"It Was Great Fun But Was It 'Just One of Those Things?'"
Sam Babbitt Delivers Inaugural Chuck Root Lecture
By Holly Foster 315-859-4068
June 10, 2002
The Inaugural Chuck Root Kirkland College Lecture
By Samuel Fisher Babbitt, President, Kirkland College 1966-1978
"It Was Great Fun but Was It 'Just One of Those Things?'"
As I said on one other such occasion on this hill - the last Kirkland graduation, to be specific - "It's good to be back."
I want to begin with a word about Chuck Root. As many of you know, there was an understanding, from the outset, that the Kirkland Board would have four trustees - out of a complement of fifteen - who were nominated by Hamilton College, the idea being that these people would represent Hamilton's interests, yet would not be able to dominate the Kirkland Board. The first Board members, of course, were all Hamilton-connected, being the Chairman, Walter Beinecke (a Hamilton trustee and Chair of the Planning Committee that proposed the college), Bob McEwen (President of Hamilton), Grant Keehn (Chair of the Hamilton Board), Bill Bolenius (Hamilton's Treasurer), and Millicent MacIntosh, who had been chosen by Hamilton to advise them on the new college once it had been determined that it would be a college for women. These were the five "Founders" of blessed memory, to whom the Charter was granted.
Bob McEwen was still alive, though bedridden, when I arrived on the campus in the summer of 1966, but when he died prior to the opening of Kirkland, we were unanimous in asking his wife, Margery, to take his place on the Board. Over time, we built our Board, beginning with Genie Havermeyer, but when it came time for another nomination from Hamilton College, we first came to know about Chuck Root. From the outset, we knew we had a person who would care deeply about Kirkland, since his eldest daughter, Woody, was in the charter class. But I expect that Chuck may have been most motivated in agreeing to have Woody come to Kirkland by his intense love for Hamilton and this hill. He may even have thought, as did so many Hamiltonians, that what was being proposed here was essentially a female version of their Alma Mater. As the distinguished Hamiltonian, Phil Jessup put it - with his usual disarming candor - the coming of women to Hamilton "was the best thing that's happened to The Hill since old Sam Kirkland admitted white boys."
But by the time Millicent MacIntosh assembled her advisory committee and articulated the vision of an undergraduate college for women that might approach education in new ways, we were headed in directions which, to use Mark Twain's wonderful phrase, "would please some people and astonish the rest." And Chuck Root had to have been a trifle astonished. But the thing about Chuck was that, in all his life, as in his business, he was used to bringing an objective eye to bear on new enterprises. He looked, he weighed, and he decided that, with exceptions here and there, he liked what he saw. He was a marvelous, caring, involved trustee, one on whom one could rely for sound support, good criticism and evenhandedness. Those of you who knew him also knew that when he gave his heart to a project, he never wavered.
Much later, in what I think of as the dark days when Kirkland's Board had to contemplate the dissolution of the college, Chuck, most notably together with Dick Hart, led the small group of trustees who favored a legal challenge to Hamilton on the grounds of failure to live up to a contract, otherwise known as "breach of promise." Chuck and others thought they had sufficient grounds to make their case in court - and it may be that they did. At any rate, I am sure that many of Chuck's Hamilton friends and colleagues were astonished by what one of "their" representatives" on the Kirkland Board was proposing.
My own concern for the immediate future of our students and faculty led me, with the majority of the Board, to oppose Chuck's plan on the grounds that it might be a pyrrhic victory, but that it would leave the college and all its people in an untenable limbo as it dragged through the legal system.
Chuck stood by his guns, as was his style. He was an obstinate man, bless him, and he knew that right was on his side. But it pained me then, as it does in the retelling, that we came to be on opposite sides of an issue at such a moment. As matters played out, we recognized that each of us was acting out of concern for Kirkland and its people, and I acknowledged, in Chuck, one of the most loyal trustees we ever had. That he thought fit to endow this lecture series, thereby perpetuating something of Kirkland on this hill he loved, is testimony to his wonderful, caring obstinacy, and I am most honored to have the pleasure of kicking it off in his name.
