To the Cornell Community
First, let me assure you that this message does not include any new policies or procedures. Rather, I simply wanted to share some of my reflections on the enormous challenge that we are now all facing.
In the past week to 10 days, all of our lives have changed in ways that are almost incomprehensible. My colleague Vice President Ryan Lombardi likes to talk about the need to “process” new information, and that’s what every single one of us is doing: trying to process our situation. This takes time and it takes psychological energy, so please be patient with yourself and expect a wide range of emotions. Please also be patient with your friends and loved ones, especially those with whom you will be spending a lot of time in the coming weeks.
I am a bridge player—not a very good one, but I do enjoy the game. In bridge, you are sometimes dealt a great hand: lots of high cards, distributed across the suits in an advantageous way. Other times, you are dealt a terrible hand. The great hands are unquestionably more fun to play, but every bridge player knows that you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Sometimes, doing an outstanding job with a terrible hand can be incredibly rewarding.
Right now, we’ve all been dealt a bad hand—and we have to play it, and play it to the best of our abilities. So many of our plans have been disrupted, leaving us frustrated and disappointed. But we can rise to meet this challenge, just as previous generations of Cornellians have when they faced huge and unexpected challenges, whether it was a World War, or the Great Depression, or the scourge of AIDS.
Like many of you, I have been charmed and inspired by acts of kindness and demonstrations of the human spirit that I’ve seen over this past week. A video of an aerobics instructor on the roof of his apartment in Italy, leading people who could be seen in the windows of all the surrounding apartments in an exercise class. A medical student who, because her clinical duties were suspended, volunteered to babysit for any of her faculty members who needed it. Closer to home, the incredible generosity of our student groups who together contributed funds totaling $271,000 to the student Access Fund.
I’m so proud of so many members of our Cornell community. I could mention literally hundreds of faculty, staff, students and alumni who have stepped up in myriad ways over the past few days. But here I want to specially recognize one person, and one group of people. Cornellian Dr. Anthony Fauci, a 1966 graduate of our medical college, has emerged as a true hero during this crisis, just as he did during the AIDS crisis. And we have heroes in all of the faculty in our medical school, who are demonstrating incredible dedication, bravery and professionalism as they fight on the front lines of this pandemic.
We’ve all been dealt a terrible hand. But as Cornellians, we’ll play that hand, and we’ll play it graciously and to the best of our abilities. And when we come out the other side, we will join together, across the globe, for the most rousing version of the Alma Mater that you can imagine!
Stay strong and stay well.