At the beginning of the school year, I am always beset by a mix of adrenaline & dread ...
Re-dedicating ourselves to liberal arts education:
We pursue these liberal arts goals through activities that are very practical & humane:
At times liberal arts education is exhilarating, sometimes it is painful, always a lot of work - and we are committed to it at the core of our mission because we believe that
engaging in liberal arts education as wholeheartedly as possible
liberates persons to become a full participants in our culture
to go from living on the surface to
studying the most precious insights of great women and men who have gone
embodying those insights with integrity as best we can deep within,
ultimately in a real sense to shaping and transforming the world for the sake of
A mission commitment to liberal arts education demands the best labor of us all
We don't say this to each other often enough: liberal arts education, the good of this liberal arts community, requires that those who teach and those who serve are committed to:
putting all their knowledge and skills at the service of another's well-being, and
caring for the sources of their own compassion and generosity.
There is a poem by Czeslaw Milosz that I came across this summer. It is entitled "Report." It speaks about what it is to be a poet. And I want to read it to you. Pardon the gender-exclusive language. As I read "man" and the occasional male pronoun, please feel free to substitute. And as you hear the word "poet" and the work of the poet described in some detail, in part of your mind I ask you to dwell on your own role within CSB and SJU - as professor of your discipline, as skilled professional supporting this learning environment. After I have read this poem, I want to express ever so briefly my hope for us all at the beginning of this new year.
O Most High, you willed to create me a poet and now
it is time for me to present a report.
My heart is full of gratitude though I got acquainted
with the miseries of that profession.
By practicing it, we learn too much about the bizarre nature of man.
Who, every hour, every day and every year is possessed by self-delusion.
A self-delusion when building sandcastles, collecting postage stamps,
admiring oneself in a mirror.
Assigning oneself first place in sport, power, love, and the getting of money.
All the while on the very border, on the fragile border beyond which there is a province of mumblings and wails.
For in every one of us a mad rabbit thrashes and a wolf pack howls, so that we are afraid it will be heard by others.
Out of self-delusion comes poetry and poetry confesses to its flaw.
Though only by remembering poems once written is their author able to see the whole shame of it.
And yet he cannot bear another poet nearby, if he suspects him of being better than himself and envies him every scrap of praise.
Ready not only to kill him but smash him and obliterate him from the surface of the earth.
So that he remains alone, magnanimous and kind toward his subjects, who chase after their small self-delusions.
[Czeslaw Milosz, "Report," The American Poetry Review, Mar 1995 ]
I like that poem.
And since I am a historian raiding another discipline, an administrator with a symbolic task to perform for the common good, I hope you'll forgive me for shamelessly raiding this poem to welcome you to the beginning of this academic year.
Liberal arts education at SJU and CSB requires expertise and it makes huge demands on us, both those who teach and those who serve. At the beginning of this new year I hope
It's time to sit down. God bless!