Imagine discussions of Toni Morrison’s Beloved in the context of a nation facing ethnic and religious strife, or reading Thoreau and Emerson in the context of a nation struggling with both existential questions and defining for itself concepts of justice and equality. As the leader of an academic institution, I consider this an excellent example of the potential transformative power of the liberal arts, raising questions and generating discussions that both transcend time and place and also brightly illuminate current issues. Regardless of one’s views on the political solutions to Israeli/Palestinian relations, the cultural transformation needed to find peace in the region will require strong academic institutions with free and unfettered exchange of ideas with scholars from around the world. Collaborations among individual scholars and among institutions have the potential to support and nurture this cultural transformation.
Posted in December 2013
February 11, 1990. I was a senior in college, living in an off-campus house with two housemates and a mildly psychotic cat. Almost all of the streets in the town of Swarthmore are named after colleges; I lived on Kenyon Avenue (one of those strange coincidences that one seems to collect as one gets older), a small, quiet street in a multiracial, working-class neighborhood. I heard the news first via the car horns, then as families began to gather in the street, forming a spontaneous and joyous parade. Nelson Mandela, a hero to many of us, imprisoned for twenty-seven years, had been released from prison.