From the President - With a Will

March 2, 2023













When I struggle to find the words, I turn to poetry.  

Tonight, I am drawn to three poems.  

Cemal Süreya (1931-1990), a Turkish poet, in “Now Sweetheart” wrote:  

Now sweetheart, I am thinking of you in a big city  
A dim blue pen in my hand, two packs of cigarettes in my pocket  
Our life is like a movie playing in front of my eyes  
Our going out freely, drinking water together, kissing  
I cry, whenever I remember how we laughed together.  
Flowers, flowers, I watered the flowers this morning  
That rose just doesn’t smile when you are not here  
That flower you put in water by the window to get it grow roots  
It is completely in grief these days  
A dense and strong daylight is hitting the window  
The plates are cheerless on the table  
The hallway is deserted  
The towels are alone in the shower  
Don’t even ask the kitchen – untidy and dirty  
The sponge is right there, the breadbox is empty  
The ventilator is breathless  
The rugs are dusty  
My clothes are in the wardrobe, and here and there  
Memo’s toy box is in deep sleep  
The blue night lamp has no ambition  
The door says open me, close me  
The curtains are like snakes changing skin  
The radio? It is silent  
The stool is afraid of the chairs  
The small room is dark and deserted  
Everything is waiting for you, for your return  
For you to come in  
For the touch of your hands  
For the touch of your eyes  
And everything is repeating  
How much I love you 

One of my favorite poets, Nayyirah Waheed, urged, succinctly yet powerfully:  

“Grieve, so you can be free to feel something else.” 

Finally, in the last years of his life (“To Young Americans of Syrian origin”), Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), the famous poet from what was, at the time, considered “Greater Syria” urged Syrians of the diaspora to “say in [their] hearts: "I am the descendant of a people that builded Damascus, and Biblus, and Tyre and Sidon, and Antioch, and I am here to build with you, and with a will."  


When I struggle to find myself, I turn to my community.  

And grieve. And rebuild.  


To our dear Turkish and Syrian colleagues and friends, I grieve alongside you. And I am here to build with you, and with a will.  

In community,