Speech to the Conway Civic Club

By J. Timothy Cloyd

Note: These speeches have been digitized from print documents. During this process, formatting and other errors sometimes occur. I am correcting mistakes as I see them, but be aware that these speeches may still contain unintentional errors. I also give special thanks to Helen Plotkin for her help editing and researching these speeches.

Thank you for inviting me here today to speak to you as the 10th President of Hendrix College.

I am not only proud to serve as the President of such a great institution. I am proud of the fact that Hendrix is in Conway.

This is our community! So let us not regard each other simply as neighbors, but let us see ourselves as one community working together for the common good!

I have several things on my mind today about our community and our nation that relate to Hendrix College. I want to share these with you and then answer any questions you may have for me.

  1. I want to talk to you about the times we are all living in and through – Our current condition as a community and as a nation.
  2. I want to describe to you how higher education is critical to the continued transformation of our community and our nation and the approach we take to the world we live in today.
  3. I also want to share with you the distinctiveness of the Hendrix College educational experience and how we are preparing our students to live in the New World we now inhabit.
  4. Finally, I want to give you an update on where we at Hendrix are going as a college and how we as a broader community have great promise in this momentum together.

Neil Rudenstine, the recently retired President of Harvard, observed the transformations in the world we live in a speech he delivered.

In this speech he tells about the life of Henry Adams.

Nearly a century ago Henry Adams tried to trace what he had learned over the course of a lifetime dedicated to education and public service.

By the end of his journey he concluded that he had largely failed to understand his universe and the world in which he lived. There was simply too much to comprehend.

Too many changes were happening to rapidly to grasp, and nearly all the forces were centrifugal.

The pace overwhelmed him. I wonder how Mr. Adams would feel today?

Have you ever felt like Henry Adams?

The rapid change we are now experiencing has had a profound impact on our own lives. For one thing, our sheer mobility as a society and the sense of non-permanence has produced a sense of insecurity.

In many cases families and communities are fractured as corporate re-locations and shifts in job sectors move people in and out of the life of a civic community – this condition can disconnect us from a particular place. It can leave us with a rootless feeling.

There are consequences to this post-modern condition.

Recent studies suggest that we are less trusting of one another than we used to be….

What does this condition do to our community and our civic life?

One example is that fewer of us join community and neighborhood associations.

Volunteerism, as Alexander De Toqueville noted in Democracy in America, was distinctive to American democracy. Volunteer associations were one of the hallmarks, he said, of our liberal democracy.

I think this is still true over 200 years after he made this observation on his travels across our newly created Republic.

But we are now more likely to write checks and donate money than we are to invest ourselves in support of the activities and causes that matter to us.

We are now living in a New World!

All of us recognize (particularly since September 11) that we are now actors in a drama that has become global in nature.

We must address (in our daily lives) powerful new systems that operate above, through, and around the traditional grid of nation-states and local communities.

We confront a global diversity in our communities and non-state actors in the international society who want a stake in power.

The nation-state and these non-state actors coexist in a delicate balance and in the case of Al-Qaeda and bin Laden some commit acts of barbarism to gain recognition.

As America takes leadership in confronting those non-state actors that would use deliberate terror on the innocent to further their ends – we watch, we worry, we reflect, and we pray.

We recognize, however, that the dynamics of globalization are here to stay

And it makes it that much more difficult to understand the  complexity of our lives and our world.

Mr. Adams would be even more perplexed today!

This condition makes our world more difficult to describe, to trace, to understand, let alone to control.

The speed and pace of change is shocking.

Electronic movement of capital, ideas, information, and dis-information, from millions of sources, move across space and our televisions and monitors in seconds.

Religious fundamentalism, both in the United States and abroad, rapid shifts in the stock market and the economy, and terrorism appear and spread in ways we scarcely understand, from nation to nation, region to region, and community to community.

The question before us is how should we organize our higher educational agenda to take these changes into better account?

Technological and scientific education offer great hope for breakthroughs in medicine and other areas that can improve our lives and our economy.

At Hendrix 40% of the students major in the sciences.

