Tremendous relief

13 Aug

(I published this on the wrong blog! Sorry for the confusion!)

One of our guests was walking around earlier and came across a man struggling with two large bags of groceries. He offered to help the guy, and learned that he was one of the first ones who leaped onto the stage after Rushdie was attacked. Another man had his fingers on Rushdie’s neck, trying to stanch the blood, and he told the grocery guy to hold his head up and talk to him softly and calmly.

Somehow the FBI got wind of this and came over to the house to interview our guest. (They took our names too, though we told them we weren’t close enough to see anything.) We were expecting guys in suits, but they were wearing jeans and tee shirts; I’m guessing they wanted to blend in with the rest of the community. You would never have known they were feds, but they did show us their badges.

The Institution decided that tonight’s entertainment — the Washington Ballet accompanied by the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra — should go on as scheduled. The Amp was as full as usual, and before the program started, CHQ President Michael Hill came out and was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation. He announced that the orchestra would start with Bach’s Adagio for strings before the regular program. And then at intermission he came out again to say that Salman Rushdie was off the ventilator and talking — resulting in another round of tremendous applause and cheers.

I thought you might like to see the message Michael sent to the entire community earlier today.


By now you have likely heard we suffered a terrible tragedy at Chautauqua yesterday. What we experienced is unlike anything in our 150-year history. It was an act of violence, an act of hatred and a violation of one of the things we have always cherished most: the safety and tranquility of our grounds and our ability to convene the most important conversations, even if those conversations are difficult.

Chautauqua is a community of people of all faiths and none. Our collective family is holding Salman Rushdie and Henry Reese, as well their families, close in prayer and close to our hearts. We have been in touch with their loved ones, and I was grateful to spend a very brief amount of time with Mr. Reese yesterday evening. 

But yesterday was also an attack on an ideal we cherish: that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are hallmarks to our society and to our democracy, they are the very underpinnings of who we are and what we believe, what we cherish most. 

We are called to take on fear and the worst of all human traits – hate.  And let’s be clear: what many of us witnessed was a violent expression of hate that shook us to our core. We saw it with our own eyes and in our faces. 

But we also saw something else that I don’t want us to forget. We saw some of the best of humanity in the response of all those who ran toward danger to halt it. 

I watched a member of our staff hurl themselves at the attacker.  

I saw Chautauquans rush the stage to help secure the perpetrator, making it possible for police to remove him. 

I saw Chautauquans who are doctors and nurses rush to provide selfless care while the ambulance arrived. 

I saw what our Chaplain of the week, Terri Hord Owens, called us to possess: a generous, radical love for each other and this community. 

So where do we go from here? How do we think about the days that follow? When hatred shows its ugliness… 

The response must be love, of course, but also action. We must return to our podiums and pulpits. We must continue to convene the critical conversations that can help build empathy; obviously, this is more important now than ever. 

There will be time in the days and weeks ahead to reflect on all we’ve experienced, and we have already been working on how to adapt to yesterday’s horror to ensure our conversations continue. We will soon share operational details about how we will proceed through the remainder of the 2022 Summer Assembly.

At this time, we are called to double down on our prayers for Mr. Rushdie and Mr. Reese and all those who love them. We are called to stand witness that this Chautauqua has but one choice: to ensure that the voices that have the power to change our world continue to have a home in which to be heard. That is ours to do. 

We can take the experience of hatred and reflect on what it means. Or we can come together even more strongly as a community who takes what happened yesterday and commits to not allowing that hatred be any part of our own hearts.  

I know this community and I know that you will make a choice for hope and goodness.


One Response to “Tremendous relief”

  1. Linda Foster August 14, 2022 at 9:18 am #

    Bobbie, Thanks for sharing this. Linda

    Sent from my iPhone


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: