Recordings of Convocations
- Created 25 May 2012; Published 29 May 2012Honors Convocation: Jackson Bryce
The Honors Convocation is held each year on the last Friday of spring term to recognize faculty and students for their accomplishments and their service to the community. This year’s address will be delivered by Jackson Bryce, the Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Professor of Classical Languages and the Liberal Arts, and Senior Lecturer in Bassoon and Chamber Music.
Bryce received his A.B. from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., and his A.M. and Ph.D. in Classics from Harvard University. He studied with Kenneth Pasmanick, principal bassoonist of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. He was a founding member of the Washington Camerata, a chamber orchestra devoted to the performance of new music, a member of the National Capital Woodwind Quintet, in residence at American University, and performed in Washington and on tour in the mid-Atlantic states.
As a recitalist, soloist, and chamber and orchestral player, he has performed in Washington, Boston, the Twin Cities, and southern Minnesota. As a professor of Classics, his particular interests are in Roman literature and history, especially of the Christian era. His research specialty is the Roman rhetorician Lactantius, who wrote works about Christianity in a splendid classical style based on Cicero, and a fascinating poem about the Phoenix myth which combines classical with Christian references. He has assembled a complete bibliography of Lactantius, conceived and designed as a web resource, the first such on the web in the field of classics.
- Created 4 May 2012; Published 7 May 2012Convocation: Lila Abu-Lughod '74
Lila Abu-Lughod '74 is a distinguished Palestinian-American anthropologist and one of the most respected scholars of Middle East Studies. Her work gives evidence to the value of critical intellectual engagement, grounded in a basic trust in our common humanity—a humanity without borders. But what happens when the village in Egypt in which she has been studying gender, media, and modernity is swept up in a national revolution?
Media coverage of the uprising in Egypt in 2011 focused almost exclusively on Tahrir Square in Cairo, yet the revolution was also lived in other parts of Egypt, including the countryside. Abu-Lughod offers a glimpse of what happened in one village in Upper Egypt where, as elsewhere, daily lives were deeply shaped by devastating national economic and social policies, the arbitrary power of police and security forces, and a sense of profound marginalization and disadvantage. Youth were galvanized to solve local problems in their own community, feeling themselves to be in a national space despite a history of marginalization. They also used a particular language for their activism: a strong language of social morality, not the media-friendly political language of “rights” and “democracy.” The title of her presentation was "Taking Back the Village: Egyptian Youth in Revolution."
- Created 27 April 2012; Published 4 May 2012Convocation: Rinku Sen
Rinku Sen is an Indian-American author and community organizer who has been a leading figure in the movement for social, racial and gender equality for the last twenty years. She currently serves as president and executive director of the Applied Research Center, a public policy institute advancing racial justice through research, advocacy and journalism. Built on rigorous research and creative use of new technology, the goal of the ARC is to popularize the need for racial justice and prepare people to fight for it.
Sen is the author of The Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization and Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing. Named by Ms. Magazine as one of 21 feminists to watch in the 21st century, and by Utne Reader as one of 50 visionaries who are changing our world, Sen’s work promotes a positive shift from conversation to action by offering tactics and strategies for working toward justice. The title of her presentation was “Building Bridges in a Divided World.”
- Created 20 April 2012; Published 26 April 2012Convocation: David Welna '80
David Welna '80 has been the congressional correspondent for National Public Radio since the final days of the Clinton administration. He has covered a wide range of historic events and national issues, including the 2000 presidential election and the post-election vote count battle in Florida, the September 11, 2001 attacks, the wars that followed, and the economic downturn and recession. Prior to his current assignment, Welna spent 15 years reporting for NPR from overseas. The recipient of several prestigious awards, Welna has also reported for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The Financial Times, and The Times of London. In addition, his photography has appeared in Esquire, The New York Times, Paris Review, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. The title of his presentation was "From Carleton to Covering Congress… An Odyssey on Deadline."
- Created 13 April 2012; Published 26 April 2012Convocation: Kwame Anthony Appiah
Kwame Anthony Appiah is one of America's leading public intellectuals. Called a post-modern Socrates, Appiah asks profound questions about identity and ethics in a world where the sands of race, ethnicity, religion and nationalism continue to realign and reform before our eyes. His seminal book Cosmopolitanism is a moral manifesto for a world where identity has become a weapon and where difference has become a cause of pain and suffering. In intellectually stimulating language, Appiah challenges to look beyond the boundaries—real and imagined— that divide us, and to see our common humanity.
