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Vigil in Memory of Otto Warmbier

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Good evening. My name is Sarah Kenny, and I serve the Student Council President. On behalf of the University of Virginia Student Body, I would like to extend my welcome and my gratitude for those of you joining us this evening. To the students, staff, faculty administrators and community members who have had the great pleasure of knowing Otto, I offer my most sincere condolences for the inconceivable loss of this friend, scholar and community member. To Otto's family I offer my prayers and my empathy for the horrific tragedy that you are facing in the loss of your son, your brother. Although President Sullivan is unfortunately unable to attend this evening's vigil, she has asked that we share the following words I deeply regret that I am unable to be there tonight for the vigil due to previously planned travel please know that I will pause at this hour to join in your spirit of grief and remembrance as you gather to honor the memory of Otto. All of us in the University community are profoundly saddened by his death and we are outraged by the circumstances that led to it. We condemn the horrendous treatment that certainly contributed to Otto's condition in North Korea. Even if we denounce these evil acts, we continue to hope and believe that the forces of love and goodness will overcome evil in the end. And even as we grieve, we fondly remember and celebrate Otto's joyful attitude, sharp intellect, and adventurous spirit. We will remember Otto's finest qualities long after today. We will continue to hold the Warmbier family in our thoughts and prayers in the difficult days ahead. And I encourage you to rely on one another for solace and support. I encourage you to look to the faces of the friends and to the strangers gathered here tonight. And to search for strength for courage in the forces of love and goodness that each one of us holds within. I, who witnessed that love and goodness in the individuals who worked tirelessly to make tonight's vigil possible and to all of you, I am grateful. My wish for tonight is that we are able to begin the healing process the process that will require time, self-care, and faith at both the individual and the collective level. This evening, you will hear from the Commonwealth Secretary of Education Ms. Trent on behalf of Governor McAuliffe and you will hear the blessing from Professor Peter Ochs of most importance you will hear from those who knew and loved Otto to formally bring this vigil to a close you will hear from the leader of the class 2017 the class that Otto should have walked down the lawn with just this past May Following Josh's remarks we invite those of you who feel so compelled to share a memory, a sentiment about the dear friend, we have so unjustly lost Otto, although many of us never had the privilege of knowing you, you have inspired us with the legacy that will forever be part of the University of Virginia Community Good evening, UVA Community My name is Dietra Trent and I am Secretary of Education I am deeply saddened by this occasion and I know that there are absolutely no words that can be said at this point to bring consolation to this community or to the world for that matter I think we are all in awe and shock and dismay for the evil acts of one who deserves absolutely no recognition, no acknowledgment, what-so-ever and I don't hope not to get too political I'm a little furious at this at what has happened The Governor unfortunately is overseas on a Trade Mission he left on Saturday, or Sunday and was not able to be here when we did the invitation to attend, he asked that I come and extend his condolences and he did send a letter from he and his wife and I'd like to read it at this time. Dear Friends Dorothy and I extend our deepest condolences upon the tragic death of Otto Frederick Warmbier who just left the University and the country shocked and saddened As a Theta Chi Fraternity brother and student of McIntire School of Commerce Otto was an engaging and brilliant young man with a promising future. In high school, Otto was Homecoming King and captain of this soccer team as well as Salutatorian of his graduating class Around the University of Virginia Grounds, Otto was known for his unique style and collegial spirit I'm sure that his kindness, love and devotion to family and friends will never be forgotten I'm truly inspired to see the UVA Community come together in solidarity due on this time Otto's untimely death has brightly sparked public outlay across the nation he was undeserving of his treatment by the North Korea regime and we as Virginians condemn these actions We must continue to face evil with the unified front to ensure that this tragedy is never repeated My prayers remain with the Otto Warmbier's family and friends, and the UVA Community during this time Thank you. Good evening Professor Vanessa Ochs is far away tonight and unable to come, but she sent me these words to speak to you I am Professor Peter Ochs Vanessa Ochs offers words as we gather tonight Words from Otto's dearest tradition we remember Otto and hold him and his family in our hearts we share two prayers First, these words of Poet Zelda each of us has a name given by God and given by our parents Each of us has a name given by our stature and our smile and given by what we wear Each of us has a name given by the mountains and given by our walls Each of us has a name given by the stars and given by our neighbors Each of us has a name given by our sins and given by our longing Each of us has a name given by our enemies and given by our love Each of us has a name given by our celebrations and given by our work Each of us has a name given by the seasons and given by our blindness Each of us has a name given by the sea and given by our death. At Otto's family funeral his family will be reciting the words of the Jewish prayers for Mourner's Kaddish These are not words one might expect a mourner to utter, since they say nothing about death, and loss and speak instead almost counter intuitively about the abiding presence of God How can we speak these words when our hearts are so torn the words hold us together there are mysteries we can not fathom we share these ancient words with you now and as you hear them please join me in words with your hearts to pray that Otto's family and friends will be comforted in time by the blessing of his memories If it is your habit, please rise you may also sit (Mourner's Kaddish) Good evening My name is Kevin Davoli and I was one of Otto's pledge brothers It's an honor and privilege to be in front of you