the international house times online
Newton Inspires
Richard Newton, Dean of the College of Engineering and alumnus of International House, spoke to residents at Sunday Supper, a few short days after the tragedies of September 11. A prominent researcher in the design of electronic circuits and systems, Newton is the founding director of the Gigascale Silicon Research Center, a nine-university, industry, government-funded research consortium charged with undertaking long-range research. Following are excerpts from his speech which drew a standing ovation from the 250 residents and guests in attendance.

.... It's a real pleasure to be back here. I'm originally from Australia and came here a quarter of a century ago, to study in America, and am one of those many people who decided to stay.

Back then, I unpacked my small bag and headed down to the first meal at the cafeteria. It was lunchtime and I had no idea what to expect, but before I knew it, an American resident introduced himself to me and we struck up a bright and energetic conversation. We dined together with six or so other people from around the world and I left that meal completely inspired. I'd been at I-House less than 24 hours and I was convinced that I made my first American friend. The following day I saw him again. I waived at him and he stared back at me blankly. Finally, he remembered me and said a quick hi and returned to his conversation.

I had learned my very first important I-House lesson. While cultures are different, while people are different, true friendship and deep understanding take time and energy to construct and maintain.

Friendship takes a real commitment from both sides. I developed many, many friendships while I lived at I-House and many have lasted at least a quarter of a century, so far. In many ways, it is a development of these deeper understandings and these deeper friendships with these people from around the world, that this House is really all about.

...I'm from Australia, my wife Petra is from Germany, we met in Japan, we live in America with our daughters Neris - that's an Egyptian name - and Amrita - truly nectar of the Gods, as the name means in India. We carry Australian, German, and American passports. As we travel from one country to another and are required to indicate our nationality, I often wished there was an option on the form that you could check that said "all of the above." How much simpler things would be! For me, even better if there was an option for "none of the above."

That is certainly also a dream that many of the greatest philosophers and leaders of our planet would have aspired to throughout the ages. That is the dream we all wish we had been much closer to achieving than we did earlier this week.

As a family, we are in our own way a multi-national multi-cultural microcosm. German, Australia, American and so on, though certainly not as diverse as some families that we all know. Nevertheless, we find ourselves celebrating our differences, the richness of the very background that we share or that we bring to the family. And sometimes these differences lead to disagreements. My German wife tells me regularly that things made in Germany are better and so forth. But no matter what the disagreements within the family, the underlying values of the family - the mutual respect and love that come from knowing each other personally; of caring for one another as individuals - always seems to lead us out of those differences. That's what families are about.
It is in times like these that the real importance and value of institutions like International House are brought into sharp focus.
I-House is truly about the idea "That Understanding May Prevail" and in the days and weeks ahead following that unimaginable tragedy of last September 11, I sincerely hope that our nations leaders, our citizens, and our friends throughout the world aspire to that same motto. I hope our nation's leaders are thoughtful and compassionate about any response they may take on our behalf while certainly bringing the perpetrators to justice as they richly deserve.

I, like all of you, wondered immediately what I could do to help after these events. I felt so powerless as a result of what happened. I stood in line to give blood, I struggled to explain what was happening to our young daughters, I prayed for the victims, I prayed - prayed for the victims, for their families, for everyone in this nation, for all of us around the world, and I even prayed for the perpetrators themselves. Now as I listen to the national debate I've heard many people express their anger, their frustration while others clearly speak of retribution and revenge.

I find myself drawing deeply upon one the greatest gifts that I-House has given me. While CNN projects maps of the world where countries are represented by colors, within boundaries, where commentators speak of nations and peoples as categories, with an implication of a common view and a shared responsibility, I can only see faces. Many of those faces are of a time under this roof. Pakistan is Abid, and Rashid. India is Asha. Turkey is Can. Germany is Horst. Israel is Natan. Iran is Massoud. Ghana is Kofi. Japan is Hiro. These are all real individuals to me. People I laughed with, people I cried with, people I disagreed with over a myriad of issues.

In the end, these people were my friends. They became a part of my family. I could no more bomb Afghanistan as a country than I could shoot Mohammed. I could no more support the wholesale destruction of a city in Iran than I could kill Massoud. It is in times like these that the real importance and value of institutions like International House are brought into sharp focus.

So I wish you all well in the days and months ahead. I trust that you will see one another as people and not as nations and comfort one another in those trying times that we are all likely to have unfortunately. And never forget, as a family, when one bleeds, we all bleed. I sincerely hope that one day, through the efforts of the many International Houses throughout the world and I use that term metaphorically, International Houses meaning the houses of bringing nations together, whether they be physical houses like this or perhaps on the internet or other media, will be able to eventually check the box on that form "none of the above."
online edition of the alumnus newsletter of international house
© 2001 international house