Appiah is the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. He is also the President of the PEN American Center, the internationally acclaimed literary and human rights association. He was born in London, to a Ghanaian father and a white mother; raised in Ghana; and educated in England, at Cambridge University, where he received a Ph.D. in philosophy. As a scholar of African and African-American studies, he established himself as an intellectual with a broad reach. His classic book In My Father's House and his collaborations with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—including The Dictionary of Global Culture and Africana—are major works of African struggles for self-determination. In 2007, Cosmopolitanism won the Arthur Ross Book Award, the most significant prize given to a book on international affairs. In 2009, he was featured in the documentary "Examined Life" and was named one of Foreign Policy's "Top 100 Global Thinkers." Apiah has spent the last decade thinking about what it takes to turn moral understanding into moral behavior, recognizing that one of the keys to real moral revolution is mobilizing the social power of honor and shame. The title of his presentation was "The Honor Code: Making Moral Revolutions."
- Created 6 April 2012; Published 10 April 2012Convocation: Barbara Fredrickson '86
Most scientists who study emotions focus on negative states: depression, anxiety, and fear. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson '86 has spent more than twenty years investigating the relatively uncharted terrain of positive emotions, which she says can make us healthier and happier if we take time to cultivate them. Fredrickson’s findings are the subject of her book, Positivity. Though its title might make it sound like a self-help bestseller, the book doesn’t belong in the pop-psychology section, and Fredrickson is no Pollyanna telling us to put on a smile before leaving the house each morning. Negative emotions, she says, are necessary for us to flourish, and positive emotions are by nature subtle and fleeting; the secret is not to deny their transience but to find ways to increase their quantity. Rather than trying to eliminate negativity, she recommends we balance negative feelings with positive ones. Below a certain ratio of positive to negative, Fredrickson says, people get pulled into downward spirals, their behavior becomes rigid and predictable, and they begin to feel burdened and lifeless.
Fredrickson is the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the director of the university's Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab. A leading scholar within social psychology, affective science, and positive psychology, she and has received more than 10 consecutive years of research funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, and her research and teaching have been recognized with numerous honors. Her scientific contributions have influenced scholars and practitioners worldwide, in disciplines ranging from education to business and beyond. The title of her presentation was "What Good Is It to Feel Good?"
- Created 30 March 2012; Published 10 April 2012Convocation: Jennifer Thompson
In 1984, Jennifer Thompson was a 22-year-old college student with a 4.0 GPA and lofty goals for her future. Her path was dramatically altered however, when a man broke into her apartment, put a knife to her throat, and raped her. In that moment, her determination took an entirely different direction, as she focused all attention on memorizing the man's features. Searching for scars, tattoos, and any unique features that could help her identify him, she was certain that she could put him in prison for life. After a composite sketch, line-up identification, and trial, Jennifer Thompson's testimony and memory led to a life sentence for Ronald Cotton. Years later, Thompson was asked to provide a DNA sample for further analysis of the case. She agreed to the request, positive that her identification of Cotton would be held up by science. In an instant, her life changed yet again, when it was revealed that Ronald Cotton was not her rapist, and after spending 11 years in prison as an innocent man, he was released.
In Picking Cotton, their New York Times best-selling and Soros Justice Media Fellowship award-winning book, which is being made into a movie, Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton reveal their unlikely story of friendship and forgiveness. Devastated by her mistake, Thompson became an activist, speaking out about her mistake, and working to protect the wrongfully convicted. Now a member of the Actual Innocence Commission, the advisory committee for Active Voices, the Constitution Project, and Mothers for Justice, she shares her powerful story of truth, justice, and redemption. The title of her presentation was "Picking Cotton."
- Created 24 February 2012; Published 20 February 2012Convocation: Emily Hunter
Emily Hunter is an environmental advocacy journalist who reports from the frontlines of environmental issues and activist movements. Hunter’s 2011 book, The Next Eco-Warriors: 22 Young Women and Men Who Are Saving the Planet, is an insider’s look at the new wave of environmental activism, focusing on the stories of today's youth eco-activists. She makes absolutely clear that youth are out there in force, trying every creative tactic they can think of to safeguard the planet on which they will live out their lives.
