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Letter to President Bush

The following letter was posted in the College Center soon after September 11. All members of the Vassar community were invited to sign the letter. President Fergusson and others had already signed the letter when it was posted. Signatures were collected until Friday, September 28, when the letter and signatures were sent to President Bush. —S.S.

September 25, 2001

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Bush,

The Vassar College community is shocked and deeply saddened by the events of September 11. We are also hurt, angry, and uneasy about the future. Highly conscious of the United States government's constitutional responsibility to protect its citizens, we expect our leaders to take steps to that end. We are very encouraged by the efforts made thus far: the attempts to unite most of the world's other countries in condemnation of these terrorist acts; the restraint that has been shown in the application of force; the use of legal investigative procedures to identify the criminals who perpetrated these acts; and the effort to increase security on the ground and in the air.

We urge our leaders to continue to use the channels of diplomacy and law to bring the terrorist criminals to justice, and we counsel all possible restraint in the use of force. We are especially concerned that force may be applied indiscriminately and that more innocent lives may be destroyed. Moreover, we believe that the use of indiscriminate force is impractical; it will not further the cause of peace and security but will lead inevitably to more violence. Those responsible for this heinous crime must be brought to justice. However, action taken solely for the purpose of vengeance would undermine the moral conviction of our response.

We are very encouraged by the cooperation promised by so many countries, particularly countries in the Middle East, and are further encouraged by the resumed emphasis on cease-fire in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. We dare to hope that a lasting peace may emerge from the horror of the September 11th attacks, and that the citizens of American and other countries who died there may be honored forever by our strivings for peace.

As an educational community, we believe that lasting peace and security will depend in part on improvements in our knowledge and understanding of the world beyond our borders. Our leaders appear to agree that education in America deserves scrutiny. Chief among the goals of educational reform should be improved knowledge of the history and cultures of foreign lands, such as those in which terrorism is bred.

We further believe that poverty and ignorance provide the soil in which autocratic and repressive regimes thrive and foster terrorism. Our leaders must see these underlying conditions to be the enemy as much as the fanatics to whom they have given birth. The war on terrorism must be a war on poverty and ignorance at home and abroad, as well as a war on those who perpetrated the crimes of September 11. It must not be a war on foreign cultures or foreign populations.

Along with the pain and sorrow of the last two weeks, we have experienced a heightened sense of community and an increased awareness of the value of civility. We have needed the closeness and comfort of friends and relatives, but we have also needed the kindness of acquaintances and the politeness of strangers. We are deeply encouraged that people of many faiths and many countries have come together to express common values and shared humanity. It is our fervent hope that the United States can move toward its goals of peace and security in full remembrance of the glorious virtues of community and civility.