PRESIDENT WILLIS M. TATE
TO THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY
November 26, 1963
Southern Methodist University, like all mankind, has
been grieved and shocked over the assassination of our young president. As
a corporate citizen of the Dallas community, the University has shared the
shame and guilt that has been focused on the heart of Dallas, intensifying
our contrite sadness. Out of our mourning have come new insights and new
motivations. We see more clearly the things we have known, but until this
shocking experience, have not known well enough.
All great social philosophy is born in crisis. As we
rise from our knees to join all Dallas citizens, both individual and
corporate, in our task ahead, what do we say? What do we do? How do we
pray? Although mindful of our mistakes, shortcomings, inadequacies, this,
now, is no time for continued vindictiveness . It is no time for
scapegoating. It is no time for self-abasement and breast beating. It is a
time for re-evaluation, for moral and spiritual vitality, and for the
rational wisdom that tells us of those things that are valid , true,
eternal, vital, important, and beautiful .
In this spirit, Southern Methodist University, playing
its full role as a part of the Dallas community, does now call on the rich
intellectual and moral resources of our larger University family, to seek
and articulate a statement of first principles for this University and for
Dallas of which we are a part . We call our students and our faculty to a
fuller commitment to learning in order to better serve their generation in
time and space. We are confident that all of the agencies of government,
the institutions, and the organized groups of Dallas will join in facing
their responsibilities with a sense of unity .
Knowing we must re-examine our pre-suppositions and
face not only our past inadequacies but also our potential, this University
will call together a series of University commissions to formulate and
articulate our first principles in several fields. These working groups of
scholars and other members of our University family will define our
opportunities and give us all a sense of positive direction to our action --
the action that is required of all patriotic Americans as we hallow the name
of our martyred President and pledge our allegiance to the new president
during these trying days .
These first principles commission will be called:
FIRST : OUR COMMITMENT TO LAW AND ITS MORAL
There can be no civilized society without law, and no
law unless the members of society cherish and uphold it. If we disregard
law's proper processes, regardless of the provocation, we undermine
civilized society itself. If we dishonor the judges and magistrates who
interpret and enforce it, we undermine the foundations of our society . The
law that binds us is not merely the law of Dallas, but also the law of
Texas, the law of the United States: we are even bound by those humane
considerations that bind all nations . We in Dallas are part of a larger
community of law, and it is a matter of considerable importance to us and to
all that we cherish and uphold our legal obligations in this larger
community. If we are to bring integrity to our obligations as citizens --
first to this University community, and then to our larger community -- we
must carefully examine all of the evidences of disrespect for the
established law of the land.
But our legal obligations cannot be fulfilled by
adhering to the mere letter of the law. Dedication is also required to the
spirit of the law, to those moral foundations of fair and considerate
treatment of others - even of those with whom we disagree or whose actions
we abhor -- upon which all valid law ultimately rests.
SECOND: COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY WHOLENESS THAT
Our community lives and grows as it assumes full
responsibility for all of the component parts of its life. Every part of
our community should be precious to all of us .
This University -- and the City of Dallas -- has many
component parts . Some parts are pre-dominently racial, some are of national
origin . Others are just the normal stratification of any campus or city.
Some people are born and raised in one stratum of life and never see another
Other parts of a community are formed around political
philosophies. It is a sign of great political maturity when any political
group seeks to mirror the wholeness of a community by not turning its back
on any segment. It is basic to our political life that we differ and that
we disagree. It is basic to our community life that we so raise the level of
our political discourse.
All groupings in our city are important to our life
together . But various groupings will believe they are an important part of
our total life only if they participate in its life fully, as citizens, as
workers, as students, as office holders, as church members.
THIRD: COMMITMENT TO A CHURCH THAT IS BOTH
INDEPENDENT OF ITS CULTURE AND CONCERNED TO SERVE IT.
I speak as the president of a university with a
relationship to a major church body. We have a very close
relationship to our sponsoring body . We support and encourage without
apology the strong voice of the church, among other voices, on this campus.
We honor our role as a university with a theological seminary which trains
ministers for the church. We speak, therefore, as a part of the church.
If the life of our University community and the
community beyond our campus is to reflect the great humane values of our
Judea-Christian tradition, the voice of the church must be heard. It must
be heard as an independent, fundamentally free force in the community; it
must not merely reflect the values already accepted by the community.
Wherever there is a sin and injustice, the church must
call us to repentance.
Wherever there is hatred , fear and suspicion, the
church must call us to repentance and reconciliation .
Wherever there is lethargy and disloyalty through
inaction to our noble faith, the church must call us to repentance and
I honor the voice of the church on this campus and
expect that voice to be faithful to the Word that has been entrusted to it.
I expect the church on this campus to be faithful to its corporate
disciplines and above all to be -- more than it has ever been before -- a
fundamentally free, independent force in the life of this University
community. If we have anything to say to the church at large, let it
Both the church and the University are social
institutions -- one the family of God in a special way, the other secular.
But both are ultimately, fundamentally and intimately concerned with the
welfare of the individual man, with human dignity and with human
fulfillment. Both of these institutions are basic to our society; both are
commissioned to prepare man to live with himself and with his fellow man in
peace, security and fulfillment.
- - - - -
- - -
These three areas of commitment are not to be thought
of as the limit of our concerns. After further deliberations, as we appoint
the commissions, we may well add additional areas of commitment.
These commitments require careful examination. They
cannot lie on the table or be placed in a file. They must be examined by
this University community of scholars and students both as to their basic
philosophy and as to what specifically they can mean in the day-to-day life
of this University and hopefully in the larger community beyond our campus.
We have a long-range challenge ahead of us. But it is
important to remember that our community needs more than just the negative
lament; our community needs more than just the absence of hate groups. Our
community needs the presence of both positive compassion and concern, and an
enlarging circle of responsible, sensitive intellects . Together, the mind
and the compassionate heart represent the basic stature of true humanity.
This union, under God, is our greatest source of strength and our most
cherished contribution to our civilization. This union of mind and heart,
long a major purpose of this University, must find expression in every
segment of our society . Each of these segments of society is represented in
this University -- in law, in teaching, in journalism , in the church, in
business, in technology.
God bless you, our students, and our hope for the
future. We are especially privileged to have you in our family at
this moment in history.
- - - - -
- - -