The Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program of the College of Arts and Sciences brings prominent, nationally and internationally renowned scholars, artists, and intellectuals to the Boston campus for stays ranging from one week to a month. The scholars contribute to the intellectual vitality of the entire college community by teaching courses, holding workshops and roundtables, and delivering public lectures. In its fifth year, the program hosted the following scholars during 2007-2008:
“Know that your health is the most important thing you have,” says health care activist Billye Avery. “It is really one of the only things you own.” Avery, founder and president of the Avery Institute for Social Change and founder of the National Black Women’s Health Project, believes that health care is a human right, and for 25 years has advocated for patients’ access to insurance, health records, and equity in the health care system. “Get involved. Learn the issues. Start small,” said Avery. “Find a few like-minded people and start with a small group discussion. What do we want to have as a legacy?” she asks. “We want to engage people around change, vision and a better future.” Avery Youtube clip here. See related story.
“What’s the most important thing we want to teach students?” asks US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. “Democracy.” The participation of citizens in the democratic process, what Breyer calls “active liberty,” is necessary to having a workable government. “We judges cannot insist that Americans participate in that government, but we can make clear that our Constitution depends on it.” Get involved in the community, participate on any level of civic engagement, including politics, school boards and other organizations, he says. “Unless most of you do something like that—participation—the document I work with every day just won’t work.” Breyer has published numerous books on administrative law, economic regulation and the Constitution, including Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution (2005). Breyer lectures here. See related story.
The Faye Family
A family of Senegalese men in crisp yellow tunics and dyed patterned pants sat side by side, their drums in arms’ reach and their smiles bright as costumes. Representing the Faye family of griots, or ‘praise singers,’ from Dakar, Senegal, they tuned the line-up of hourglass shaped drums—one still dangling an airline luggage tag—by tightening wooden pegs around the rims. One after another the drums came to life, creating a rhythm for movement and a language for reaching across villages. The drummers—Vieux Sing Faye, the patriarch and chief griot of Dakar; Aziz and Mouhamadou Moustapha Faye, sons of Vieux; and Malik Ngom, grandson of Vieux—presented the gewel drumming tradition, taught traditional dance moves, and performed at a concert in the C. Walsh Theatre. See related story.
“Liberty expresses who we are: thinking, judging and choosing individuals. Liberty is that individuality,” says Charles Fried, former associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. “Yet we must somehow draw boundaries. There are things that we need and want government to do, like drawing lines for the betterment of the community.” But does government limit liberty, or put a floor under it? “I don’t think it’s possible to come up with an algorithm for this,” he says. “I know it when I see it—a law which is designed to suppress liberty, and when the purpose of a law is to let a thousand flowers bloom.” Fried is the author of eight books, including Modern Liberty and the Limits of Government (2006). Fried lectures here. See related story.
Maxine Hong Kingston
“What can we do to engage the young?” asks writer and professor Maxine Hong Kingston. “I come from UC Berkeley, and I notice the demonstrations are organized by the faculty, the white-haired people from the 60s. Back in the old days, it was the students who did it and yelled for the faculty to come out and join them.” Writing can be a political action, she says. “I have this faith that you write your story, you write your poem, and you can write your way home from war. You do public acts of writing and you get it out there so other people can hear it.” Kingston’s books include The Fifth Book of Peace (2003), To Be the Poet (2002), and The Woman Warrior (1975). Kingston lectures here. See related story.
“The European Union is challenged by globalization, by the US, China and other countries,” says Emil Kirchner, an international leader in the research and teaching of European politics. Discussing the Treaty of Lisbon, developed in 2007 to govern and help the expanding EU respond to changing political and economic issues, he says the future of the EU is one of unity and diversity, with the EU able to accomplish more together than the countries could individually. “I think what we have in the EU is the equivalent of a security community—one where you have peaceful expectations and if there is a conflict it will be resolved peacefully. If we look at European history over centuries, this in itself is a big achievement.” See related story.
Frances Moore Lappé
Citing the statistic that 854 million people go hungry in the world each day, Frances Moore Lappé, an internationally acclaimed social and environmental activist and co-founder of the Small Planet Institute, remains devoted to the causes that propelled her into the public eye 30 years ago when she wrote the bestseller, Diet for a Small Planet. Nine books later, including the recent Getting A Grip: Clarity, Creativity and Courage in a World Gone Mad, she continues to focus on the social and economic systems that fail to produce fairness in the world, advocating for “democracy as a living practice in which all voices are empowered—democracy as a way of life, a set of values and mutual accountability grounded in basic fairness and the inclusion of all of us.” She advises taking purposeful risks in life. “Trust,” she says. “And go into thin air.” Lappe Youtube clip here. See related story.
Women pursuing biomedical science careers often face challenges ranging from lack of female role models and mentors in their fields to family responsibilities, racial bias, and sexual discrimination. “We need to identify what the barriers are and see what we can do to make it an easier path for women,” says Vivian W. Pinn, PhD, director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Careers in science are so exciting; it brings you inner pride that you’ve been successful.” The recipient of nine Honorary Degrees of Law and Science since 1992, Pinn launched a web site through the NIH to promote the advancement of women in biomedical research careers (http://womeninscience.nih.gov). “If science turns you on, make sure those battles don’t keep you from doing what you love.”Pinn lectures here. See related story.
“Mexican theater has many pages still to write about the new faces of violence, drug cartels, kidnappings, and extortions,” says award-winning playwright Dr. Hugo Salcedo, speaking through a translator after students gave a dramatic public reading of his most famous play, El viaje de los cantores/The Crossing, the tragic story of 18 Mexicans trying to cross the U.S. border illegally only to meet with their death trapped in a railroad boxcar. “Never before did the act of staring at an empty computer screen offer the possibility of writing topics of utmost importance.” Salcedo, a professor of humanities at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, is also a poet, essayist, and critic, and has written more than 40 plays that have been published and performed in the US, Mexico, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Venezuela. Salcedo lectures here. See related story.