all tonight on behalf of the brothers of Theta Chi here at UVA We are heartbroken at the loss of one of our closest friend, Otto Warmbier Even with heavy hearts, we are comforted by the outpouring love and support from the UVA community and we thank you all for being here tonight to remember and celebrate an incredible person, and an extraordinary life that he led. Otto truly was one of a kind He had such an uncommon charisma that made every interaction with him unforgettable those lucky enough to have known him through the kind of impression he can leave. From his sharp intellect to his unique, and sometimes peculiar taste Otto was someone who followed his passion with unwavering bravery He lived his life with ambition and integrity always showing respect to his friends, brothers classmates and family We first came to know Otto in spring of 2014 upon receiving bids to join Theta Chi His fun loving attitude quickly made him the life of the party and someone whose energy was infectious at all hours of the day Otto went out of his way to invest himself in our lives deeply and at times, pushed his limits to make us feel comfortable or make sure that we made it home safely He was big on human connection, and valued inner personal relationships heavily often skipping handshakes upon introduction in exchange for a 'bring it in,' or "let's hug it out' and a tight embrace. Otto had a passion for adventure like nobody else whether it was his pursuit for unbeatable hummus in Israel on a Birthright trip with members of our pledge class or confidently leading the exploration of a city he had never been to. Otto's curiosity led with grace in a manner that only astounded He was brilliant but never made you feel less than helpful but never invasive captivating but never overbearing One of my favorite things about Otto was his eye for thrifting the man had bins of unique items he had accumulated in regularly Things I don't know where they made, but thin My favorite piece was this yellow cardigan spotted with lighthouses from around the country that he kept hung on his closet He'd let me wear it just once but it wasn't only about him Otto frequently bought items for his friends when he thought that would suit them better never expecting anything in return Billy, who will be speaking later, and I are both wearing pieces we got thrifting earlier today We all have plenty of stories I can tell here some probably not appropriate for this venue that will live on in our hearts and minds indefinitely It's surreal that he's gone, especially in this way but I know Otto is looking down on us smiling that goofy smile of his. I'll close with some remarks one of our pledge brothers Tim McKinney wrote in the Facebook post yesterday commemorating Otto's time with us. Otto, you are model for all in drive, energy, compassion, and friendship Your abounding love for life and all its highs and lows inspires me always to go out and seize every day. Your grit and will, your ability to put your nose to the grindstone, to meet goals and not take "no" for an answer, showed me how much influence we can have in our world. Your quick wit, usually good humor and positive energy lit up rooms and changed moods. Your love of all things tacky and some of the world's most mediocre hip hop music remind me always that you can still be a good person with bad taste. Your spontaneous phone calls, just to ask me about my day, were honestly a little weird at first but are just an example of how you taught me to connect and be a friend. Your ability to feel when friends are in need and reach out to lend an ear or offer sound advice set a powerful example. My life is surely not the only one better today from your empathy. Today, losing you, the world has lost one of its most loved. The posts, the calls, the texts and the conversations I've seen and been a part of confirm the immense and genuine love that we have for you. I hope all who know you continue to share the incredible memories that they made with you. It'll be a long time before we run out. Rest easy, Otto. We love you. I'm going to turn it over to Billy Burgess another one of our pledge brothers to say few words about a special bond Otto is leaving behind within the Charlottesville community Thanks, Kevin. Martin Powell is an honorary brother of Theta Chi Fraternity A member of the Charlottesville community and he suffers from cerebral palsy Martin has been involved with our brotherhood since the early 90's but in the 2000's has lost touch with many other brothers This relationship was revived in the large part thanks to Otto's efforts Otto became friends with Martin the minute they met He recognized Martin's brilliant mind and talked to him frequently about everything from daily news to literature, to UVA sport events which Martin was all too familiar with. He visited Martin frequently told him stories about fraternity laughed with him, went to sporting events with him and encouraged our pledge class and brothers to spend time with him something that I and many others in our brotherhood had gotten to do Without Otto's incredible ability to connect with people and a love for getting to know anyone and everyone that he could I would have never gotten to know Martin and more importantly, our brotherhood may have never reconnected with him It's a legacy that I'm sure Otto's extremely proud to leave behind for our fraternity to continue. Otto's friendship with Martin speaks volumes the way he was a life. Not only giving up his time or taking advantage of every opportunity that life offered It especially reinforces the way that I personally will always remember Otto as an incredible friend, who is always excited to share laughter and happiness with anyone and everyone who he comes into contact with. Everyone needs a friend like Otto and I'm thankful, especially, at a time like this for every second that I was able to spend with him and I know many of you sitting here today would have gotten the same opinion. On behalf of our pledge class, our fraternity, and everyone else who know Otto, we love you and we miss you like hell. Hello, everyone. Thank you all for coming tonight. For those that don't know me, my name is Alex Vagonis I am a recent UVA grad, and I was Otto Warmbier's girlfriend for more than a year at the time of his detainment. Everyone's presence here tonight and online has been truly incredible. The outpouring of love and support for Otto his family, me and my family and our friends mean so much to us all. This wave of love, thoughts and prayers has kept me standing for the past 18 months and especially this past week. And for that, I am too grateful. I could go on and on and on about Otto and I would