Hunter is no stranger to the activist world. She was literally born into the environmental movement, as her parents Robert and Bobbi Hunter were the co-founders of Greenpeace. She has sailed around the world on activist ships with Sea Shepherd helping to save animals and fighting against climate change with 350.org. Today, her change making is with eco-journalism, informing and offering critical debate on the battle to save the planet. Hunter has hosted and co-produced three TV-documentaries, ranging from the Canadian Tar Sands to the Toronto G20 protests; she was one of the characters on the hit Animal Planet show Whale Wars; and she has done eco-reporting from protest frontlines at climate summits. Hunter reflects on the history and evolution of the environmental movement as a backdrop for examining where it is today and the emergence of a new generation of change-makers. The title of her presentation was "Revolutionizing the Revolution."
- Created 17 February 2012; Published 20 February 2012Convocation: Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin is a self-described "environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer," or as the New York Times calls him, "the high priest of the pasture." Salatin and his family own and operate Polyface Farm, arguably the nation's most famous farm since it was profiled in Michael Pollan's bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma and two subsequent documentaries, Food, Inc., and Fresh. Differing from today's industrial commodity-based machine-driven farms, Polyface is a local, pasture-based, relationally oriented farm. Salatin's innovative farming system—where the animals live according to their "ness," the earth is used for symbiosis, and happiness and health is key—has gained attention from around the country. Recognition for his ecological and local-based farming advocacy includes an honorary doctorate, the Heinz Award, and many leadership awards. Salatin has also authored seven books on alternative farming and sustainability issues.
While most Americans seem to think our techno-glitzy, disconnected, celebrity-worshipping culture will be the first to sail off into a Star Trek future unencumbered by ecological umbilicals, Salatin bets that the future will instead incorporate more tried-and-true realities from the past. Ours is the first culture with no chores for children, cheap energy, heavy mechanization, computers, supermarkets, TV dinners and unpronounceable food. Although he doesn't believe that we will return to horses and buggies, washboards, and hoop skirts, Salatin believes we will go back in order to go forward, using technology to re-establish historical normalcy. That normalcy will include edible landscapes, domestic larders, pastured livestock, solar driven carbon cycling for fertility, and a visceral relationship with life’s fundamentals: food, energy, water, air, soil, fabric, shelter. We may as well get started enthusiastically than be dragged reluctantly into this more normal existence. The title of Salatin's presentation was "Folks, This Ain't Normal."
- Created 10 February 2012; Published 20 February 2012Convocation: Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar who currently holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Prior to joining the Kirwan Institute, Professor Alexander was an Associate Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinic.
Alexander challenges the conventional wisdom that, with the election of Barack Obama as president, our nation has “triumphed over race.” Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an astounding percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a permanent, second-class status, much like their grandparents before them who lived under an explicit system of racial control. Alexander argues that the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African American men, primarily through the War on Drugs, has created a new racial under caste—a group of people defined largely by race that is subject to legalized discrimination, scorn, and social exclusion. The old forms of discrimination—discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public benefits; denial of the right to vote; and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal once you’re labeled a felon. She challenges the civil rights community, and all of us, to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America. The title of her presentation was “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
- Created 3 February 2012; Published 20 February 2012Convocation: Shelton Johnson
Shelton Johnson is the author of Gloryland, the fictional memoir of a buffalo soldier—a black U.S. cavalryman and the son of slaves—who finds true freedom when he is posted to patrol the newly created Yosemite National Park in 1903. Johnson is an advocate for bringing minorities, particularly African-Americans from the inner city, like himself, to the National Parks and connecting them to the natural world. He claims that "one of the great losses to African culture from slavery was the loss of kinship with the earth." Although he was born in Detroit and spent much of his childhood there, early on he briefly lived in Germany where his father was stationed in the Army. A family trip to the Bavarian Alps planted a seed in him, a seed that was kept alive only through later experiences with nature via television and movie screens. He dreamed of mountains as a boy growing up in Detroit.
While doing graduate study in poetry at the University of Michigan, Johnson applied to be a seasonal worker at Yellowstone, thinking the park would provide a quiet place to work on his writing. That visit would change the course of his life and his career, which has spanned twenty-five years as a ranger with the National Park Service.
He dedicated his work to this issue when he came upon the history of Buffalo Soldiers (the African-American regiments of the segregated U.S. Army at the turn of the 20th century) in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. For the past fifteen years Johnson has told the story of the Buffalo Soldiers in print, on camera, and in person. He has traveled to public schools throughout America, tracked down descendants of the soldiers, and authored an award-winning website. All the while, he has remained true to the reason he started this work. "I can’t forget that little black kid in Detroit," he says. "And I think of the other kids, just like me—in Detroit, Oakland, Watts, Anacostia—today. How do I get them here? How do I let them know that our national parks are part of their heritage, and that they own them like all Americans?" The title of his presentation was "Gloryland: Using History and Literature as Tools for Social Change.”