Mindful of Chuck looking over my shoulder, as it were, I have long pondered what I might say on this occasion. Some of you know that I have - for roughly twenty-plus years - been writing "the Kirkland Book." At first, I thought I might just trot it out and read from it. But the fact is, it isn't finished. I've done the first part - how we came to be - and I've done the last part - how we came not to be - but that middle part is tough. And besides, I haven't done a lick on it for a while, because real life keeps getting in the way. Some of you will remember that I did a bit of acting when the occasion permitted - a little Gilbert & Sullivan and so forth, while I was here? Well, I kept that up afterwards, filling in the margins of my life in New York and then in Providence, and when I retired a few years back, it occurred to me that I could do a lot more of that. So I did. And I still do. As it happens, there are wonderful parts for elderly type men, and not too many old codgers around who are acting. So you get the chance to be King Lear, or Polonius, or the servant, Firs in The Cherry Orchard, and you use a whole new set of both mental and physical muscles in the process. I love it. The only possible drawback is that so many of the characters die in the course of the plays. Well, nothing like practice in all things. I'll be readier than most when I get the final cue.
I want to talk a bit today about history. Some of it will be Kirkland history, because that is something entirely and wonderfully special that we share today. But some will be history on a broader, national scale, because I think that we are in sad need of reminders that there are relatively few things in this world that we can call "new," and that, in our national discourse, we seem to have forgotten much of what has gone before.
The Kirkland history is a kind of "Scenes from a Marriage" retrospective of some of the memories that stick with me most as I think back on Kirkland. Some good; some not so. The national part is an effort to work through my concerns about the situation that confronts all Americans right now and about our apparent disregard of the past as a means of understanding our present.
There is a movie in my head about the first time I came to Clinton with Natalie in 1965. We were taken in an old wooden station wagon to see the place where Ben Thompson had proposed that the new college be built. Grace Root, later a Kirkland Trustee and always a wonderful friend of women on the hill, was with us as we drove from an access road at the top of what was to be our campus, past beds of Saunder's peonies into a large open field where the hay was tall and ripe for mowing. Aside from the spectacular sweeping view of the woods and the far hills, I remember two things that stuck sharply out above the hay. One was an abandoned, rusty horse-drawn mower, and the other was an irregular series of gnarled and twisted apple trees. Grace told us that it had once been a productive orchard. I got out of the car and walked a little way into the field and that was when it struck me: we were actually going to build a college from the ground up, in every sense of the word. And not just any college, but one new in concept as well as design. It was almost overpowering. That was the moment I signed on, and that was the moment Kirkland got the apple tree on its seal. For me, and for many of us who toiled to make Kirkland happen, it was as close to Eden as we would ever get.
Then there was the moment - two years later - that I almost signed off. We had been at the wonderfully exhilarating process of building and the planning, and now was the time when it got real. Opening day in 1968. Frantic preparations, students, their families, pouring into buildings on which the concrete was barely set, reached by way of a paved road that was one day old. Having no classrooms of our own, we convened that evening in a Hamilton hall to discuss how we would govern ourselves. Students and Faculty together, we were about 200 souls. Inez Nelbach and I were what would now be called "facilitating" the meeting. I had written, in our prospectus, that we would be a self-governing community, and therefore that there would be no regulations written by the administration - or by anyone else - until we were on the ground and everyone had a chance to deliberate. OK, so here we were, and now was the time to deliberate. We therefore put to the assembled group what they might wish in terms of rules regarding their lives in the residence halls. Quiet hours? Protocols for visitors of the male persuasion? Those kinds of details. Now I know that the Charter Class has a reputation for being Wonder Women, full of assertiveness and self-assurance. But I can tell you that the first time we met together, they were not very forthcoming. Very few people had suggestions. We elders (I beg you to recall that I was then 39 years old) would gently prod, suggest, etc., with little effect. Then some student - fortunately, I have forgotten who she was - suggested that we didn't need any rules at all. That was greeted by general applause and good cheer.
Carl Schneider, the very first faculty member hired by Kirkland, was then the Chair of the Social Science Division. He and his wife, Dot, had fairly recently spent a year in some relatively outlandish spot like Turkey, where they had been asked by the government to help establish a college. So, puffing on a very professorial pipe, Carl rose to say that he had had some experience in the college-starting business, and that it might make sense to try a few rules and regulations on for size and then see how they worked, knowing that they could always be amended later. There was a brief silence after that, but then another young charter classperson stood up. I hope it wasn't the same one that suggested there be no rules at all. I'd like to think we could spread the blame. At any rate, this person faced Carl and calmly explained that although he might have had experience starting a college in Turkey, he had no more experience starting a college in Clinton, New York, than anyone else in the room, so there was no need to pay much attention to his suggestion.
