Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Argument for Higher Education

NYU grads congregate at Washington Square

My wife and I had the opportunity to hear an argument last week that makes one understand the early importance this country put on higher education. Watching the 174th commencement of New York University, we had the honor of hearing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy exclaim to a throng of purple robed graduates gathered in Greenwich Village’s historic Washington Square that the values of freedom are not passive values. In fact, he said, these cherished values wither and die unless those who live in freedom do their duty to act out those values throughout the rest of the world.

“This is not rocket science,” he thundered, as he spoke of the billions of hours wasted each year when African women “It falls on the women,” he noted) struggle to find fresh water for their children. “This can be fixed, and if we really believe in freedom, then it falls on all of us, but especially you, to do something about this.”

Arguing in a similar vein was student speaker Chinaka Hodge, an undergraduate from Oakland CA who opened her remarks in three languages and who observed, “Whether our momma fed us kim chee or black eyed peas or Gerber’s baby food, we all share similar values.” Ms. Hodge argued that unless we learn how to connect with each other, no matter our backgrounds, the very notion of freedom is imperiled both here at home and abroad.

To say that my skin tingled at the timbre of these remarks is an understatement. There are all kinds of ways to be civilized; there are all kinds of ways to share values. But sitting in a 175 year old setting today, one that is dedicated to the memory of our own first President and one that resonates with all that a college degree offers when it is outward centered such as those NYU and IPFW try to accomplish on behalf of their students, one certainly feels that the argument for a reflective and worldly education is a key to the continuance of freedom everywhere.


At 8:59 PM, Blogger Shannon E. said...

It was cool to hear you talk of how where you were reminded you of what our country was built on. It makes us seem so small in the world when we come to those conclusions.


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