摘要Address by Pericles Lewis at the Opening Assembly for the Class of 2026, Yale University


On Conversation文章源自英文巴士-https://www.en84.com/13650.html

– First-Year Address by Pericles Lewis文章源自英文巴士-https://www.en84.com/13650.html


August 22, 2022文章源自英文巴士-https://www.en84.com/13650.html


Thank you, Chaplain Kugler.文章源自英文巴士-https://www.en84.com/13650.html


President Salovey, colleagues, students, families, and friends, good morning! Students from the Class of 2026, transfer students, and Eli Whitney students, and visiting international students, welcome to Yale! And family members and friends, in my role as Dean of Yale College, I extend my warm welcome to you as well, along with gratitude for everything you have done in supporting and guiding these young adults.文章源自英文巴士-https://www.en84.com/13650.html


This Opening Assembly is one of my favorite formal events of the academic year because it introduces us to each other, just as you, our new students, have begun introducing yourselves to your classmates. And I also think of it, less formally, as the beginning of a conversation with your peers and instructors that will go on for many years to come.文章源自英文巴士-https://www.en84.com/13650.html


You will find great fellowship here, and also you’ll find the great pleasure of learning. At the beginning of his “Analects,” the Chinese philosopher Confucius provides words that are as relevant today as they were 2,500 years ago. Here he is, as though addressing you now: “Is it not a pleasure to learn and – when it is timely – to practice what you have learned? Is it not a joy to have friends coming from afar” And I am delighted to welcome you, our new students, who come from near or far to experience the pleasure of learning together. Yale Professor Annping Chin emphasizes that the purpose of learning, for Confucius, consisted in the opportunity to develop our moral and aesthetic sensibilities, to fulfill our humanity, and to do so with humility. In a parallel with Socrates, who lived about a century later, we know most of what Confucius taught through conversations that he had, and accounts of his disciples. In fact, his book “The Analects” is known in Chinese as “Luny Yu,” which means “conversations” or “dialogues.” And like these ancient thinkers, the community that you are now joining is that one learns through dialogue. Thoughtful conversation can allow each of us to develop our own sensibilities and to fulfill our humanity.


The Yale College community has a long history, shaped by the many generations of students who have come before you. And this week, more than 1,500 of you have come to New Haven from all over the world. No single racial or ethnic group makes up a majority in this very diverse student body. Almost a fifth of you will be in the first generation in your families to graduate from a 4-year college. Approximately a fifth of you have received Pell Grants for lower-income students. 128 applied through the QuestBridge program. 47 were admitted through the transfer and Eli Whitney Students programs. 13 of you are US military veterans, and 21 of you began your college education at a community college. Hear, hear. And together, you represent 51 states and territories of the United States and more than 50 countries. Amidst this great diversity, you also share much in common: you are promising students with wide horizons and an excitement about learning. Now, when you hear me talk about horizons, I should say that when I wrote this speech, I was expecting good weather. So I’m hoping that, you know, the horizon will hold for at least a little bit longer.


Together, you’ve come to Yale to pursue a broad, liberal education. And you will find one here, in both formal and informal settings. Here we stand in front of Sterling Memorial Library, the heart of campus, which holds over 2 million books in all fields of knowledge. And I will say to you all, undergraduates, that while underneath you is the Cross-Campus Library, which is a great place to study, do go up into the stacks of Sterling even if you’re not gonna take out any books, just to get a sense of the range of knowledge that is out there and that you might someday explore, recognizing that, in your whole lifetime, you won’t make it through all 2 million books. But you’ll learn in the classrooms and discussion sections that start next week; you’ll learn in the libraries, in the galleries, and in the laboratories where you will broaden and test what you have learned; and in the desk or the carol that you may reserve for solitary study. And you’ll experience the less formal part of your education when you talk with people around you, in the student groups that you join, with your instructors during their office hours, or with the stranger or new friends sitting beside you at the long table in your residential college dining hall. Yale’s traditions and communities form their own civil society that exists in parallel to the official curriculum taught by the professors. Of course, you are here to pursue the formal study. But I also encourage you to explore various ways to learn outside the classroom or the library. This is a campus designed, often intentionally and sometimes just by happy accident, for conversation. Together, the books, and the classrooms, and the more informal lessons that you’ll learn from each other – all of these form part of a single, broader conversation – the conversation of a scholarly community that defines the pursuit of knowledge in a great university.