Carl went into mild shock as the room exploded into applause. There were calls for a vote. Nel and I looked at each other and called time out. We went behind a curtain to talk. Both of us knew that this was TEST #1. Did we mean what was in the brochure? Did we really intend to give the community full say in how their lives would be lived? Or was this a situation that simply called for a temporary restraining order so that what we saw as common sense might be served and chaos averted?
I confess that, if Nel had balked, I probably would have backed down. But, she knew, as I did, that our credibility was on the line. She said she could live with it if I could. So we had a vote, and chaos won.
Or at least so it seemed. In time - about a week - the students had enough of sleepless nights and howling men from both Hamilton and Colgate, and they asked that some regulations be drawn up and adopted. Thus was born the first of the never-ending Ad Hoc Committees, that one chaired by Sybille Colby, who earned many stars in her crown in the process.
Of course, what struck me then, as it does now, was the assumption that experience doesn't count. The '60s were big on that. It was part of what made the time so exhilarating, and, of course, part of what made it often go too far, either into parody or into chaos. We were extraordinarily lucky on this hill in the '60s - which means the period from about 1968 to 1976. We were small enough to contain ourselves; we were not pitted one against the other - faculty against students, or faculty against trustees. Our anguish over the national policy was real; we acted on it, but not in self-destruction, such as happened on many another campus. One of the good things that colleges and universities did in those times was to try to understand in some collective way what was happening and why. To try to understand not only what was known as the "generation gap," but to try to fathom the forces at work domestically and internationally, which brought us to the complex and far-reaching tragedy now understood by the simple label, "Vietnam."
In the years before Kirkland began, we spent a lot of time trying to articulate what it was we wanted to occur in the life of a student who spent time with us. Maybe some of you will recall our talk about the various stages of a woman's life - symbolized in the stages of the tree on our seal: leaf, flower and fruit - and maybe some of you, having experienced some, if not all of these stages, now know what we were talking about. But of all the rhetoric of development that we professed, I don't suppose anything was more important to us than that a Kirkland graduate should learn how to think on her own.
Nothing very revolutionary in that, you might say. Hasn't that always been what education is about? Well - no. Modern education has a major tension built into it between those who view it as a passing on of the received wisdom - the facts, many would say - and those who see it as the effort to train independence of thought and imagination.
Of course, our emphasis on independent thought was part and parcel of feminism, but it went far beyond that. It was, in our view, the essence of education: that one would be given the tools and the techniques to think independently throughout one's adult life. This, in theory, at any rate, is what Jefferson meant when he talked about an informed and educated electorate - even if he had a difficult time thinking about women and slaves as eligible for either independent thought or the franchise. But that's another story. He was absolutely right on the theory of the thing.
Thinking people are less susceptible to the inevitable self-serving of political parties and special interests. Thinking people look for the logic of proposals, are wary of sloganeering and over-simplification.
In the sixties, when Kirkland was just beginning, we all endured a period of heightened anxiety as a nation. It was a time that demanded of each of us that we come to grips with hard factual and moral issues and stake out our own positions in the midst of turmoil and violent emotions. Those of you who lived through that will recall that the nation tended to be in an either/or mode. You were for it or agin it. Today, it seems quite likely to me that we are headed, once more, and with the best of intent, into as messy an international situation as one could imagine. It has not yet had the kind of domestic repercussions that will make the citizenry sit up and take notice. Not yet - thanks to our perfectly sound reaction to attack: a pulling together behind our national leadership, and thanks, too, to the truly remarkable weaponry that has allowed us to pursue limited geographic wars with minimum casualties. But that may change, and I think it will. It is more likely that the first and most evident pain will be in the pocketbook, in the form of the astonishing vanishing surplus and an economy made staggeringly edgy by uncertainty and a loss of public and private confidence. The combination of the post-boom revelations of the Enron and Tyco and Anderson and Merrill Lynch has come at a time when the public has been asked to sign a blank check in red, white and blue ink. It gives me chills to hear a senator (he happens to be a Democrat) rather blithely say "The key…. is to have a continuing war."
If we have succeeded in what Kirkland wanted to achieve, there is a great deal of mental activity going on amongst those who studied here and at places like it, where they learned to think.
