Tradeoffs, Priorities, and Choices
Events at Oberlin this past week led me to consider some questions relating to tradeoffs, priorities, and choices:
What price art? Robert Edsel asked that question at his Thursday night talk on the Monuments Men, those American military officers who went on a dangerous mission to find and preserve art looted by the Nazis during World War II. These Americans, and one Frenchwoman, risked their lives to preserve masterpieces confiscated by the Third Reich. Two men died during their three-year mission. Oberlin’s own Charles Parkhurst ’35, MA ’38, director of the Allen Memorial Art Museum from 1949 to 1962, was one of those who undertook this task. I’m looking forward to the release of the major motion picture The Monuments Men starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett. The question is all the more timely given the recent news reports about the unprecedented find in Germany of hundreds of art works looted by the Nazis.
What price sustainability? David Orr’s Presidential Lecture at midday on Friday challenged us to think beyond Oberlin and to consider the effects of climate change on the future of our planet. His provocative talk asked us to contemplate what we can do as individuals, as a community, and as a society. Watch Orr’s address on YouTube.
What price family happiness? The Oberlin Opera Theater’s wonderful production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel led us to think about what risks we should take for prosperity and happiness. Is sending children into the woods really the best available alternative? Fortunately, the forces of the Sandman and the Angels made this bet work out for the risk-tolerant parents.
What price loyalty in a job? Our alum Peter Baker ’88 dissected the Bush-Cheney relationship in a talk Friday evening about his new book, Days of Fire –Bush and Cheney in the White House. He described how the two men grew steadily apart especially during George W. Bush’s second term. This estrangement came to a head in the administration’s waning days when President Bush, despite heavy pressure from Vice President Cheney, refused to pardon the vice president’s former chief of staff, who had been convicted of multiple felonies, including perjury and obstruction of justice. This got me thinking about the role of friendship, trust, and personal loyalty in such weighty matters as governing the United States.
What price cardio or calorie-burning? That was very much on my mind as I scrambled around a racquetball court with much younger people throwing rubber balls at me, all in the service of “Fire It Up at Phillips!,” a fun evening organized by the Office of Residential Life. Yes, the game was dodgeball. Our team, thanks to my teammates, prevailed! Truthfully, the evening was a blast. The variety of activities showed how easy it is to actually blow off steam and get into shape.
As I thought about these questions, I realized once again how many extraordinary opportunities are here, with relatively little cost except, perhaps, in time. Our health and wellness and fitness choices are numerous and varied. Our local dining choices are legendary and plentiful, and just got a nice shout-out in the magazine edibleColumbus from former Oberlin Review editor-in-chief Liv Combe ’12. The Allen Art Museum, a world class facility, is free and open long hours.
The Oberlin Project, our environmental studies classes, and many volunteer opportunities provide numerous channels for thinking about and working on sustainability issues. The November 2 From Coal to Carbon Neutrality workshop was a great example of a wide range of community members gathering to inform themselves and exchange ideas about how best to achieve our goal of carbon neutrality.
I’m happy to hear your thoughts on these questions and other matters. Students are always welcome to call for an office-hour appointment.
This week I’m looking forward to the Harvey Gittler Memorial Civil Liberties Lecture, which will be delivered on Saturday by guest speaker Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
I’m also looking forward to the ground-breaking ceremony on Saturday of the Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex, which will create a terrific new, multisport stadium complex with artificial turf. The complex will be used by six varsity programs as well as club sports and others. This facility will replace our 90-year-old stadium and obsolete track, greatly enhancing the Oberlin athletics experience for participants and spectators.
Soccer Shout Out
A huge shout-out to the Oberlin Yeomen soccer team which received this past Monday an at-large invitation to the NCAA Division III national soccer tournament. This is the first time in school history that our men’s soccer team has gone to the nationals. Congratulations to all the players on a fantastic season. They tied the school wins record with 13, and played Ohio Wesleyan, the defending national champs to a scoreless draw, to name just a couple of their many accomplishments. Congratulations, too, to Coach Blake New, assistant coach David “Turf” Wilson ’06, (with a chemistry major!), and our trainers and staff in athletics. Please join me in wishing the team all the best as they head to Rochester!
Vote for Laura
Please join me in voting for Dr. Laura Stachel ’80 in CNN’s Hero of the Year contest. Dr. Stachel is the cofounder and medical director of WE CARE Solar, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of women and infants by enhancing emergency obstetric care through the use of solar powered lighting, communication, and emergency equipment. She also serves on the editorial board for the Berkeley Wellness Letter and is a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Public Health.
At the Apollo
I’m looking forward to seeing the film 12 Years a Slave, which will open at the Apollo Theatre on Friday. The film by director Steve McQueen is a historical drama adapted from the 1853 autobiography Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sold into slavery.