Now you come here knowing the state of public discourse in our polarized society. You know already that, at times, it simply reaffirms our existing beliefs; at other times, devolves into partisanship or even violence. Universities are not immune to dogma, but they do aspire to a higher type of conversation. As you join or start your own conversations in the semesters ahead, think about how you can expand your horizons. One of the distinctive things about human experience is that each of us is born in a particular body, at a particular time and place. And therefore we see the world from a given perspective. But we also have the chance to expand our worldview as we grow and learn and travel. The poet Tennyson has a beautiful image of this kind of learning in his poem “Ulysses.” He writes: “I am a part of all that I have met; / Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’ / Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades / For ever and forever when I move.” There is always something to learn just over the horizon.


Whether you have traveled a long way to get here or whether you have lived all your life in New Haven, you may feel that sense of an expanding horizon as you meet new friends and explore new intellectual territory. I’ve spent almost half my life at Yale, so I see the world from a very particular vantage point. But I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about how education allows us to transcend the limits of our horizons. In his book “Truth and Method,” an important book about historical interpretation, the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer wrote that “The horizon is the range of vision that includes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point,” and he argued that understanding involves what he called a “fusion of horizons” in which we become more thoughtful about how our own assumptions and the way we see things correspond to and relate to someone else’s vantage point. For Gadamer, interpreting an ancient text or having a conversation or dialogue with another person involves opening ourselves up to reassessing our own assumptions.


Now, he focuses on interpersonal and humanistic knowledge, but a similar process is at work in testing scientific hypotheses. In fact, the work of understanding, and even just the work of living in this world, involves a constant mental journey through time and space that develops our views and changes our horizons – a journey like the one that Ulysses made, what the Greeks called an Odyssey. It involves an ongoing metaphorical conversation where we question our own assumptions and prejudices through our encounters with other people. Ideally, if we are open to growing, we can talk to people whose standpoints differ from our own, and we can learn from those conversations. A crucial, in fact, even a defining prerequisite of learning, especially at the university level, is the willingness to open ourselves to views and ideas – and even ways of life – that challenge our assumptions, either so that we can learn to our assumptions and understand them, or in some cases to change and to reassess those assumptions. This doesn’t mean that you need to accept every idea that your professors or fellow students propose to you.


But in the years ahead, your job will be to consider the new ideas you encounter with an open mind, to weigh new perspectives and arguments, and to arrive at your own views about matters of great importance for yourselves and for your futures – matters such as the nature of justice, the understanding of the natural world, the meaning of art, the purposes of life.


You will explore these questions not only in your classes but also over meals in your dining halls, on the athletic fields, in your campus jobs, in your student organizations, as volunteers serving the community, or in any of the many pursuits open to you as a student. One of the greatest opportunities to learn at Yale comes from the “peer effect,” that’s the chance to interact with talented people your own age. The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie, who also happens to have received her master’s degree at Yale, offers a similar vision to Gadamer’s when she discusses learning about other people’s experiences, especially in the context of living in a college community.


So Gadamer focuses on understanding different horizons through time and history, Adichie emphasizes listening to different stories through space and geography. In her speech on “The Danger of a Single Story,” she tells of arriving at the age of 19 at another fine American university (I won’t mention the name of the other university) where her roommate knew nothing about Nigeria and made certain stereotypical assumptions about Adichie’s homeland and way of life. So at first, Adichie was annoyed at her roommate’s lack of understanding. But after spending some time in the United States, and thinking about her own limited knowledge of rural parts of Nigeria that she had never visited, Adichie came to realize that her roommate’s assumptions were due to her limited exposure to more accurate stories about Africa. Adichie goes on to tell both positive and negative stories of her childhood and then she says: “All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”


Adichie concludes that “it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person.” It is all too easy to make assumptions about others that we meet, or to take offense at assumptions others make about us, but our goal is to engage in dialogue so that we can overcome initial misunderstandings and learn from one another.


As you settle into your residential colleges and begin your classes, I invite you to participate in a dialogue. Like Confucius, enjoy the pleasure of learning. Like Ulysses, seek out new worlds. Like Gadamer, strive to expand your horizon of expectations. Like Adichie, explore the complexity of other people’s stories, share your own stories, and create new stories together. You may find the most interesting conversations in seminars or lab meetings, or you may find them in your extracurricular activities, or late at night in the college buttery.


You’ll find those conversations where you seek them. In order for them to succeed, I ask you to open yourselves to learning from each other. Enter into conversation in a spirit of generosity. Assume good intentions. Value complexity and nuance over self-assurance and stereotype. These conversations are an integral part of your Yale education. The lessons they teach you will show you how to develop as human beings. And they will show you how to shape the conversations that shape our society.


Thank you, and welcome to Yale.

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