I ask myself, when I think about Kirkland - which is pretty often - if what we were trying to do then still makes sense today. I have no hesitation at all about the most basic of our premises: that a college exists for its students. We got a good deal of guff about that. Some from faculty members who thought we had it backwards, that a college existed to support a faculty that, in turn, would teach students. Others held that it was a mindless piece of pandering to the young. But I think we were right then and we would be right now, as well. To begin with, a college - as opposed to a university - need have no ambiguity about its central mission. That mission is to teach undergraduates. Accordingly, its resources and its design should reflect that central focus on students.
We also used to say that the central activity of the college was to get the students - the comparatively inexperienced learners - together with the faculty - the more experienced learners - in a process of mutual exploration. It was a simple update of the old log with a teacher on one end and a student on the other. This, too, to some faculty members, seemed a denigration of their status as holders of the received wisdom. But I would argue that college teaching is about learning to learn. Of course, in the process, there is a good deal of transmission of facts. There must be. Facts are the markers we use to build our conclusions. But the goal is to learn how to evaluate the "facts" one receives, how to dig for them, how to give them meaning and context, and finally, how to reach conclusions which are consistent with them.
I had an extraordinary personal experience on one end of this spectrum of learning. One year, a group of Black students asked me to take on a group independent study of American Black literature. Now I had read Ellison's The Invisible Man, Richard Wright, and some James Baldwin, but that was it. Was I qualified to "teach" Black Lit? In any traditional sense, I was not. On the other hand, I was a teacher of American literature, I was used to dealing with literary texts, and I was curious to learn more about an area in which I was lacking. And I had a group of students - there must have been eight or 10 - who were truly interested in learning with me. Together, we had another great asset. Some of the students' parents were interested in helping to put a reading list together AND they knew where paperback editions could be found.
I don't know how those students would feel about the experience now, but it was wonderful for me. Together, we went at the new material, and it wasn't long before we were in heavy waters, because most of the students were interested to a greater extent in the content and viewpoint of the books than in their merit as written fiction. I remember, for example, the novel that dealt with Sally Hemmings and her relationship to Thomas Jefferson. Fascinating stuff. Not particularly well written, in my opinion. So we got into it. What distinguishes literature from propaganda? Can a piece of propaganda, or a tract also be good literature? These are fundamental questions that reach far beyond "literature," and as we went through some dozen books, we began slowly to separate wheat from chaff and to learn how to defend our positions. We loved some of the books, we didn't like others, but the point was, we had to make choices, all of us, and defend them. I think - and hope - that general idea continues to be alive and well on this hill.
But as I look at our nation at this moment in its history, I am saddened and alarmed by the lack of a sense of context and history that seems to permeate our public discourse. Some of that is natural, following on the truly horrifying events of last September and the subsequent call to arms issued by the president.
My antennae went up on September 11th itself, when the phrases "everything has changed" and "nothing will ever be the same" seemed to echo from every corner while the smoke and flame still rose from the twin towers. Technology, it is true, has a way of magnifying the impact of acts of destruction. Let us grant that. Scale has changed in remarkable ways. But was this the first time we had ever been attacked on our own shores? No. Decidedly not. Before we were a nation, we were at constant war with what we now call Native Americans and what we then called red devils and worse. We became a nation through rebellion, using every destructive trick we could against our "occupying" oppressors, and being given the same, in spades by the British. We won, but by 1812, the British were trying again, and - guess what? - burning the White House. Yes, entering Washington, D.C. and burning the White House.
I have a good friend who is the son of a former ranking member of the Russian Czar's household guard. He and his family escaped the revolution by going south into China, and he eventually came to the United States as a young teenager. He's had a very successful life, and I can't think of a more loyal American patriot. But when he came to my house and saw, above our mantle, a wonderful etching that used to hang in my grandfather's house, he was very upset. It depicts the tearing down of the statue of George the Third in Bowling Green, in New York City in 1776. The statue was made of lead, and it was broken up and sent to the Connecticut countryside in ox carts of hay, then melted down for bullets for the "rebel" colonists. My friend finds the etching distasteful, inappropriate and worrying. He does not understand where this country he loves came from. The people who fired those new-made mini-balls were not the uniformed representatives of any government. They were revolutionaries, or, in this year's mot du jour, "terrorists." Mindful of their tenuous claim to legitimacy, these rebels soon gathered themselves in Philadelphia, and after incredible and tortuous debate, published their justification in the Declaration of Independence.
And do we forget the ravages of our own civil war? The spying, the bombing, the looting, the draft and race riots in New York, the guerilla warfare, the scorched earth, the President in despair for the Union itself? Finally, the assassination? Has, indeed, everything changed? Will nothing really ever be the same?
