I am proud of the impressive Covid-19 surveillance testing system built by our faculty and staff, and I am deeply grateful to all who are working tirelessly to run it. I am also thankful to the thousands of students who’ve already been tested, and to the dozens of student leaders, including many in fraternities and sororities, who are working hard to encourage others to get tested regularly. But testing only helps if all of us get tested regularly.
To the entire Georgia Tech community — welcome back. I am excited to see our campus full of energy once again despite the difficult circumstances we are going through. It hasn’t been easy to get ready for this reopening, and I am immensely grateful for all the work of our faculty and staff in preparation for this fall semester. The coming weeks are not going to be any easier, yet I’m confident in the ability of our community to complete a successful and productive semester.
The Georgia Tech community joins with countless others throughout the state and nation in mourning the death of civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis Friday evening. An American hero, he represented our district in Congress for over three decades with a reputation for his commitment to the highest ethical standards and moral principles.
Congressman Lewis dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America. Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries resulting from his peaceful defense of civil rights, he remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolent protest.
Like many of you, I have struggled to process the senseless, heartbreaking killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. It is hard not to see a pattern of violence against black people when this tragic death comes on the heels of Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting right here in Georgia, Breonna Taylor’s in Kentucky, and so many others before them across our country. I acknowledge the pain many members of our community are feeling, and I stand in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters and all people of good will as we find a path forward.
The Bankinter Innovation Foundation, a leading Spanish think (and do) tank, asked me to comment on the impact that the covid-19 pandemic will have in universities around the world. My answer (in Spanish) is that this crisis is perhaps the most transformative event in the history of higher education and that some of its long lasting effects will be for the better (“Esta crisis nos ayudará a cambiar para mejor”).
The COVID-19 pandemic may well be the mightiest challenge many of us have faced in our lifetimes. And yet, amid all the uncertainty and difficult choices we have been facing, I have a great sense of optimism about the future. Every day, I am inspired by the creative work that is happening at Georgia Tech and other universities across the world, the positive attitude of our students, faculty and staff, the willingness of everyone to do whatever it takes to move forward and get the job done, and the sense of compassion and responsibility across the Institute and our broader community. Not only am I convinced we will deal with this challenge successfully, but I feel the process will help us connect more deeply with each other and our humanity.
The mission of Nike is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world,” (and no, they are not giving up on market share as they define “athlete” as including “all of us.”) The mission of The New York Times is to “seek the truth and help people understand the world,” in order to make our lives richer, our society stronger and more just (and yes, in their view, selling more subscriptions helps enrich more lives). The mission of the National Geographic Society (which, for full disclosure, I participated in writing) is “to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world,” a statement that has helped the Society shift its main focus to scientific exploration, education and storytelling after it outsourced its commercial assets.