Speeches & Writings

Giving Thanks

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I am reflecting on the joys and privileges of being part of this very special Washington University community. We’re all navigating a semester in which we’re holding a lot of human suffering and anxiety in our hearts and minds, even as we work toward our personal goals and a brighter future for all. That’s extremely difficult work, and we all deserve some time to rest. But even in times of difficulty, we have much to be grateful for.

This year, I am grateful to spend my days in community with people who value learning, discovery, and the pursuit of knowledge. The beloved American poet Mary Oliver offers us these instructions for living a life: pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it.

At WashU, we’re not just preparing for life, or making a living. Our mission centers around expanding horizons through education, research, and innovation, and we each play a role in that. And while we are always thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of our talented students, faculty, and staff, let’s also acknowledge the simple moments of joy we experience in the pursuit of truth. 

We don’t have to wait until we get the promotion, receive the grant, win the award, or get our research published in order to celebrate. I encourage you to reflect on the smaller moments – the ones in which you’ve been energized by some new understanding, or moved by the beauty of discovery – and you’ve shared that excitement with others. It’s in those small moments that you’re truly living your life.

I am also grateful for each one of you. Our community is made up of talented, passionate, dedicated individuals who make this university a vibrant, welcoming place. Your hard work, perseverance, and commitment this year has been incredible to witness. I especially appreciate the empathy and care I’ve seen you show one another in difficult moments – and you have offered that to me, as well. Thank you.

I want to especially thank those in our community who will be working over the holiday break to keep our university running smoothly. To our medical staff, police officers, facilities personnel, food service teams, and more: thank you. We are grateful for your commitment and service.

Though there are still challenges ahead this semester, we have much to hope for and look forward to. As we take time to rest and reflect, let us be thankful for the bonds of this community and the opportunities we have to learn, grow, discover, and serve together. I am grateful to share these privileges with each of you, and I wish you and your loved ones happiness, health, and renewal in the quiet days ahead.

With warmth and gratitude,