Do we forget German U-boats putting men ashore in Maine during WWII? Do we forget the New Jersey beaches clogged with oil from sinking tankers? Do we forget - you bet we do - the Japanese-American citizens interned on the West Coast? The German-Americans who lost their livelihoods until they learned to change their names?
At Kirkland, after the chaos of the first few days, came the Ad Hoc Committee, and, after long toil, a constitution which established an Assembly composed of students and faculty and charged with the broadest possible involvement in the operation of our academic and community life. What we all learned, and rather quickly, was what an extraordinary amount of time and energy participatory government takes! It's all very well to decide on a general direction; the trouble, as always, comes in the details. About 50% of politics is stamina, and a good percentage of the rest is who has the microphone. So what's new?
Out of this familiar dilemma comes representative government. I will choose, periodically, the person I believe will best represent my views. This is what we do nationally. This is what we promote internationally - particularly when it serves our purposes. But that does not mean that turn over our minds to our representative and that we abdicate our duty to think. That does not mean that we ignore or bury what we know of history and the nature of mankind. And as we take advantage of the fact that our leaders serve for specified terms and then must be re-elected, the judgments as to our county's future conduct once again become ours. We can spur our leaders on, or throw the rascals out. We have no greater function as free people.
The highest end of higher education is to produce a thinking person. If we can agree on that - and I expect we can - then why is it that critical thinking seems to wither as we assume our places in society as public citizens? Why do even our thinking politicians (and I am sure there are many of them) suppress their critical faculties when addressing the public on issues of importance? Sound bites may have gotten shorter, but again, sloganeering is not a new phenomenon. Remember "54.40 or Fight?" "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold?" So the fact that we are fed a simplified view of the world is not novel in any way. But wouldn't it be wonderful to hear some leader say, in effect, "this is a really tough issue, and a very complicated one. In fact, I don't know if there is a right or a wrong way to proceed. What I do know is that we must proceed, and I will do my utmost to move us in the most positive way I can find."
Most of us would agree - even those of us who threw our votes away on Adlai Stevenson - that such candor, with its public admission of doubt would be a sure formula for political defeat - no matter how refreshing it might be. OK, so let's try again, without admitting that we may be wrong. How about a leader saying: "Here's the problem as I see it, and after much consultation, here's the solution I'm going to pursue." That's good, right? And that's pretty much what our President said after we had been attacked. But then he went on. He proposed, in effect, that the United States take on "terrorism" - with or without the help of others - wherever it reared its head. He declared war. Well, kind of. Not against any nation - though he threatened a few - but against "terrorists" and their supporters. We Americans like to do that - throw down the gauntlet and say we are going to war against whatever it is that is in our way. LBJ declared war on poverty. Nixon declared war on cancer. I wish we had some examples of actual success in that generalized type of warfare. I can't think of any, offhand.
One of the difficulties in declaring a general war on terrorism is that every nation on earth has its own terrorists. Certainly we do, from pipe bombers to unabombers to Branch Davidians to God knows what free-lance crazies. Certainly the Israelis have them; they are called Palestinians. Certainly the Saudis do; they are called dissident extremists, and so, in India, in Pakistan, in Indonesia, Japan, China, Spain - the list is endless. What becomes important to know who is doing the labeling and for what purpose. At the present moment, Prime Minister Sharon is practicing a kind of political ju-jitsu by justifying his recent incursions as a piece of the larger effort to stamp out terrorists around the world. Lord Howe surely felt total justification in shooting colonists who were rebelling against established government in New York and New Jersey.
So - who is doing the labeling at the present time? Mostly, it is safe to say, the people in power. That is, to begin with, the United States, in the role of unchallenged superpower. Quite rightly, we labeled the perpetrators of the September 11th attack. That made sense, and it still does. We built a credible case to nail it on the Al Quada and Bin Laden, and we pulled off the truly remarkable alliance with Pakistan, a state that we previously regarded as a military dictatorship and an unfriendly one at that. The sudden Pakistani alliance had the logic of expediency behind it, and it has been generally accepted. God help us all, may the threat of war between India and Pakistan recede, with the nuclear nightmare that accompanies it. But even that nightmare is not new. We have been there before, only it recedes from memory so that we can continue to think and plan about the future.
How long this first, clear phase of our "War on Terrorism" will last, and how effective it will be, remains to be seen. If, as we are told, we have essentially scattered the leadership of a world-wide enterprise, then we must assume that they will re-group, perhaps not so much physically as electronically, and the dance will continue for a long, long time.
