Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, issued a statement to the Fordham community this week in which he labeled 2014 a “horrible year” and called on students to be compassionate in the months ahead.
“This past year has had more than enough injustice, poverty, and suffering to go around — both in our own country and across the globe,” McShane said. “It has been an annus horribilis, and any sane person will be happy to see the end of it.”
But instead of showing compassion for the people at the root of the conflicts he cites — Pakistan and Syria; Ferguson and Staten Island — McShane instead slammed news organizations and social media for overexposure and said students should “first and foremost” be compassionate with themselves.
“Even those of us who have not been personally touched by tragedy this year have certainly seen enough of it play out in the news and on social media,” he said. “So I wish for you the ability to be gentle with yourselves.”
If you have been at Fordham for any time at all, you know that I am tireless—some would say relentless—in advocating for the University’s mission, in urging our students, and indeed all of you, to be men and women for others. I have said, many times, that I hope our graduates leave the campus bothered. Bothered by injustice. Bothered by poverty. Bothered by suffering.
This past year has had more than enough injustice, poverty, and suffering to go around—both in our own country and across the globe. We have seen pain and strife every day in Pakistan and Syria, in the Ukraine and Russia, in Israel and Palestine, in West Africa, and Afghanistan, and Iraq; in Iguala and Isla Vista, in Ferguson and Staten Island. It has been an annus horribilis, and any sane person will be happy to see the end of it.
So this month let me urge something else upon you: compassion. Compassion, first and foremost for yourselves. Even those of us who have not been personally touched by tragedy this year have certainly seen enough of it play out in the news and on social media. So I wish for you the ability to be gentle with yourselves.
I hope, secondly, that you can have the same compassion for others. Many people struggle in their lives, and their struggles are not always apparent. Kind recognition of our shared humanity—meaning our shared imperfections—is a gift to both the giver and receiver.
Finally, I wish for you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a season of peace and light, and the many blessings that faith, family, and friends bring. I hope that the coming year will be your annus mirabilis: a year of love, fulfillment, prosperity, and joy.
I look forward to seeing you all in a brighter 2015.