Two weeks ago, our campus community gathered to commemorate the tragedy of Sept. 11. Hundreds of students, faculty and staff convened on the Plaza for the moving ceremony — and afterward, many of us returned to the pattern of our daily lives with a renewed commitment to doing our part to ensure such a terrible incident will never happen again.
This spirit of commitment – this desire to build bridges of peace and understanding – is at the heart of a yearlong, statewide program being launched this year by Colorado State University and the University of Denver. The two universities are partners in spearheading a statewide dialogue known as, “Bridges to the Future: American History and Values in Light of September 11th.” Our hope with this project is to reinvigorate a sense of civic and social responsibility across our state, to nurture a renaissance in public values and commitment, and to challenge each of us — as individuals and members of a greater society — to examine our role as contributors to our nation’s future.
The “dialogue” itself will take shape in many different settings and through many different types of activities around Colorado this year. Events will include speeches by international leaders, community discussion sessions, film series, collaboration with K-12 students, and much more — and we want to invite all at Colorado State University to take part in this important effort. Detailed information on the entire “Bridges” program is available online at www.bridgestothefuture.us.
Today, our two universities will co-host the “Bridges to the Future” inaugural event at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Denver’s Ritchie Center, 2201 E. Asbury Ave. Former Senator and pioneering Astronaut John Glenn will deliver the keynote address, and Governor Bill Owens and the leaders of CSU and DU will speak about the statewide “Bridges” initiative.
In addition to this kickoff event today, there will be many more opportunities for the CSU community to become involved with “Bridges to the Future” in the months ahead. Our hope in writing this piece today is to encourage student organizations and individuals across our campus to consider ways in which they might explore the “Bridges” themes in the course of their own activities this year. Already, a number of key campus groups have risen to the challenge: the Association of Student Activity Programming Cinema – Cinema CSU – is hosting a new film series on history, values and conflict, in which students and faculty watch important films then spend time discussing and debating them afterward. The students and staff of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs, who host our very successful Cans Around the Oval Food Drive each year, have decided this fall to challenge other colleges and universities around Colorado to join in making the drive a statewide effort – Cans Around Colorado. Many faculty who teach our First Year Seminars and senior capstone courses are also incorporating some of the themes of “Bridges” into their classroom discussions this year. We would like to challenge each of you not only to become actively engaged with “Bridges” activities this year, but also to take time on your own and with friends to discuss those questions this effort is trying to raise: What does it mean to be an American in the 21st century? What are our nation’s shared values, and how do we exercise them in an ever-evolving and complex global community? As citizens of the United States, what responsibilities do we have to our neighbors, both at home and in other countries? Are we living the vision of our founders? As a nation, how do our actions match our rhetoric – and what role do we, as citizens, have in guiding our nation’s behavior? Where are we headed as a nation… and how did we get where we are today? What does our society ‘owe’ its children? Its senior citizens? Those in mid-life?
There are no simple answers to any of these questions, but in raising them, exploring them, and connecting with one another through this yearlong discussion, we are responding to the fundamental aims of the “Bridges” program: to remember, to understand, to renew or reframe our most fundamental public value commitments, and to begin to build bridges to a brighter future.
David Bower is president of the Associated Students of CSU and Albert C. Yates is president of CSU.