But a technological and scientific education alone ill prepares students to confront our New World. These disciplines and the students who study them must be grounded in an education of the whole person.

They must be able to sort through complex moral questions and to develop an understanding of global diversity.

At Hendrix our motto is “Unto the Whole Person”.

Regardless of major or course of study, our students are given a broad education. An education that is grounded in the engagement of these perplexing issues – Moral, religious, cultural, and global. In addition, the arts and literature allow us to frame and express these issues in a new light.

Our aim is to cultivate whole persons through the transmission of knowledge, the refinement of the intellect, the development of character, and through the encouragement of a concern for worthy values.

Hendrix endeavors to prepare its graduates for lives of service and fulfillment in their community – regardless of major.

So at Hendrix we are not just concerned with the mind of the student – we are concerned with the person, the individual, the citizen each will become.

We are concerned with the student’s total experience.

We are concerned with the texture of life in the community – dedicated to learning in all its dimensions.

In American higher education we can produce scientific and technological genius. That is wonderful, but it is a frightening proposition devoid of a broader rigorous engagement with ethical, moral, and cultural matters.

This is the stuff of how real lives are lived.

The pace of change in the world requires an undergraduate education that gives students the skills to think critically and creatively.

It requires the ability to analyze and to be nimble as the world around us transforms. It also requires graduates who can read changing environments, who can adapt, and who can communicate – speak and write well.

Globalization, instantaneous change, speed, and the pace of shifts in our world require these skills.

But there is more ……

As Thomas Jefferson recognized and Hendrix teaches, it is the concern for values such as equality, free thought, and intellectual curiosity that undergerd a free and democratic society.

It is the recognition of differences and the understanding of historical and cultural differences (through critical reflection) that create a world where bigotry, hatred, and barbarism cannot thrive.

So at Hendrix we value freedom, freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom to cultivate one’s life plan –

But I must clarify and be careful here – Hear this freedom is not the promise of something without boundaries. It is not pure liberation.

Freedom is an opportunity, within the context of community, to define one’s own commitments among alternative choices.

Freedom coupled with knowledge allows us to choose, not boundlessness, but how we ourselves should be bounded, pursuing avenues that produce hope and communal trust.

Without a sense of values, history, and community freedom becomes the pure hubris of un-tethered liberation.

So let us not say that freedom gives us license to choose any mode of life, but let us say that freedom with knowledge gives our students the opportunity to discover that there are indeed better and worse ways to order one’s life.

By instilling values and the critical capacities (as we do at Hendrix) our students come to see that their freedom of inquiry prepares them to understand the boundaries that are essential to a life of human fulfillment.

This is part and parcel of the “Hendrix Experience.” The liberal arts experience!

Hendrix is infused with this vision of human fulfillment and that is what characterizes the educational experience at Hendrix. It is what makes us distinctive. It is embodied in the close relationships that develop between students and faculty at Hendrix.

We are a community (Conway and Hendrix) and we look forward to working together in partnership to advance and strengthen our community!

Finally, A word or two about what we as a college have accomplished and where we are going.

We have accomplished a great deal in the past few years and I am optimistic about the future.

  • We have built new buildings (positive with momentum for the future)
  • We have revised the curriculum. (explain our new general education requirements Journeys, Language requirement, and Challenges of the Contemporary World)
  • We have exciting plans for where we are going. (Talk about new objectives) Endowment, Hulen, Grove, language Building, Art building, Performing Arts.
  • This year we were ranked the 76 best national liberal arts college in the United States out of some 225 institutions.

We are on an upward trajectory.

Soon we will be in the top 50 in the United States, but we cannot get there without the solid support of all of us in this community working together to make Conway an even more attractive place to live and for students to attend college.

Every year we compete for students who can choose to go to Vanderbilt in Nashville, SMU in Dallas, Washington University in St. Louis, Rhodes in Memphis…..We do not want to become one of those large cities – But on a smaller scale, while maintaining our community, we can enhance our city and become one of the best small cities in the United States. Part of how we can do this is to revitalize the downtown and make it alive with new restaurants and places for entertainment.

I look froward to working with all of you to achieve the goal of improving our city as a vital community.

Thank you….

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