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 Sara Lopatin's Stanford Speech  

September 23, 2008

Dear Prof. Pea, Dean Stipek, Rebecca, Honored Rabbis, Dear Family, Friends and Students.

Thank you for coming and being with us this afternoon. This is a very important moment for the Lopatin family. I want to acknowledge the presence of Amir’s best friends, who have taken time from their families and jobs on the East coast to be with us, and to bear witness to the inauguration of the Amir Lopatin Memorial Fellowship.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Can you remember where you stood on the morning of 9/11? Do you suppose that a mother could ever forget the day when she got the news that her son was killed in a car accident?

Do you suppose I could ever forget the feeling of horror I felt that Friday morning, when I received a telephone call from my son Uri and heard the gravity in his voice when he asked to speak to my daughter, Shoshana, then giving us this horrific news------In the span of seconds my life, and the lives my two surviving children were changed forever.

The calendar says 4.5 years have passed, to me – it happened yesterday, it happens every day. I relive that moment where the words “Amir is dead” hammered my heart and my brain every day. I relive the flight to Las Vegas, the drive to the morgue to identify my child’s body. I can still see my son in the morgue, and still relive his funeral, and see anguish in my other children’s faces…

The intensity of such traumatic moments may diminish with time, but they are never forgotten. The memories are always there. The heart wrenching pain of losing one’s child, a part of oneself, continues to live on…

In the weeks that followed I was awed by my son’s friends, and the outpouring of correspondence that started to come in. Amir’s friend Mikey gathered all these letters, cards and e-mails that on a website he created in Amir’s memory. Classmates, and teachers, from high school, camps, Brown University, colleagues from the places where he worked at before he decided to go back to school, fellow ultimate players, hikers, bicycle enthusiasts, co-volunteers, all wrote in. It was amazing to see how many people my son had touched during his short life.

People ask: How old was he? I say 28 years and 2 months. I think 336 months, 1,458 weeks, and would you like to know how many days that is? And then they say, oh I am so sorry and walk away only to make a big circle around me next time they see me for lack of knowing what to say to me.

Here is what I want to say to them; Time is a gift. Treasure every moment you have. Treasure the moment you share with those that are special to you. Special enough to want to spend your time with them. Time waits for no one. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. (Today is a gift. That’s why it is called, the present.)

Make the most of today.

One thing to learn from Amir’s short life, he really made use of time.

I just learned a really powerful way of thinking about time just 2 weeks ago from a lecture at my own house, when the speaker spoke about “remembrance” in honor of my husband, whose 5th anniversary of his death, we just observed. He spoke of the French philosopher and noble prize winner Henri Bergson’s distinction between qualitative and quantitative time. Bergson distinguishes the two. Quantitative time is measured by units, is measured by a clock, by the rotation of the earth on its axis and its revolution about the sun. He says “this time is uniform, empty and noncreative. Qualitative time is transient, intangible and evanescent; it is creative, dynamic, and self-emerging. It is multi dimensional, overlapping past, present and future.”

(He posits this dualistic time concept as the prime norm of human life that carries with it practical implications and ethical aspects. “Man encounters the alternative of molding time in a quantitative or qualitative pattern. Some people live in quantitative dead time, they measure time by the clock and the calendar. For them, there is no merger of the past and the future. The present itself is a lost moment; the people are deprived of historical consciousness, for history is the living experience of time. The man, however, who lives in qualitative time has a different criterion of the experience of time than the former. He measures time not by length but by pure quality, creativity and accomplishment. One may live an entire life span quantitatively, not having lived even a moment qualitatively, and contrary wise, one may have lived a moment qualitatively and have lived through an eternity quantitatively. The time norm is the highest criterion by which man, life, and actions should be judged”)

Even though - in quantity- Amir lived only 28 years and 2 months, Amir lived each moment of his 28 years, 2 months qualitatively, with creativity and passion. He loved learning, he loved to read, he loved to laugh and to play. He knew every Simpson episode by heart and thought of it as one of the most brilliant shows produced.

He used his time teach, to volunteer, to contribute to Society, to improve the environment. He constantly gave to others less fortunate than him. He was generous in showing love to his father, to me, his siblings and friends. He was loyal, dependable, sincere, honest, sensitive, smart and insightful. In a sentence, he was an electric personality and his enthusiasm were contagious. He was a great kid…

Amir loved to learn, he was gifted in math and creative writing. Those gifts were recognized early, when he received awards in both. He recognized what came easy to him was not necessarily easy for others. Early on he began to volunteer his time to help others.

