March 7, 2013
Hamilton students have a tendency to be skeptical before being open minded. While this attitude can be beneficial in academic pursuits, it often leads to missed opportunities when it comes to extracurriculars. This week, The Spectator named two speakers for the 2013 Sacerdote Great Names series. Though these names might not be as immediately recognizable as past speakers like Bill Clinton or Aretha Franklin, their experiences and contributions to the international peace process will make them excellent choices.
We worry that students might not immediately recognize the names and then judge the Great Names series as lackluster, at best. However, by approaching this year’s unique Great Names panel with an open mind, students might be pleasantly surprised by the quality of these accomplished people.
Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded to individuals and organizations who have made a significant impact on the world. Shirin Ebadi, the first Iranian and first Muslim woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with women and children in Iran, and Bernard Kouchner, the co-founder and former president of Doctors Without Borders, have both made a significant impact on the world without asking for any name-recognition.
The range of academic interests that these speakers might span in their speeches is also more diverse than a single Great Names speaker would likely be able to cover. Ebadi’s work will speak directly to students in the Public Policy and Women’s Studies departments, while students in the sciences will probably be familiar with and interested in hearing about Kouchner’s work. Whether or not community members are interested in those specific areas, the Great Names panel will be able to provide insight into the lives of people around the world—not just World Leaders—but the average, everyday citizen whose life is likely far different than our own.
In addition, this choice gives us a chance to evaluate the process by which Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded. In the last 113 years, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 93 times to 100 individuals and 24 organizations. At times, these awards have received mixed feedback, primarily based on political difference. Hamilton community members have been given an opportunity to research and learn about a few important members of society, about whom we might not necessarily know. As an academic institution, we should be glad for the opportunity to broaden our horizons.
The Great Names lecture brings together the entire campus community. It spurs discussion and boosts the College’s reputation. Moreover, students, faculty, administrators, staff and local community members rarely have the chance to unite for a shared experience. Though sporting events and performances are meant to accomplish this, the Great Names speaker, or in this case, speakers, truly engages the entire community.
So, before the eye rolls commence, take a moment to think about what can be learned from these Nobel laureates. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend the Great Names lecture just because the Great Names aren’t familiar.