September 18, 2000
Volume 53, No. 4
By President Bill Chace
Welcome to the first academic year of the third millennium! Last fall I announced that our community would observe 2000-2001 as "The Year of Reconciliation." A Committee on Reconciliation was appointed to plan and coordinate events and activities for the Year around this theme. Each of you was invited to consider how the theme of reconciliation might be borne out in your own work. The responses you have given have been excellent; an impressive array of programs and activities has been and is still being planned for the year.
The centerpiece of this special year will be the Reconciliation Symposium on Jan. 2528, 2001. Please make a special note of this event and plan to attend
and participate. Many of our colleagues and several distinguished guests, including Presi-dent Carter, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, and Professor E. O. Wilson, will give their particular insights into the idea and practices of reconciliation. In the final session of the Symposium, Provost Chopp and several of the deans will explore with you some of the beneficial and lasting implications that the reconciliation theme holds for Emory's teaching, research and service programs. Symposium workshops, which will follow throughout the Spring semester, will offer participants opportunities for discussing and implementing the ideas presented and debated during the symposium.
In addition to the symposium workshops, which will follow throughout the Spring semester, a number of our schools and colleges are planning special lectures, seminars and symposia around the reconciliation theme. I especially want to call your attention to the first major event of the fall, a lecture on "The Rhetoric of Reconciliation: Science and Religion," by the distinguished professor of rhetoric at the University of Chicago, Wayne Booth, George M. Pullman Service Distinguished Professor, Emeritus. Booth will speak at 8 p.m. on Sep. 28, in Glenn Auditorium. I am certain that Professor Booth's insight into the ways we understand and use language to unite (or isolate) ourselves will be pertinent to each of us, no matter what our respective fields.
The idea of the Year of Reconciliation and the symposium has been greeted throughout the Emory community with a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm. But two questions have often arisen when it is mentioned: What is the purpose of marking this year in a special way, and what do we expect to come of it? Why have we chosen the particular theme-reconciliation?
My hope is that the turn of the millennium will give us an opportunity to come together as a community around issues of common interest and importance. We will be provided with an occasion to put forth some of our special strengths, and to reflect on our larger connection with the society surrounding us. We will thereby be helped to think creatively about ways in which Emory can be strengthened in coming years.
I ask you to recognize that reconciliation in its broadest sense is a constant and basic element in the work and private life of each of us. We are surrounded by the contradictions, inconsistencies and unresolved differences and conflicts that characterize both human affairs and the natural world. On the one hand, such differences stimulate our imaginations and creative capacities and underlie most of the important intellectual issues and ideas that we wrestle with daily. On the other hand, they also underlie most if not all of the familiar and growing crises of our time. Conflict is fueled by our failure to understand one another, our inability to see and understand our own self-interests in a larger perspective and to work creatively together for inclusive solutions. If we could learn to recognize, feel and act on these unresolved contradictions and differences as opportunities to advance truth and pursue mutual understanding and fairness, the future would be brighter! However unrealistic such a hope may seem, universities must take the lead in building a future based on both enlightened self-interest and public responsibility and on both reason and passionate caring.
As we go through the year, I hope we will find occasion to turn the light of reconciliation upon ourselves. How can we deal constructively with the internal social conflicts that erupt from time to time? How do we preserve the value of intellectual independence while finding solutions to immediate problems that arouse passionate feelings? How do we preserve our commitment to teaching while we continue to grow as one of the world's great research universities? How can we continue to build academic strength without being fenced in by traditional and sometimes antiquated academic boundaries? Such questions, always with us, will require our steadfast attention.
One of our most difficult challenges is to find meaningful ways to collaborate and to come together and work as a community. Our natural tendency and greatest strength as scholars lie in probing particular problems to ever-greater depth. But such intensity can come at a cost. We can become disconnected from one another. We can deprive ourselves of mutual criticism and cross-fertilization. That is because we often place greater value on special knowledge than upon broad synthesis and understanding. And sometimes we can become guilty of disciplinary provincialism and chauvinism that run counter to the principles of a learning community. I am delighted, therefore, that we have this opportunity to connect with one another, and to engage in the shared interests and concerns prompted by the idea of reconciliation.
This issue of Emory Report is in large part dedicated to information about the Year of Reconciliation. I encourage you to read it carefully and other publications as they appear, and to note on your calendar those things that you find of particular interest. I also encourage you to visit the Reconciliation web site (available directly from the Emory Homepage at www.emory.edu) regularly in order to keep track of events throughout the year. Above all, I encourage you to continue to explore the meaning of reconciliation to your own work.
I hope these reflections will help you to share my belief that "reconciliation" is an appropriate theme for us to consider as we enter the third millennium.
William M. Chace