be more than happy to share some of our special and funny moments and memories of our time together but I will do when the time is more appropriate. But tonight, I want to touch on three main things. Otto's impact on my life his impact on this school and the greater Charlottesville community and what we all can do moving forward So let me first tell you how Otto and I met. At a party at his apartment, early in the fall semester of our second year I noticed that one of the guys who lived there had this insane tie collection like, I'm talking an entire plastic bin filled to the brim with designer ties Acquired from various thrift and consignment shops that I've learned after talking to him. Those ties and that guy really peaked my interest and I asked my friend Alex about him and she had nothing but these crazy positive things to say. Fast forward to few weeks, and we found ourselves on a camping trip together with some of our mutual friends we clicked instantly and the whirlwind of our growing relationship just took off from there. Whether it was heading to waffle house, fully dressed up after a semiformal or meeting his parents for the very first time at an incredibly raunchy Rob Delaney stand up comedy show or similarly him meeting my parents for the first time at a burlesque show downtown or trying out new restaurants and running trails all over Charlottesville showing me music videos to his favorite rap songs, being with Otto made life all the more beautiful and worth living. He was my soul mate on so many levels and I truly believe that he helped me become a better human being, The person that I am today. And it wasn't just my life he made more colorful but everyone else's. Every person who had the privilege of interacting with him even just temporarily everyone felt the same magnetic effect of his presence which brings me to my second point, Otto's ever lasting impact on this blessing school It is no surprise that Otto was involved in just about everything The Comm-School, his fraternity Theta Chi, sustainability, the Brody Jewish Center, just to name a few His infectious spirit and zest for learning were apparent in every conversation with Otto He was just so dang excited all the time just bursting with new information to share with others I thought he might just burst from the excitement into thin air. It's like we could hardly go anywhere on Grounds without Otto running into someone that he knew And his connection to so many people is well reflected and the love that I see for him splashed all over my Facebook feed and in my text message inbox. He will be missed so dearly and so deeply by so many. So finally, my third point what we all can do moving forward. Every single emotion that we are feeling right now is valid. It is okay to feel upset, to boil over with anger and frustration to feel confused about why this happened disgusted at how he was treated and anxious about how we are all going to proceed. What I personally have found some peace in knowing that he was finally able to come home to be with his family who loved him so fiercely to be back where he belonged before he passed so now, we persevere. We will all get through this and we will thrive To do otherwise, we'll just be an insult to Otto knowing that he always wanted to see others fly. So remember to keep your friends and families close. Remind them that you are there for them that you love them and that will never change. Remember to do on to others that you'd want done to you That is the golden rule, and we have a right to be treated fairly by our fellow man Remember to keep Otto's memory alive Wear that Hawaiian shirt Drink that forty ounce listen to whatever music you like and dare to be unique And lastly, remember that there are still three American detainees in North Korea and that they are just as deserving of our thoughts, prayers, and actions To Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang-duk, Kim Hak-song, and all of their families and loved ones, I want to say that I am with you all and something like this should never ever happen to someone else. With that, I am going to conclude this speech. Thank you all for listening, for being here tonight and continuing to extend your love and support. Otto, you were and always will be in my heart and in my soul I bet you are going to be as popular in Heaven as you were here on Earth. Thank you. Thank you, Alex. Good evening, everyone. My name is Joshua Leidy and I am the Class of 2017 vice president I wanted to thank you all personally for coming out tonight for those who traveled for this to the local presence in UVA here truly means everything to Otto's friends, classmate and family And thank you for being here to celebrate the life that Otto lived I now want to share some words from the Class of 2017 president Patrick Rice who very much wishes he could be here with all of you this evening. "As graduates of the class 2017 earn their degrees and disperse across the world to take on new responsibilities, it is especially painful to think of our classmate, and friend, Otto Warmbier who was just unjustly deprived, not only of his education, but also his family, friends and ultimately his life. As University community has assembled to mourn at this loss however, we have seen that what made Otto such a valued member of both the class and the university in the first place. The projects he tackled, head on with the commerce students the - he cultivated with his fraternity brothers and the infectious personality that left a mark on so many acquaintances made the Class of 2017 remember and cherish him for inverting so many lives, and may Otto rest in peace." Is with that, I would like to thank all of you for coming tonight. This will not be the last time we gather together and remember Otto. He will forever be the part of the University and part of every one of us. This concludes the scheduled part of the evening, but the microphone will remain on for those who wish to come share their memories with community To those unable to stay, safe travels And I hope everyone leaves here tonight hugs their loved ones tighter stay in prayers for the Warmbiers. Otto, you are dearly loved, and you will me missed The Virginia will also open their doors to all who would like to remain together as a community They will also be having appetizers and other things for anyone who would like to join. Please stay together, stay safe and have a great night.

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Duration: 40 minutes and 26 seconds
Language: English
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Posted by: js7ez on Aug 27, 2017

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