Rising to the Challenge Celebration Event

Remarks for President Ronald J. Daniels
Rising to the Challenge Celebration Event
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Temple of Dendur
As prepared

What a privilege to be able to celebrate Johns Hopkins and the success of our Rising to the Challenge campaign in this monumental setting.

The Temple of Dendur. Architectural marvel. Place of celebration and veneration. Testament to engineering prowess and persistence. Enduring work of artistic excellence. Stunning images of Osiris and Isis cheek by jowl with Caesar Augustus.

More than 2000 years since it rose along the banks of the Nile, we are awed by this monument, and from it gain perspective on the lasting impact of the values, the beliefs, the aspirations of the community that built it.

For the last six years, the community of Johns Hopkins has been engaged in our own truly monumental enterprise that is our Rising to the Challenge campaign. A campaign that knits together our faculty and students, alumni and friends, in common cause. A campaign that gives flight to our most cherished dreams. A campaign that lends support to virtually every part of our academic mission. A campaign that builds the idea of our university.

And so, in this room and at a time of upheaval and uncertainty around the world, do we dare ask what will our successors – decades, perhaps centuries hence – say of the monuments we have created?

What of the values, the beliefs, the aspirations they embody?

I hope that those who follow us will see that, at heart, our efforts were motivated by an unwavering belief in the power of reason, of ideas, to shape and guide human behavior.

That in our endeavor we were unstinting in our conviction that knowledge and truth are the bedrock of a good and decent society and that our university contributed to their advancement.

I hope that they will see that we strove to extend the privilege of life in a learned community to those students who were the most deserving, even though their path to this place was not obvious or easy. That we celebrated and were inspired by these remarkable young people whose life prospects were profoundly, irrevocably changed by what they learned from and with us.

The son of a single, unemployed mother from West Baltimore who goes to law school. The young woman from small-town South Carolina who becomes a public health PhD. The first-generation college student, daughter of Peruvian immigrants, who pursues a career in classical music. All possible only because of the financial support that enables and sustains their dreams.

I hope that they will see our ingenuity, our passion, our persistence as we worked to temper and even eradicate the loss of life and of capability that stems from wretched disease. The metastatic melanoma that melts away because of a drug that unleashes the body’s immune system. The blindness that can no longer inflict its painful and debilitating toll on our most vulnerable children because of a simple dose of vitamin A. The restoration of optimism, of a future, in communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa that because of our research and compassionate clinical care are no longer ravaged by AIDS.

I hope that they will see our audaciousness as we probed, remarkably and against the odds, the landscape of Pluto, revealed the nature and function of telomeres in our bodies’ cells, and created the first mind-controlled prosthetic arm.

I hope that they will see our brave ambition as we illuminated the interplay of thought and nature in Spinoza’s philosophy, gave soaring voice to the drama of human history on stage, and brought discipline to debates on the tumultuous present and uncertain future of the Middle East.

An event like tonight re-kindles in me this strong, never yielding sense of awe in this place, this idea that is Hopkins. An idea that lies at the very core of what it is to be human, of what it is to believe in progress, discovery and equality of opportunity.

Our temples, our monuments, in truth, are principally of the mind and of the soul. They represent the best of our shared humanity.

They would never have taken shape – and cannot continue to rise – without you. Thank you. For your vision, your support, your determination to make Johns Hopkins an engine of discovery, an exemplar of excellence, an agent of change.

We stand ready for the tests that our children and their children will apply to us.

And for that we are – I am – humbled and eternally grateful.