President Casteen's remarks at the candlelight vigil for Yeardley Love
There are profound ironies in our gathering here tonight for this purpose. This is the spring time. It's the time of year for renewal, for new beginnings. And yet we have come here to grieve the ending of a young life, of Yeardley Love's life, one full of promise and high prospects—and one not unlike yours.
I want to talk tonight about Yeardley Love, and I want to talk about you, and about this community—about us. Some of what I have to say is very hard. Bear with me, and listen.
First, about Yeardley: We know little at this point about Yeardley's dying. The prosecutor has found cause to bring the charge of murder. The defense attorney has described her death as an accident. This is not the forum to examine those charges or the evidence that will eventually make its way to court.
But it is a forum for acknowledging what we do know. That includes: that Yeardley Love accomplished much in her too-brief life; that she earned the respect of those around her—her classmates, her faculty mentors, coaches, sisters in her sorority, her roommates, certainly her family; that she excelled in what she undertook to do in life, and she excelled in what she chose to be; that Yeardley Love did nothing to deserve to be attacked and beaten, to deserve to suffer the injuries of which we have all read in the police reports, to deserve to die; indeed for that matter, that woman beaten, thrown against walls, or in any other way abused has ever deserved either to suffer or to die.
My hope for Yeardley, and for you, is that her dying inspires an anger, a sense of outrage that engenders determination here and wherever Yeardley's name is recognized that no woman, no person in this place, this community, this state, our nation need either fear for her safety or experience violence for any reason: not because of her sex, not because of her size, not because of an attacker's advantage or arrogance or mindless sense of right to abuse, to harm, perhaps to kill; and then that memory of Yeardley's name, her personal strengths, her successes, her human worth may survive the memory of the dying about which we ache tonight, and that you and we and all who know the story of Yeardley Love will learn the lessons of her living, of her life.
And then I want to talk about you for a few minutes: take something away from this event. Take with you the determination that you will speak up for yourself, that you will act when you see or hear about abuse or violence in the world around you. If your relationship is unhealthy or toxic, seek help, seek support. Talk to your dean. Seek out a faculty member. Come talk to me. If necessary go to the police, or let us take you to the police. If you fear for yourself or for others any form of violence, act. Seek the support that belongs to you, because you belong to us. Demand and expect support, respect, and assistance when you do that. Help your friend in the same way if she (or he) needs help of the same kind. Don't hear a scream, don't watch abuse, don't hear stories of abuse from your friends—and keep quiet. Speak out. Find me; I will go with you to the police.
We all enjoy the privilege of living here in what we call—and rightly—a community of trust. I have believed you; you have believed one another; we have learned to trust one another here. Leave tonight with knowledge that the blows and abuse that somehow ended Yeardley's life threaten all of us, threaten you, and threaten this community of trust—that violence and abuse left unconfronted can and will destroy this culture that we love.
Addressing the shock and the grief that all of us feel tonight is hard. It's also something we owe to Yeardley Love, and we owe it to one another. You do not have to do that alone. If you need someone to listen, to act on your behalf, to help, call the numbers that you know, or remember 924-7133. Call 4-7133. Don't hesitate, don't wait for someone else – do it tonight, do it first thing in the morning. And again, if you believe that you know something that threatens one of your friends, do it for Yeardley Love—call.
The net of this as I understand this community, our place, your identities as people whom I respect and cherish is that the lesson to learn—the value for you of remembering Yeardley Love for what she was—is that you choose to live, that you guard against the events that led to Yeardley's death by recognizing evil, by recognizing danger, by seeing it for what it is whether it is your own or your neighbor's, by choosing to preserve this community of trust. Choose now, tonight, to honor Yeardley Love's life. Promise yourself that wherever you go from this place in future years, you take with yourself the sense of vicious loss that tonight commemorates.
And tuck away in your soul the knowledge that neither Yeardley Love nor any woman ever attacked has deserved it, that no victim in the end has to suffer, has to die, but that together we are the protection, that we must act together to protect one another and to see to it that the things we've learned here become and remain true in the world to which we go after this place.
May God bless Yeardley Love.
John T. Casteen III, president
May 5, 2010