Emails and Speeches in the Wake of September 11

Email Message to Students (forwarded to faculty and staff)

September 11, 2001

11:15 p.m.


Dear Michigan Law Students,

 As this profoundly upsetting day draws to a close, I would like to bring the community up to date on our current plans for tomorrow, Wednesday, September 12.

 President Bollinger and Provost Tedesco have determined that classes will resume as scheduled on Wednesday morning.  At the same time, they have asked that we allow room in Wednesday’s classes for discussion and reflection. 

 This afternoon, the faculty met to discuss our own feelings about how we can be most effective in a role that is of course completely unfamiliar to us.  As you might expect, we are each struggling in our own ways to come to terms with what has transpired.  And we each have different ideas about how we might best serve you, our students.

For some of us, we see connections among the material we teach in the classroom, the tragedy of today, and different events that might unfold in the days and weeks to come.  Such faculty may try to find ways to explore those connections in class.

Others of us feel that the most appropriate thing for us to do as an intellectual community is to re-engage in the study that has brought us together in the first place.  Such faculty, feeling that doing so will signal our unwillingness to be defeated by terrorism, may try to find ways to resume coursework as smoothly as possible.

Still other faculty members do not feel ready to return to a dispassionately analytic mode of engagement  either with coursework or with the current situation.  They may choose to use their class time for more informal and wide-ranging discussion.

Each of us will find a mode of classroom activity that we feel comfortable with.  At the same time, I want to emphasize that all of us appreciate that you, our students, are experiencing a set of responses every bit as varied as our own.  And we, as well as the staff, are all committed to being as supportive as possible of each of you, as you find your own paths through the next few days.

Under the circumstances, I have the following recommendations to offer: 

1.            Please try to go to your classes tomorrow, and to participate to the extent that you feel comfortable.  If you do not feel able to attend, please work with your classmates, your professors, and Deans Baum and Johnson to find out what you missed.

2.            If you are so inclined, please join me and other faculty and staff in the Law Quadrangle, in front of the steps to the Reading Room, for a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. 

3.            For now, we will continue to use the Lawyers Club Lounge as a central gathering and information place.  We will provide refreshments throughout the day.  Please feel free to come by, whether to talk, to listen, or simply to sit.  As we all struggle to make meaning of what we have experienced, I do believe that we can do it better in concert than we can alone.

The most common reaction I heard in my conversations with others today was the same reaction that overwhelmed me:  a sense of helplessness and a wish to find something meaningful to do in response.  We will continue to explore such possibilities and to share them as we learn of them.  For example, today the Ann Arbor location of the American Red Cross was overwhelmed with offers to donate blood.  But we have been advised that the need for donations will continue for weeks to come, and we will be organizing ways for members of the Law School community to donate. 

I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

Jeffrey S. Lehman


Oral Statement at Community Moment of Silence

September 12, 2001

12:30 p.m.


We each have experienced the tragedy of the past 28 hours in our own ways.  

We each have our own personal connections to New York and Washington. 

We each have our own personal style of coping with sadness and pain.

None of us can offer a universal vocabulary to understand what has happened. 

And yet … We have all shared something.  Our emotions have been touched in very personal, very individual ways.  But not in isolation.  We are all living these days here, in some important sense  as part of a family.  When we look away from the television or the computer monitor, we see each other.

We are sharing a profound sadness.  And we are sharing a struggle to figure out how to appropriately integrate yesterday’s events into our lives for today and tomorrow and beyond.

Hence, this moment of silence.  It is intended to serve four purposes:

·      It is above all intended to show our common sympathy for the victims of the attacks, and for their loved ones. 

·      It is intended to show support for each other as we find ourselves within this community of sorrow and hope.

·      It is intended to recognize the fact that we are experiencing emotions that are not reducible to words.

·      It is intended to show unity.

We will now begin two minutes of shared silence.


 As more information is revealed to us in the days to come, I expect we will find our emotions surging and shifting.  We will continue to try to find ways to be supportive.

 For today, I want to thank you all for being here together.


Email Message to Alumni

September 13, 2001

10:55 a.m.


Dear Member of the Classes of 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, and 1996,

 In the aftermath of the tragic events of two days ago, I have decided that we cannot hold the Reunion Weekend events that were scheduled to begin tomorrow, Friday, September 14, 2001.

 We will of course be refunding all deposits that you may have made in anticipation of attending.  If you made hotel arrangements, please cancel your reservations.  No hotel should attempt to penalize you for doing so, but should you have any trouble please let me know and we shall intervene on your behalf.