While still in high school, he became involved in social action efforts by bringing food to the elderly and homebound and giving time with underprivileged children.

While at Brown University he used his winter recesses to volunteer at a NYC soup kitchen. But he did not just ladle out the soup; Amir told me he tried to engage those attendees in conversation. He tried to help them, write a resume, find work and at one occasion, upon learning of someone’s upcoming job interview, he gave him his favorite shirt to improve his chance and to bring him “good luck”.

Amir also loved nature and the outdoors. He was an avid hiker, camper and bicyclist. He was a card carrying member of the Sierra Club and the National Park system. It was just 3 years ago that Amir and Shoshana participated in the BIKE NEW YORK and the 5 borough bike ride to raise money for the National Resource Defense council.

His 1st job after graduating from Brown University took him to Salt Lake City. He worked for Evans and Sutherland developing Flight and tank simulators. One day he called us to tell us that he signed up for classes at Salt Lake City University. My husband and I were so pleased. We asked excitedly: “well that is so great- what did you sign up for?” He answered very matter of fact. “Fly fishing and Kayaking”. There was a long silence on the line.

A year later he came back to New York. He worked for a software company and biked to and from work every day. He also bicycled from NY to NJ to visit his ailing father.

When his father died he went to synagogue daily to say kaddish, the memorial prayer. The main reason he bought a car here in Palo Alto was, so that he could make the 6 am prayer services. How many of you knew that he made that colossal effort even before class started every day?

Amir loved to play Frisbee. While in NYC he organized the New York City Ultimate League, he valued the “Spirit of The Game” over winning and insisted that the league provide equal opportunity for males and females. The league remembers him every year by dedicating the first game of the season to his memory. The funds raised have helped fund this fellowship. I want to acknowledge Catherine Burnett who runs the league today and is in charge of organizing the memorial game. Catherine is with us today and I thank her for being here.

It is in the spirit of remembering the happy times that we have decided that the best way to remember Amir is to establish a memorial fund in an area that was close to his heart. With the help of Amir’s close friends including Mikey Allen, Benjamin Prager, Jonathan Wolfson, David Greenbaum, Matti Adler, Rabbi Aryeh Stechler who are with us here today and with the help of my children Uri and Shoshana and their friends and my friends and my community members we organized bike rides and memorial events.

We have worked hard to bring this day to fruition. It is a tribute to the 300+ persons who have given of their time and moneys to build a lasting tribute to his life. You may ask:

Why at Stanford where Amir was a student for only 8 months?

He was so happy here. He was excited about being on this campus. He wrote to us of its beauty. He loved his little apartment that had a lemon tree outside his window that smelled so good. He loved the garden with the sculptures he rode by on the bike lane on his way to classes. He loved his peers, his classes and his professors. He was especially excited to work with you, Professor Pea. He was excited about the learning and the experiments that he was going to participate in. He loved the community at large and spoke so warmly of Rabbi Feldman and Rabbi Greenberg. He was going to make a difference in the field of education by applying his computer skills to education.

Education would become more exciting to students of all levels of ability, grading would become easier and more objective for teachers. Amir just saw endless possibilities.

He had found his niche.

It is my hope that this fellowship will continue to foster that excitement and encourage creative thought and ideas that will continue to enhance the field of education for years to come. It seemed the most apt way to remember my son, his love and zest for learning; his creative and “out of the box” way of thinking and his love of life.

As you reward this scholarship I hope you will look for these qualities in your annual recipients.

In Amir’s application to Stanford he wrote: “I would like to focus my studies on educational software and more specifically on the many possibilities computers present to enhance a child’s educational experience through project based learning”

To this end the Amir Lopatin Endowed Fellowship Fund will provide funding to exceptional school of education PhD students to support summer post graduate projects involving technology and education. Special preference will be given to LSTD PhD students pursuing summer projects involving community level fieldwork which use technology and project based learning to make education more engaging for primary and secondary school age children.

To be successful in the field of education was the acme of Amir’s dreams for himself. In keeping with his nature of giving and reaching out to others it is only fitting that this fellowship bear his name so that he continues to give of himself to others even after his death.

Thank you,


Last Updated Thursday, October 30 2008 @ 02:43 PM Eastern Daylight Time; 2,416 Hits View Printable Version