Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Passion and Practicality - Dartmouth and the Liberating Arts

This is one of my favorite sections from President Kim's Inaugural Address - see the full link here.

"Since I joined the College, I’ve learned a lot about what makes this place so special. Certainly the setting is uniquely beautiful. The faculty and academic programs – both undergraduate and graduate – are superb. The history and tradition of the College animate every aspect of life here. But I don’t think any of those alone captures what truly makes Dartmouth what it is.

The writer Jack Beatty, who taught in the English Department last fall, was one of many who shared with me their insights on Dartmouth. In an email to me this summer, he wrote:

“I taught a senior writing class here last fall. I stress ‘senior’ because all the students had had four years of Dartmouth socialization. The class was built around collective critiques of student short stories. The students all wrote well, a few wonderfully. But what impressed me more than their talent was their decency. I feared hurt feelings, bruised egos, too-critical critiques. Instead, they managed the social miracle of being at once honest and empathic in their comments. They cushioned criticism in respect, even affection. I told them how humanly rare that kind of communication was. I checked my experience against that of a friend who teaches political science here. In over forty years of teaching in a half dozen universities both here and abroad, he told me, he had never had students who treated each other so well. That speaks volumes of good about the Dartmouth experience.”

Jack Beatty’s fine observation recalls how President Ernest Martin Hopkins, more than a half-century before, expressed his own understanding of what makes Dartmouth unique. At the inauguration of President Dickey, President Hopkins, then stepping down after 29 years at the helm of the College, said “I have become impressed more and more with the sweetness that attached to the relationship between one and another which constituted this great family which we call Dartmouth”...

The sweetness of Dartmouth.

The sense of color and proportion as you stand in the center of the Green, taking in Dartmouth Row, Webster Hall, Baker Library. The men and women who for almost two-and-a-half centuries have loved this place...

By inviting me to serve you as the seventeenth president of Dartmouth College, you’ve given me the highest honor of my life. In return, I offer you this promise, backed by both passion and practicality to the fullest measure of which I am capable: I will do all I can to enable Dartmouth to continue delivering the treasury of its centuries-old dream safely into the hands of those who will shape the future. To send a legion of young people out into the world so inspired by this place that there is no challenge from which they will shrink—all the while remaining true to the abiding sweetness of the College on the Hill."

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