September 15, 2008

Emmanuel Officially Begins 90th Academic Year with Convocation

The Emmanuel College community convened in the Jean Yawkey Center gymnasium on September 9th to celebrate the start of the College's 90th academic year with its annual Academic Convocation.

Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Bert G. Kerstetter University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, provided this year's keynote address.

College President Sister Janet Eisner, SND and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Frank Scully, Jr. welcomed students, faculty and staff to the event, an important tradition that dates back to the earliest years of the College. Sr. Janet took time to recognize each undergraduate class, notably members of the Class of 2009, who donned their graduation robes for the first time, and their freshmen counterparts, who were participating in their inaugural Convocation.

 To the seniors, she asked that they "continue to prepare for a lifetime of achievement and service to others" while also finding time to enjoy "every moment" of their final year at the College. For the freshmen eager to begin their collegiate education and make their mark on their new school, Sr. Janet reassured, "Emmanuel is now your place to shine."

During their introduction of Dr. Slaughter, the former President of the American Society of International Law whose book, The Idea that is America: Keeping Faith with Values in a Dangerous World, was required reading for first-year students this summer, both Sr. Janet and Dr. Scully praised her for her work and the invitation she has put forth to all citizens to reflect upon the idea that is America, a sizeable challenge to Americans in this election year. Remarked Dr. Scully, she "urges us to recapture our moral barrier and recall how our country got where it is today."

A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences who serves on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Slaughter discussed in her address the seven principal values identified in her work: liberty, democracy, equality, justice, tolerance, humility and faith - important ideals in the shaping of our country that she believes America must turn to during the current Presidential election and beyond.

She described how both 2008 Presidential hopefuls played a role in the genesis of the book, with a 2005 letter written by Army Captain Ian Fishback to Senator John McCain serving as a major inspiration and eventual title of the work. Questioning the inconsistent practices he had witnessed serving as a member of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, Fishback asked McCain, "Will we confront danger in order to preserve our ideals, or will courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? ...I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is 'America.'" "When I read that letter, I thought, 'that is exactly why I want to write this book,'" said Dr. Slaughter, the recipient of the 2007 Thomas Jefferson Award for excellence in the field of law. "[I wanted] to state at least my personal view of the 'idea that is America.'"

Senator Barack Obama's speech during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, in which he called upon Americans to "embrace politics of hope," further provoked Dr. Slaughter's appetite for pondering the values that are at stake in America.

Through a reemphasis of these values, she believes the next American President will be able to best guide the country forward through the 21st century.

"It has been an election year since 2006, but finally it is down to the conventions and finally we have our candidates," said Dr. Slaughter. "What is different about this election, in my view, is that across the country it is being felt in a different way [than before]...it is an historic election."