This 200-plus-year-old poem helps me suggest a link between sustainable living and civil discourse because, as in much poetry, intellect, and heart are married. Here, form fashions and constrains anger, preserving access to our sympathies.
The World is Too Much With Us
by William Wordsworth
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Fellow alumni, members of the Board of Managers, distinguished guests, members of the faculty, parents, students, staff, neighbors, and friends of the College, welcome to this special occasion marking the installation of Swarthmore College's 14th president, Rebecca Chopp.
Inaugurations provide a unique opportunity to look at our shared history, to reflect on some of the foundation building that brought us to this moment, and to gaze, with optimism, and indeed, with hope, into the future together. I thought I might just a few moments to invoke some of the best thinking of our forbears, pausing at a few key moments in our early history.
The very first meeting of Friends that resulted in the creation of Swarthmore College was held at the Baltimore home of Martha Tyson in late 1860, nearly 150 years ago. During that meeting-and in a subsequent address to their fellow Quakers on the subject of education-the College's leading proponents articulated their hopes for the new school and included this passage about teaching: "It is a great mistake to suppose that book learning is the only necessary qualification for a teacher. Besides a knowledge of his own heart (and) perfect self-government ... he must understand how to teach, which is as much an art as any other vocation...." And indeed our fine faculty have stood as a testament to this truth from the moment the College formally opened in 1869. Collaborative and engaging teaching is one of our cornerstones.
Edward Magill, one of the earliest of those faculty members and later our second president, wrote in a letter to his predecessor Edward Parrish that "(the College) must not be allowed to make one-sided men and women ... but its course of studies should be so arranged, as to provide a broad and generous culture for all, whatever their career in life may be destined to be." And so was another one of our cornerstones set - describing a liberal arts college committed to educate well and broadly, in the pursuit of both the common good as well as intellectual rigor and advancement.
When President Parrish delivered the first inaugural address in the College's history, he observed that "a peculiarity of this organization, as contrasted with most others for like purposes, is the association of women equally with men in its origin and management." And yet another cornerstone of our College was laid, a profound commitment to progressive social movement through the education of women alongside men.
From its inception, inspirational women have served as the driving force behind Swarthmore - women like Lucretia Mott, who, when she was not busy establishing our college, was hard at work on the seminal social issues of the day, including the abolition of slavery and securing voting and other equal rights for women. We are privileged to have had powerful and effective women like Martha Tyson serve on our Board of Managers. Indeed our Board was equally comprised of women and men during a time when doing so actually required an act of the state legislature. Our first faculty members included women - decidedly not the trend at the time. And the very first classes to enter Swarthmore welcomed both men and women.
The inauguration of any president is a momentous occasion, but the inauguration of Rebecca Chopp is a long-awaited and very welcome affirmation of the vision of those founders and each of our foundational cornerstones. As the first woman to chair the College's Board of Managers, it is my particular pleasure to preside here today over the installation of a truly great leader who understands our founding principles.
This afternoon, you will hear charges delivered to our president from a faculty member, a student, a staff member, an alumnus, and from our Board. You will also hear from two of our good friends in higher education, who bring greetings and wisdom from their schools. Throughout this program, you will hear our shared aspirations, our collective endorsement and enthusiasm for Rebecca as the College's new leader, and our challenge to her to lead us forward into new terrain, where we will build upon our foundation of academic excellence, educating for the common good, and progressive social engagement.
I want to thank you for joining us in this celebration of our history and of our common quest to define and create a remarkable future together, ably guided by our remarkable new president - who just happens to be a woman.