sealPurdue News

March 28, 2003

Times of war require us to respect each other, differing opinions

Martin C. Jischke
President, Purdue University

The world is a much different place today than it was just two weeks ago when most students were leaving their campus homes for the welcome relief of spring break.

Martin C. Jischke

America is now at war, and every day we see and hear of the loss of human life, the destruction and the fear that are inevitable consequences of war. One Purdue student and one former student already have lost their lives in military service in Kuwait. Brian Clemens, who was studying in the Statewide Technology program at Kokomo, died in a Humvee accident in February. Brian Kennedy, who attended the university in 1995-96, was killed when his helicopter crashed in the early days of the war with Iraq. More than 60 students from the West Lafayette campus have been called to active duty during the current crisis.

These facts remind us that the majority of the men and women who have gone into harm's way in the Middle East are about the same age as most college students. Undoubtedly, some of them are your brothers, sisters and friends.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reminded us all that the world is a dangerous and often hostile place. The United States, as the most powerful and wealthiest nation on Earth, has not only great privilege but great responsibility. Right now, our country's leaders are dealing with the immense moral dilemma of how to exercise that power and carry out that responsibility.

History tells us that there have been times when peace was impossible without war. But there has never been a time when war was not terrible. It is terrible for the men and women who fight it, for the innocent people who become its victims and for the governmental leaders who must decide whether it is justified.

In this time of war and inevitable disagreement, we all share some obligations. The troops who are putting their lives on the line in the name of duty deserve our support, our gratitude and our admiration. Our nation's leaders are due our respect for the tremendous difficulty of the decisions they face every day, just as they owe us as citizens full accountability for the consequences of those decisions.

And we owe one another mutual respect for the differences of opinion that will arise in the difficult days ahead. Our greatest freedom as Americans is our right to express ideas openly. A university campus is the place where this freedom comes into full flower. Among diverse and intelligent people, disagreements are inevitable. We are strongest when we debate those differences.

Finally, let us all hope and pray that peace will come very soon and that the military campaign will become a peace initiative that leads to a safer and more humane world. That will be the greatest victory.