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Salve’s Class of 2020 urged be courageous amidst forces of the world

NEWPORT, R.I. (Sept. 6, 2016) – Sheltered comfortably beneath the Convocation tent, Salve Regina’s Class of 2020 received a warm welcome and plenty of sound advice as the university community gathered this afternoon amidst Tropical Storm Hermine to officially kick off the new academic year.
“The truth in life is that there is always a storm swirling just off the coast,” said keynote speaker Dr. James M. Ludes, whose words were accompanied by the muffled sounds of rippling canvas from the gusting winds. “We might be blissfully—or willfully—unaware of the gathering clouds or we might see them building.  And when the storm comes, we will all decide if we’re in it for ourselves or if we are part of something bigger.”  
Ludes, vice president for public research and initiatives at Salve Regina, and the executive director of the university’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, urged the new students to believe in their collective power to change the world for the better, to be wise and make their voices heard.
“See in the coming economy not just threat, but an opportunity to lift millions out of poverty,” Ludes said. “See in the faces of refugees not menace, but hope. Believe in the power of education and empathy to guide the way we approach public issues. And find in each of our hearts a wellspring of Mercy that, above all, empowers.”
Ludes urged students to get involved, as it is an obligation of citizenship in a republic such as ours. “If you have strong views on an issue: speak out. If you don’t like what your elected officials are doing: hold them accountable.  You can write letters to the newspaper, organize protests, letter writing campaigns, social media actions.  You can even vote them out of office.  And if you don’t like the candidates you have to choose from?  That one is easy: you need to run for office.”
Salve’s incoming freshman class of 554 students hails from 20 states and several countries, including El Salvador, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Greece, Belgium, Mongolia and Ecuador. Rhode Islanders make up 13 percent of Salve Regina’s incoming Class of 2020 and include among them Abby Wasylean, valedictorian from the school just down the street, Rogers High.
In welcoming them to their new home for the next four years, Salve Regina President Dr. Jane Gerety, RSM, told students they bring a wide variety of experiences and talents to Salve, and that each and every one of them belongs here.
“Many of you have overcome a great deal,” Sister Jane said. “You have resilience. As young people, you have encountered illness, death, disability and disappointment. One of you was born deaf; one of you met the challenge of scoliosis; one of you figured out how to learn and use the creativity of dyslexia; one of you got to know the world of Dana Farber quite well; one of you stuttered; one of you lost a father.“
Sister Jane told students as they begin classes to believe that everyone’s a little or a lot scared, but that their professors and the staff are there for them no matter what. 
“Mostly, I hope that you, Class of 2020, will have a spirit of openness, that you’ll live in a healthy state of restlessness, that you’ll be willing to have your minds and hearts changed and expanded. I hope that you’ll be brave enough to be at times confused and uncomfortable, to be thrown off balance. That’s what the university is for. In the end, I want you to be courageous in resisting the forces in the world that want to keep things as they are.”