All of us here tonight have learned and been inspired by your commitment to an open academy and to support for our open academy at Claremont McKenna College. And we are so fortunate to have David Brooks tonight, one of the most important voices today of principle and morality, on our national page.
Heterodoxy is not just a collective or a compositional diversity of thought.
You’re all familiar with the New Yorker cartoon in which the elderly couple is watching the news, and the announcer says, “Well, that was the Republican weather and now for the Democratic weather.”
That is not heterodoxy. Heterodoxy in its most powerful form, empowers us as individuals and as groups to hold two or more ostensibly contradictory observations as one time. Like the scientists competing hypothesis and null hypothesis we’re in the face of a false dichotomy, such as free expression and inclusion, to replace either/or with an emphatic end.
In this spirit, we should explore at least three different perspectives all at once tonight.
Yes, first pride in our accomplishments.
Second, even with the great wine, sobriety in reflecting on our formidable challenges.
And third, guided collective inspiration for the challenging road ahead.
First, yes, pride.
In the accomplishments of the Heterodox Academy, pride in the awardees.
I’m particular proud of Jonathan Zimmerman. His daughter, Becca, is CMC 2018 graduate. And you can see how much Jonathan has learned from his daughter.
But to the other awardees as well, the courage of Sam Abrams, the scholarship of Keith Whittingham who appeared at the — last year, of the creativity of Coleman Hughes, and in particular, the leadership of LBCC.
I am so inspired that the Heterodox Academy would award and recognize a student group from a community college, probably the most important sector in our Higher Ed space.
And one that gets very, very little attention.
And yes, I am proud of what we’ve achieved at Claremont McKenna.
It has been said that every new idea is a bad one until it has an institution.
It is also true that every institution, every new institution, is a bad one until it attracts the support and participation of great people.
I think this is true for all of us.
The original idea of our college, founded mainly by veterans of World War II and funded by the GI Bill, was to create a rationally balanced education to prepare a generation for leaders for the future issues of their time.
And the Claremont McKenna open academy commitments to free expression, viewpoint diversity, and effective dialogue are designed to do just that.
We see these commitments as the programmatic compliment to the Chicago Principles, but they go beyond that.
We’re proud of the programs, the institutions we’ve created.
Our athenaeum, the rich array of the world’s thought and action leaders we host nearly every night of the academic year.
Our student podcast group, Free Food For Thought, who explore the key inflection points between the personal and the professional.
In fact, Jonathan was interviewed by them.
I think his podcast is probably the most popular one in that entire beautiful series.
Our CARE Center, which trains all of our students in the integrated social and intellectual skills we need to learn through and across our differences.
Including the integration of free speech principles in effective dialogue training.
Our Model UN program, boasting four world championships in five years, with enumerable diplomacy awards for its focus on collaboration as the most powerful skill in solving complex problems.
And our curriculum and great faculty and special seminars that teach Hayek and Marx in one afternoon.
Or engage students on how to think and talk about the most wildly diverse perspectives across the political spectrum.
Such as The University Blacklist, co-taught by Jonathan Shields, professor from CMC who’s here tonight.
Who assigns books by authors from right and left, who have been dis-invited from US universities and colleges.
But especially, we are proud of the individuals.
The trustees, the alumni, the donors who have supported these programs, and the faculty, staff, and students who bring them to life.
It is they, not I, who deserve the spotlight here tonight.
And many of them are here with us, representing all of these preexisting, all of these existing programs that I mentioned.
And I’d like our two tables, tables 7 and 13, to stand up and to be recognized by this great group.
Second, beyond this well-deserved pride for all of us and all of you, we must also reflect with sobriety about the nature of our challenges.
Sobriety, because we must all face the negative pregnant in our value statements.
Open suggests a worrisome closing.
Viewpoint diversity implies the threat of homogeneity.
Constructive infers the destructive nature of our disagreements.
Heterodoxy points to the risk of unchallenged orthodoxy.
But we also need to realize that we can’t measure openness by anecdote alone.
Or polemic conclusions in search of self-selected evidence.
Just as there are no inter-disciplines without disciplines, heterodoxy relies on ideas derived from multiple orthodoxies.
And diversity is only as strong as the underlying unity we find through it.
The Unum in our Pluribus.
Disagreement, no matter how constructive, is a means to a deeper understanding, finding truth and solving problems.
Disagreement is not an end in itself.
We are not in higher education, not dedicated to higher learning, only to disagree better.
Beyond the necessary adjustments, we also have to ask the bigger questions about the structural forces that are pulling us apart and sorting us into tribes.
And yes, Jonathan, effecting the mental health of our country.
Globalization, technology, secularization, urbanization, the historic divisions of race, class, gender.
We are divided by inequitable constructs of our own making.
Our collective failure in meeting basic levels of education for all Americans, itself now a major source of division.
How the resulting tumultuous rapids are flooding downstream into our colleges and universities.
And yes, out of our colleges and universities, into major positions of leadership in our economy and our politic.
And finally, third, with this deeper assessment of our collective success and failures, we have to get to work.
The big question at the end of every conference is what do we do on Monday?
We need vision and strategy and plans and a national pedagogy to develop the most powerful, centripetal strategies. Centripetal, educational strategies.
Those that pull us together to counter these destructive, divisive, centrifugal effects.
To meet the demands of full and successful, equal participation in a vibrant democracy, in an increasingly disruptive economy, in a culture and national community that all flourish, necessarily flourish, through the creative collision of diverse ideas and experiences.
And no matter how sobering this picture may be, the Heterodox Academy, our amazing awardees here tonight, David Brooks, and all of you here who are here to learn and contribute, give us hope as we look into this unchartered future.
“Hope cannot be said to exist or not exist,” wrote Lu Xun, a leading Chinese writer during the Republican period between the two World Wars.
“Hope,” he said, “is like a road on the earth. At first, there were no roads, but when many people walk in a single direction, a road is made.”
And so thanks to you all for walking the walk and building the road together.
Many congratulations. And thank you very much for this honor.