Today, I set aside some time from preparing for my defense to read through the New York Times' tribute to September 11, 2001, and reflect upon what that day and the events which have followed mean to me. I did not expect to feel so profoundly moved as I read through the stories, and in particular, I could not help but feel struck afresh with anguish and cry as I carefully paged through the moving slideshow of the rise and fall of the towers of the World Trade Center.
Still, other articles reminded me of my core belief in our country — in the people of our country. In spite of the willful erosion of personal privacy and civil liberties and civil tongues, in spite of the tragic sacrifice of human lives both domestic and foreign, in spite of ongoing anti-intellectualism, in spite of continuing sexual, religious, and racial intolerance, in spite of a bitterly polarized political climate, in spite of our continued mismanagement of our environment — in spite of all this, I still believe that the story of the United States of America is one of hope. If ever there were a country to break pre-conceived notions, to defy intolerance, to unite for a greater good, to show that change can be for the better, to overcome adversity, then it must be ours.
Ten years ago, I stood with friends in an undergraduate dorm room and watched the World Trade Center towers collapse and the Pentagon smolder. Now, here I stand to defend my Ph.D., and I can not help but feel grateful for all the opportunities I've had thanks to having a life here in the USA. I am not always proud of our country's actions, but I am proud of what our country stands for: truth, liberty, and justice for all. Our story is marked by tragedy and marred by missteps, but it is, indeed, the story of hope. I will always remember.