September 11, 2011
By C. L. Max Nikias

I want to thank all of you for coming to Bovard Auditorium to join us on this very important day of remembrance.

Like all of you, on this day a decade ago, I woke up to a changed world. On that morning, I received a phone call from my nephew, who is a pilot for Cyprus Airways. He asked me what was happening in New York and D.C., but I didn’t know what he was talking about. He was screaming on the phone. Then I turned on the television and sat speechless, unable to comprehend what I was witnessing. My thoughts immediately turned to the victims, to my loved ones, and to this community.

We will never forget the haunting images that filled our screens, or the heaviness that weighed on our hearts. But we will also never forget the resolve of this nation to move forward with courage, with purpose, with optimism.

Today marks a truly meaningful milestone in our nation’s history. We commemorate this day not to remember the unspeakable acts of a few, but to recall the compassionate deeds of so many. We have gathered not so much to recount our memories of 9/11, but rather to honor the spirit of 9/12.

Because it was after 9/11 when we learned that what happens in the world around us has the power to bring out the best inside of us. It was on 9-12 that we came together young and old, rich and poor, neighbors and strangers, Christians and Muslims and Jews. It was then that we recommitted ourselves to our families, our communities, our country.

It was then that we found strength in adversity. That we began to transform tragedy into opportunity. That we turned hardship into partnership.

That’s why I am very proud that this event is being sponsored by the USC Office of Religious Life and the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission. As you may know, last March the White House issued the President’s Interfaith and Community Service and Campus Challenge. With this challenge, American institutions of higher education were invited to commit their campuses to one year of interfaith community service.

Today USC is proud to join 250 colleges and universities in responding to this challenge, in answering this call, in accepting this invitation. But I also want to issue a challenge of my own. I want to announce the USC Challenge.

Immediately following this event, students from a multitude of faiths will be sent from this campus to serve the local community. This will begin today and continue throughout the year, and for many years to come.

What better place to launch this challenge than here at USC, which has more international students than any other American university, and which has more religious organizations than any university in the nation. Ninety-three different religions are represented on this campus. What better way to show our strength as a campus, as a neighborhood, as a city, as a nation, than by bringing together people from different backgrounds and beliefs to work toward the same goals.

As president of USC, I am incredibly proud of the way this community has responded to the events of ten years ago. In coming here today, you have shown that our memories endure, that our spirit is strong, that our compassion is boundless. As you go out into the community, I encourage you to be the kind of person that enriches the world.

Be the person who promotes kindness, respect, and understanding. Be the person who helps others overcome their prejudices and teaches them to embrace their better nature. Be the person who demonstrates that evil cannot last, but that good will always persevere.

As you leave here today, may you stand together to proudly honor those who have fallen. May you offer our neighbors helping hands and hearts of service. May you always remember that the Trojan Family is part of the greater human community. And may peace and goodness follow you out of this auditorium and all the days of your lives.