On September 11, when terror struck the nation and America’s mood suddenly turned somber, less than a month remained in Yale’s Tercentennial year. The final weekend in the University’s 12-month observance of its 300th anniversary had been planned for October 5 and 6, two days of festive celebration and academic ceremony. But in the days that followed the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, University leaders debated the wisdom of staging the Tercentennial finale in the Yale Bowl. Was it safe? Was it appropriate? Would people come?
“Carry on,” was the message President Richard C. Levin said he received from the Yale community, Levin told 30,000 people gathered in the Yale Bowl on October 5. The crowd had come for a multimedia spectacular featuring famous Yale alumni celebrating Yale’s contribution to the nation and the world. With that, a 150-member orchestra played and a 200-member chorus, along with the audience, sang “America the Beautiful,” and the celebration continued.
Security was dramatically tightened for events that included a pomp-filled Tercentennial Convocation on Cross Campus and a two-day symposium, “Democratic Vistas, Global Perspectives,” with talks by Yale faculty members, law school graduate and former President Bill Clinton and former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo, who holds a doctorate in economics from Yale and serves as a University trustee.
With Yale emphasizing its role as a world university in its fourth century, the School of Medicine figured prominently throughout the Tercentennial year because of the growing awareness of the global nature of public health concerns and the enormous impact of medical research advances on individuals and societies. In President Levin’s Tercentennial address at the convocation on October 5, he said, “Through the subjects and students we teach and the educational and research collaborations we undertake abroad, we can advance greater understanding among the world’s peoples. We can also contribute to the solution of problems that cannot be contained within national borders—such as the spread of disease.”
In his talk before 8,000 people gathered on Cross Campus the following day, Clinton noted the phenomenal improvements in health care and life expectancy made possible by biomedical advances. He contrasted that progress in the developed world with the abysmal health care and short life expectancy seen in underdeveloped nations, which result in the rapid spread of disease and political instability. That is why, he said, “Yale’s mission to build a truly global university is so very important” in this new century that will be marked by increasing interdependence among nations.
In his speech, President Levin noted Yale’s commitment to invest nearly $1 billion in the coming decade in medicine, science and engineering facilities. “No investment,” he said, “... holds greater promise for the health and prosperity of the nation and the planet.” And as a result of world events, Yale’s course for its next century has never been more clearly tied to a global future.