But after that first success - the direct counter-attack that we launched against a known enemy and the people who harbored him - things get very murky. It is clear that we have not made our larger case to our European allies, though Britain and Canada and a few others are helping in a token way, and we certainly have not made our case to that vast portion of the world that identifies itself as predominantly Muslim. The clear battle cry that we announced in block letters on the world's blackboard has been smudged and distorted by a dirty eraser comprised of the anger, the fear and the envy that we inspire in counties around the globe. Does that make us baddies? Not at all. Does that complicate matters? You bet it does.
We turn to Jordan, to Egypt, to Saudi Arabia, and we find their leadership sick with concern for the stability of their own regimes. "Fix the Israeli/Palestinian problem," they tell us. "Until that is resolved, we cannot turn our attention elsewhere. We agree with you about terrorism - it is everywhere in these lands where the young are more than 50% of the population and there are no jobs for them, no visible future. We were fighting that issue long before they got to your twin towers. But we can't turn on Iraq or Iran, or Libya - not now - we cannot even stand by and see you do it yourselves. Too dangerous for us, because there are ideological trip-wires leading from those countries right into the heart of our own."
So we are learning once more - in public, and with difficulty - the lessons our own writers have been teaching us for more than a century. Europeans see the world differently from we Americans. They see our instinct for the pragmatic, simple solution as a form of national naiveté. And the Muslims? They are no more monolithic than the Europeans, but their view of the United States does not play to our advantage.
The "next steps" which were referred to ominously in the first announcement of the "war on terror," were carefully unspecific as to their nature and their timing. The good part of that is that, aside from the specificity of toppling Saddam Hussein, we have not said what we might or might not have in mind; the bad part is that we seem to have said that we were willing and eager to set right any number of the world's wrongs. We have announced a truly startling desire to make the world over in our own image. And we have now announced that the best way to achieve our ends is by pre-emptive attack - anywhere on the globe.
Now maybe - since there are some among you who do not know me - I should pause here to say that I believe strongly that the United States should be active on the world stage. We must be, in part because we can be and there is much good to be done. Second, I am no pacifist. I have seen war, have fired a rifle in anger and had rifles fired at me. As a matter of last resort, I support war, and there is no doubt in my mind that we should be in Afghanistan doing what we are doing. There can be no immunity for those who attack us.
That said, what am I implying here, and why am I talking at such length about current affairs, when I began by talking about Kirkland? I do so because I believe the two are connected. Because I believe strongly that the circumstances in which we can least afford to forget how to think are the crises of our lives, whether they be at the personal or the national level.
I hope no one teaching at Kirkland ever taught that the piece of the great puzzle that they were professing was simple. I don't care what the subject was - literature, science, math, theatre, biology or pottery. We do not serve knowledge - and therefore our selves or our nation - by a false sense of the simplicity of things. What I hope is that you Kirklanders came away from this hill with a daunting sense of the complicated nature of every facet of the world, from our own natures to the natures of a single cell and a giant eco-system.
I have another movie in my head - a bittersweet one - of the informal meeting of the faculty and staff that happened on the evening when we knew for certain that Kirkland would not go on as a separate entity. It was in McEwen, in what was then the Lounge, and after I told everyone the facts as I knew them (the two Boards had been meeting in New York, I believe) I struggled for some way to express a positive sense of our collective future. What I said then was that the college would live on. Not as we hoped it might have - as a discrete institution - but as a part of all of us who had participated in it as students, as faculty, as staff and as Trustees. And that each of us, in turn, would convey what was best about Kirkland to those with whom we worked, those we taught, those who were and those who would become our families. I confess that I was expressing more a hope than a conviction in that sad hour.
But I note with a delight that passes description, that the institution which began it all and then deserted the great conception which might have been, even going so far as to rewrite history for a bit, has, in recent times, reached out to acknowledge the importance of the Kirkland years and the role that its educational values have played in shaping the experience of the men and women of Hamilton college today. Time and fate play interesting games.
Over the past decades, as I have talked to those of you who were here and who immersed yourselves in Kirkland, I have been struck, over and over, with the fact that the college touched many people profoundly and touches them still. I see and hear how you feel about education when you think about your children, or your students, or your colleagues, and I know that, in the phrase that Jesse Zellner coined for our Alumni Newsletter, "Kirkland Matters."