The start of a new academic year has always been a magical time for me. Like a slumbering giant, the University campus awakens from its nap in the summer sun. The excited chatter of new students mixes freely with the confident laughter of returning students greeting each other on the quad. The disappointments and shortcomings of the previous year are but a dim memory, like the fading image of an old photograph. And the entire world smells of fresh school supplies. (If that last bit sounds strange to you, then you have not truly embraced the season.) Given all of these things, it is entirely natural that one’s thoughts turn to beginnings. In my case, I have been reflecting upon four starting points, in particular.
Two centuries ago, less than forty years after declaring independence from Great Britain, a young United States was again at war with its old nemesis of 1776. British forces attacked Fort McHenry and invaded Washington, D.C., setting fire to the White House itself. But perhaps to the amazement of all, the upstart American Republic did not fall -- and the ordeal inspired a poem whose verses still reverberate in every American soul.
One century ago, the Great Powers of Europe stumbled into a long and devastating war, a Great War, that traumatized a generation and set in motion a sort of political and economic Rube Goldberg machine that would unleash first the greatest evil the world has ever known, and then its greatest hope.
In the late summer of 37 years ago, the United States launched the Voyager spacecrafts, which carried a piece of humanity into the vast unknown of outer space, in hopes that we might someday establish contact with other sentient beings in the universe.
And just two weeks ago, an eighteen-year-old young man named Marquese Meadow arrived on Morgan’s campus to pursue his dreams of being a student-athlete. But tragically, Marquese’s beginning was shockingly brief. He passed away last weekend, the victim of a heat stroke. His death, like that of all young people, strikes us especially hard because we cannot but wonder about what might have been. We will never know what kind of man Marquese would have become. But judging from the universal expressions of shock and sympathy at his untimely demise, we do know that Marquese was making friends, playing the sport that he loved, and laying the foundation for a productive and meaningful life. In my humble opinion, what Marquese managed to achieve in his short time at Morgan is just as momentous as composing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the start of World War I, or the Voyager mission.
So, as the Bear Nation mourns the passing of one of its own, let us also rededicate ourselves to the noble task of “growing the future, leading the world.” We can do no greater honor to Marquese’s memory.