Finding meaning amid misfortune Transcript

Hello, Quakers. Like many of you, I never expected to get so familiar with the inside of my own home—and for so long!

We are all disoriented and disappointed, our lives disrupted. (As one student succinctly put it, “this hurts.”) But I hope that you and yours are well and safe.

To our Penn family on the front lines of this pandemic, you do our nation’s first hospital and medical school proud. You are heroes. The nurses and doctors, researchers and staff of Penn Medicine are fighting for us all.

To our Penn family keeping campus safe and our essential facilities operating, I am so grateful. 
Everyone of us, every one, is aiding loved ones and neighbors, keeping others safe. My gratitude and pride are with you every day.

Penn students, who may be hearing my voice in Camden or California, Canada or Kuala Lumpur: Know the difference you make by staying apart while being so connected to one another. I loved watching the Penn Band playing Joshua and the Shabbatones singing Bilvavi. You and all your classmates inspire me with the creativity that’s absolutely essential in these tough times.

These days bring back memories to me of when I was in high school and my father suddenly died. My life was split in two. 

Everything that was comforting and good had come before. Now my life was uncertain and more than a little frightening. It hurt.

We had no income. My mother found work as a secretary at my school. She poured her heart into it and she made it her calling. She took vulnerable students under her wing. She asked after families. She was always baking something delicious for the office. 

Mom found the means to make other lives better while calming the chaos that disrupted our own. In the midst of misfortune, she found great meaning.
Over the last few weeks, it has sometimes felt to me—as I’m sure it does to you—that the full life we’ve known has vanished for good. But it will get better. And we will reunite on campus. For now, my mom’s spirit assures me that we can and we must make the very best of this new life. 

In the midst of misfortune, each of us can find meaning. Each of us has a calling.

Penn’s important work has only grown bigger and more urgent, even if the path is now far less familiar, far less certain. We must find new ways to do many things, but none is more important than keeping close.

I hope, in some small but meaningful way, these words do a little of that for you. 

This is Amy Gutmann.

Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay in touch.