May 24, 2013

Good Morning:

Everyone is still talking about Commencement 2013. While graduation is a special day everywhere, I would venture to say that no other commencement in the country featured the Dalai Lama second lining to the music of Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. But amid all the dancing, fireworks and fun, His Holiness also delivered a simple and powerful message that included this wisdom: "In order to have a meaningful life, you should take care of others' well-being."

At the time no one realized how soon an opportunity to put these words into practice would present itself. Monday's horrific tornado that devastated Moore, Newcastle and other Oklahoma City communities immediately shifted our focus. We contacted all of our students from the Oklahoma City area to see how they had fared and how the university might assist them. We know far too well that recovery and healing from such a disaster does not happen overnight or without the help of others.

I was relieved to learn that all of our students and their families who live in the communities struck by the tornado were safe. I was also grateful to receive a message from an Oklahoma City resident who said she was "proud but not surprised" to witness Tulane students sorting donations and cleaning apartments that will shelter victims of the tornado. The writer, a Tulane parent herself, credited the university's community service requirement with instilling a spirit of service in these students. "Service learning does become learning to serve," she wrote.

This is what a Tulane education is really all about. Whether it is Central City, Oklahoma City or any city in the world, our students spend a lot of their time on the streets, using classroom knowledge to empower and improve the world. The experience they acquire is unforgettable; the difference they make is invaluable. I am proud they are living the words that the Dalai Lama spoke at Commencement.

Have a great weekend,


Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638