- Created 27 January 2012; Published 20 February 2012Convocation: Eric Schwartz
Eric Schwartz has 25 years of senior public service experience at the Department of State, the National Security Council, the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, as well as in the foundation and NGO communities. Currently the dean of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Schwartz previously served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration in the U.S. Department of State. He has also served as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery and at the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Evidence indicates that highly effective public institutions will be critical to social and economic advancement in years and decades to come, as governance becomes more complicated and demanding. Americans may have legitimately differing perspectives on the best role for government. But Schwartz believes there should be no disagreement with the fundamental proposition that vibrant democracies require highly effective and accountable public institutions, with personnel to manage complex issues, and with political processes that prize dialogue, civility and a reasoned effort to transcend political differences. Without those elements, he suggests, we will fail to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and our failure will have profound implications for our children and for future generations. The title of his presentation was "Governance is the Solution: 21st Century Challenges and the Public Service Mission."
- Created 13 January 2012; Published 26 January 2012Convocation: Dave Meslin
Dave Meslin, journalist and grassroots activist, calls himself a "community choreographer." Meslin's activism started with guerilla-style street antics. Painting bike lanes directly onto the street, altering billboards, and hanging pictures of Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton over "Post no Bills" signs were all part of his repertoire. In 1998, he organized the first "Reclaim the Streets" demonstration in Toronto. Seeing hundreds of people dancing in the street without a permit was motivation enough to continue organizing. Watching the police shut down the party and arrest many of the celebrants was a motivation to explore new ways to organize.
Chosen as one of the Top Ten Activists of the year by NOW Magazine in 2000, Meslin went on to form the Toronto Public Space Committee, successfully rallying a growing group of volunteers to wage war against the commercialization of public space. During the next five years, the Committee became one of the most effective unfunded non-profits in Toronto. In 2006, Meslin coordinated a project called "Who Runs This Town?", a campaign aimed at injecting some fun and creativity into the 2006 municipal elections in Toronto, including "City Idol," an attempt to get alienated citizens to explore and share their political ideas by competing for a spot on City Council in front of a live audience. Meslin believes passionately in getting involved in civic affairs, and demonstrates what can be accomplished through advocacy with dedication, imagination, and hard work. He seeks to build a culture of political engagement in our communities by offering an antidote to apathy. The title of his presentation was "Under the Surface: The Unlimited Potential of Community Organizing."
- Created 6 January 2012; Published 11 January 2012Convocation: Steve Brodner
Steve Brodner's award-winning career as a satirical illustrator and art journalist spans three decades. His iconic caricatures of pop and political culture have appeared in every major publication in the United States, not to mention his visual essays of political campaigns and the struggles of everyday working people and their families. His work is credited with helping spearhead the 1980s revival of pointed and entertaining graphic commentary in the United States. "The face that politicians present to the public is a mask," says Brodner. "Everyone knows it's a mask. The mask is what political cartoons comment on. You're never drawing the person; you're drawing the persona." Politicians have never hesitated to tar their opponents, and neither have their satirist contemporaries. And over his 30-plus-year career, Brodner has proven himself as nothing if not a masterful visual communicator. The title of his presentation was "The Art of Politics".
- Created 4 November 2011; Published 8 November 2011Convocation: Steve Russell
Steve Russell, a Cherokee Indian born and raised in Oklahoma, served for 17 years as an elected trial judge in Texas before becoming an associate professor of criminal justice at Indiana University. Russell views his career path as unusual. Oklahoma schools had little to offer, and he had given up on education in the ninth grade because, he said, “it had long since given up on me.” It was the Vietnam era, and Russell joined the Air Force, which he said improved his self-image and resulted in an education through the G.I. Bill. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin, convinced that his previous educational failures were the fault of a system that expected nothing of Indian children. He was trained to be a high school teacher, and that was his plan, but it had not occurred to him that no school system would hire someone who was so plainly convinced that the public schools were squandering the talent of minority children. Having no teaching offers, he proceeded to law school and set out to be a civil rights lawyer, even though he knew of no Indian civil rights lawyers and the law school he attended offered no course in Indian law.
Russell’s experience and education has led to a number of articles about the judicial process. His research focuses on the necessity to redefine national sovereignty to settle disputes arising from globalization and the need for American Indians to redefine tribal sovereignty and Indian identity in response to national and international change. Russell examined the recent challenge over the status of the Cherokee freedmen in his presentation titled "Race and Citizenship Inside and Outside the Cherokee Nation."