Posted by: Chris Kretz | August 31, 2009

What Next: Let History Serve the Future

October 14, 1969

…It is significant that in planning this celebration we were ambivalent about whether to mark our tenth or our first year. The decision interestingly enough was to emphasize our first birthday. I do not think that this meant that we were unmindful of the meaning and importance of the years that preceded our independence, but perhaps rather that we were eager to look ahead — that our focus was on the future.

This is as it should be, but past, present and future are inextricably intertwined. We are what we are today partly because of our past and the past and this very present will combine to determine our future. In the light of the monstrous failures of our society which have resulted in a Vietnam War, in the continuance of racial bondage, in the pollution of our waters, in our unsolved problems of poverty, it is no wonder that sensitive and idealistic young people are often too impatient for change to take time for a backward look. And yet, it could well be true as someone has suggested that “he who says, “NO” to history says, “No” to his own future.”

Some of our history is the history of failure, but it needs to be examined for the pitfalls it may help us avoid. Some of our history has been recorded inaccurately and colored by bias. It needs to be rewritten. But some of our history is glorious; it reveals the heights to which man can ascend as well as the depths to which he sometimes drops. As we move toward the changes that are so obviously and desperately demanded if man is to continue his existence upon this globe, we will do well to learn from our past, and to celebrate those portions of it that are worthy of celebration.

I am bold to assert that Dowling College has something to celebrate. Those who founded this college had a vision. They knew the past and they were critical of a good deal of it. They were aware that the intellectual experiences offered by much of higher education had been fragmented and they sought to create an institution that would be marked by a unifying inter-disciplinary approach. They were not persons who believed in change for the sake of change but they knew that institutions as well as individuals could suffer from a hardening of the arteries and they sought to build a college open to innovation. They had a remarkable sense also of the importance of the individual — a regard for his freedom and his dignity.

As we build upon this heritage we will face the heavy demands of this part of the twentieth century. We will be making important choices — crucial decisions. We will find that our commitment to merit and our commitment to equality will seem to be in conflict. Can we find ways to uphold excellence and at the same time bar no one who wants and can use a college experience?

We will sense that the old definition of a liberal arts education is not quite good enough — “the advancement of learning through the transmission and enlargement of knowledge.” We know now that feelings are important — that the good life and the good citizen are part of what we are after — that the good and the beautiful are important — not only the true.

We are faced with the insistence that a man or a woman must be allowed to do “their own thing.” While this is a freedom we cannot ignore, can we not hope that new ideas for curriculum will be responded to not only with emotion, but with intellectual curiosity and scholarly concern. Even with freedom as our pass-word,  should the college experience not also reveal that “doing one’s thing” is ultimately satisfying and rewarding only if it has meaning to one’s fellow men? There are plenty of people in our mental hospitals who are “doing their own thing” but with such irrelevance and so out of touch with reality that we call it sickness.

I see a college composed of persons with many different ideas — often in healthy conflict. To protect the freedom to differ, our consensus, when it exists at all, will have to be very broadly based. But as I look out upon our world and hear the loud cries of hurt, of alarm, of despair, I am convinced that none of us as individuals will dare remain aloof.

Full participation, of course, will be another key to our future, but not only the fact of it and the extent of it but the quality of it will be crucial.

Perhaps as we think today about our past and our future, there is a guiding principle. We must understand and believe that the institution was made for man and not man for the institution. Alexander Meiklejohn has put it very well. “Our final responsibility as scholars and teachers is not to the truth. It is to the people who need the truth.

It is because of insights like that, that we celebrate our history. Let history serve the future. Let us practice now what we praise.

President Allyn Robinson
Convocation Address
Celebrating the First Anniversary of
Dowling College

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Responses

  1. sr allyn robinson I like to see if you can tell me how this DETEX WATCHCLOCK STATION(listed A-266) and in the back (D34A) worth or if this is collectible thank you Vicente rivera perez


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