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New Year’s Resolutions

At this time of year, many memories come to mind. December reminds me of family and friends. January reminds me that we can start anew.

Remember the Roman god Janus, who had two faces. He could look in two directions at once, forward and backward, to the future and to the past. Julius Caesar put January first in order among the 12 months because it celebrated the position of seeing backward and looking forward.

Janus served as the god of gates and doors, of entrances and exits. The Romans prayed to Janus at the beginning and end of any important action, especially a war.

While we do not usually celebrate “two-faced” people, the ability simultaneously to take comfort from the past and find hope in the future is at the very heart of the human experience, and has been since ancient times. Among Asian philosophers, the ideas of past and future are often paired with looking within and looking without.

When I was young, we had a ritual on New Year’s Eve, reading each page in the previous year’s calendar, then tossing it in the fire after recalling the events of days, weeks and months. Then, we would compose resolutions for the new year, looking forward to doing more, or better, of what we had resolved for the year before.

For the coming year, I resolve to do even more. And at the end of 2010, when I review the leaves of time, I hope I can chart sufficient progress to make a shorter list for 2011.

I resolve to work even more closely with campus, school, business and civic leaders to coordinate and learn from each other in the preparation of scientists, managers, teachers, administrators and other professionals; to find solutions to the need for affordable housing for recent graduates and young professionals; to advance environmentally friendly practices in construction, purchasing and maintenance so as to do even more to ensure that our heirs will have a sustainable earth; to do more to connect students to employers for internships and jobs in the for-profit, public and not-for-profit sectors; to support entrepreneurs and new business development; to create more venues for community dialog on enduring social issues such as immigration and obesity; to work with community agencies in the promulgation of solutions found to be successful elsewhere but still untried on Long Island.

In memory of Janus, we will look backward to learn lessons from our past so as to be even stronger in the future. We look forward with hope, seeking ways to build on strength and to grow in stature and service. These lessons are as important for individuals as well as for organizations, for teachers as well as for executives.

In addition to looking backward and looking forward, we must look within and look without, alert to lessons, threats and opportunities. Only then can we make the best use of our time and talents, and make every one a “Happy New Year.”