 Time is too short to reschedule the reunion for later this fall.  We have already begun considering how we can best make it possible for you to reunite with your classmates in Ann Arbor next year, and we shall be back to you with more information in due course.

 During the rest of today, we will be attempting to reach everyone who had registered for the weekend through at least one medium in addition to this email message.  I would be grateful, however, if you could call any classmates whom you knew were planning to attend, to ensure that they receive the message.

 At this time of national sorrow, our thoughts remain with the victims of the attack and their loved ones.



Jeffrey S. Lehman



Email Message to Students, Staff, and Faculty

September 14, 2001

12:00 noon

 Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty of the University of Michigan Law School,

 On this National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, I would like to take a moment to reflect on what we have endured, and to express my gratitude to the students, staff, and faculty of the University of Michigan Law School for their conduct during these difficult times.

 I personally have special reason today to think of Brian Dale, one of the passengers on American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.  Brian took my Welfare Law course in the Fall of 1989, on his way to graduating from our Law School in 1991.  He came to Michigan as an adult, having spent five years as a senior consultant at Price Waterhouse.  After graduation, he returned to practice law in his home city of Pittsburgh.  In recent years, he had worked with an investment firm in New York, it was on their behalf that he was headed from Boston to Los Angeles on Tuesday.

 As waves of shock, fear, and sorrow washed across the Law Quadrangle this week, we all struggled to make sense of an act of senseless violence.  In the center of it all, I took solace from the many moments of kindness I witnessed and heard of among members of our community.  I was deeply moved by the ways in which people recognized each other's needs and responded to them.

 I was especially grateful for the way that our community has transcended boundaries of geography, race, and religion in a spirit of empathy and understanding.  Not every Midwest native knew what the area south of Canal Street means to a New Yorker, what the towers of the World Trade Center symbolized for those who grew up in their shadow, or what it feels like to work in the Pentagon or other federal office buildings.  In the past few days, however, I have seen many people stretch their imaginations in order to comfort fellow students who did.

 Similarly, this week has given rise to some ugly acts of racially or religiously motivated hatred, both nationally and locally.  Regrettably, such acts have even been directed at some of our own students.  Not all of us have felt the disorientation that comes when one is suspected and resented by one's fellow citizens at the very moment one is sharing in the pain of a national tragedy.  But all of us can recognize the danger to American values posed by such assaults, predicated as they are on repugnant notions of collective guilt.  I have been heartened to see members of our Law School community reach out across the boundaries of ethnicity and religion to support and show solidarity with members of groups who are exposed to harassment and hate.

 Finally, I have seen the special challenges this week has posed for our faculty, LLM students, and research scholars from abroad, as they live within the trauma which has affected the whole world, along with the United States.  Once again, I have seen other members of the community extend themselves to imagine how the world looks through the eyes of another.  Such gestures are essential for us to sustain hope for an internationalist future.

 In the weeks to come, the world will enter into a new conversation about the role of law and legal institutions in the struggle to find a path between anarchy and totalitarianism.  I know that we will continue to draw on the very best impulses of our Law School community as we consider what special contributions we might make to that discussion.

 Jeffrey S. Lehman


Email Message to Alumni

September 17, 2001

4:23 p.m.


 Dear Members of the Classes of 1941, 1951, 1956, 1961, 1966, and 1971,

 In the aftermath of the tragic events of last week, it is natural to wonder whether the Reunion Weekend events that are scheduled to begin this Friday, September 21, 2001, will proceed as planned.  I am messaging you to report that, after much careful thought, we have decided to go ahead.

 Our reasons for deciding to hold a Reunion Weekend at this time are various.  In part, we believe that doing so is consistent with the general national commitment to attempt, beginning this week, to work towards resuming the rhythm of activities that characterized our lives before last week's tragedy.  In part, we believe that in times of great stress, it can be helpful to gain the perspective that comes from being in touch with others with whom we share something significant. 

 At the same time, we are looking to find ways to adapt the weekend's activities to the current situation, in order to strike an appropriate tone. 

 As a starting point, we will be replacing the activities that were originally planned for 3:15 and later on Friday with a panel discussion, beginning at 3:30 p.m., entitled, "International Law, the Use of Force, and the Response to the Terrorist Attack of September 11."  I will chair the panel myself.  Panelists will include:

 Karima Bennoune, Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

 Robert Howse, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.

 Bruno Simma, Affiliated Overseas Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.

 Eric Stein, Hessel E. Yntema Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. 

 In addition, some classes may choose to adapt their discussions on Saturday morning to topics that are more closely connected to the events of last week.

 And so, if you were planning to return to Ann Arbor this weekend, we encourage you to do so.  It will be a different kind of reunion than we had anticipated -- a different kind than any we have ever held before.  

But I believe it will be a helpful weekend, one that each of us will feel good about having participated in.

 Of course, if you conclude that you will not be joining us this weekend, please let us know.  Perhaps the easiest way is to send an email to 

 At this time of national sorrow, our thoughts remain with the victims of the attack and their loved ones.



Jeffrey S. Lehman


Oral Introduction of Panel Discussion

September 21, 2001

3:30 p.m.


 Last week we stood together as a community for an unprecedented reason.  We stood united by our grief and our sorrow. 

Like billions of people around the world, members of this Law School community needed to reach out to one another in sympathy.  We extended ourselves emotionally and intellectually, struggling to understand and to support one another.  Over and over, I saw students and staff and faculty transcending the boundaries of their own experiences, helping others to move forward.   

That process of emotional engagement is not complete.  We have not yet finished our grieving.  We are still contending with new and different fears and suspicions, some of which carry the insidious potential to divide us from one another.  We are still searching for ways as a community to nurture our emotions and our souls, to show courage, to show solidarity, to show unity.

As part of that process, but also apart from it, we are beginning to engage the aftermath of last week’s tragedy with more than just our hearts.  We are drawing upon the unique resources of a university, to make the kind of contributions that these very special institutions can make.

The university occupies a sacred space within American society.  It is a space that is defined by the unity of two distinctive values:  the value of searching inquiry and the value of civil discourse.

The value of searching inquiry calls upon us to ask questions, to gather data, to analyze skeptically, to speculate creatively, and then to question again.  We believe that it is good to wonder, to doubt, and to feel uncertain.  We believe that it is good to be always ready to change one’s mind.

The value of civil discourse calls upon us to deal gently with one another.  We believe that disagreement, passionate disagreement, is healthy.  We believe that it is also healthy to remember that, at our cores, we are all vulnerable.  And so we structure our arguments to provide subtle emotional support for the people with whom we are arguing, in order that, collectively, we may pursue the value of searching inquiry most effectively.

This afternoon, four distinguished panelists have, on very short notice, volunteered to help show us how we might draw strength from these values as we explore questions of pressing global significance.  They are giving us the opportunity to see how intellectual responses can provide an invaluable context for our emotions.  How reason can serve to support passion, and how reflection can serve to deepen conviction.

Today we gather to ask, “What can the field of international law teach us about the world’s current predicament?  What guidance can it offer us as we consider our next steps?”

The attacks of September 11 were, at one level, a challenge to fundamental ideals cherished by people around the world.  Perhaps, on the one hand, the murderers believed it appropriate to sentence their victims to a vigilante death sentence as punishment for their supposed complicity in some collective American guilt.  Perhaps, on the other hand, the murderers believed it appropriate to express their hatred through the deliberate massacre of innocents.

Either way, the challenge to our fundamental ideals must be answered and it must be answered articulately.  But, as many have observed, we must find an answer that affirms our own ideals rather than ratifying the terrorists’ perspectives.  Everyone from Rudy Giuliani to Kofi Annan to Michael Walzer has noted the profound challenge of responding to terrorism in ways that do not “do the terrorists’ work for them.”

Within a law school, we have the opportunity to contribute to the global effort to meet that challenge.  And a vitally useful starting place is for us to consider what international law teaches us about how best to frame an effective answer to terrorism.

To help us with that task today, we have four distinguished panelists.

Karima Benoune is a Visiting Professor at the Law School this year.  She has previously worked with a range of non-governmental human rights organizations, most recently as Legal Adviser for Amnesty International in London, where her responsibilities included work on torture, on women's human rights and on human rights in armed conflict.

Robert Howse is a Professor of Law at the Law School.  He came to Michigan from the University of Toronto Law School in 1999.  His research has concerned a wide range of issues in international law, and legal and political philosophy, including issues of international trade, globalization, and labor rights.

Bruno Simma is an Affiliated Overseas Professor at the Law School, and is Professor of International Law and European Community Law and Director of the Institute of International Law at the University of Munich. He is also a member of the International Law Commission of the United Nations and is a designated expert for conflict-prevention activities for the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Eric Stein is the Hessel E. Yntema Professor Emeritus of Law at the Law School.  Before embarking on his distinguished academic career, he served in the U.S. State Department and was advisor to the American delegation to the UN General Assembly.  He is Honorary Vice President of the American Society of International Law and the author of numerous books and articles on international law, European Union law, and comparative law.