous financial loss. That's public service. They performed a great voluntary good for our nation when the time demanded great good.

Nationally, we lost our sense of security, and I now better appreciate those who live in troubled lands around our globe, who wonder each day if this will be a safe street to walk down, or a safe bus to board. I've never had to live that way. I don't want to live that way. We became wiser a year ago, now knowing that we cannot sit back and wait complacently for evil to come at us again.

Individually, many of us will have our own 9/11s in life. It will be something unexpected - a broken relationship, an academic setback, the loss of a family member or friend. Fortunately, we live in a world where people care, are generous, sympathetic and can be heroic. I saw evidence in the past year of a moral compass within, guiding us toward good, and for that I am thankful. May God grant you peace.



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Last Modified:  9/23/02
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