Cornell University President’s Speech on Value of Humanities and Arts

David J. Skorton, President, Cornell UniversitySeveral days ago, 4Humanities reported on the “State of the University” speech that David Skorton, President of Cornell University, gave on October 29, 2010, in which he made a bold, strong call for supporting the humanities and arts. In addition to making the full text of the address available on the site of the Cornell Office of the President, President Skorton has given permission to 4Humanities to reproduce his speech, now available on this site in an annotated full-text PDF version that includes a bookmark to his general comments on the value of, and need to support, the humanities and arts (highlighted in yellow on the 4Humanities version). Introducing his advocacy of the humanities and arts, Skorton comments:

As a physician and biomedical researcher, I firmly believe in the power of the scientific method to advance knowledge. But make no mistake: the world’s most significant problems won’t be solved by science alone. We need scientific and technical knowledge, as well as knowledge based on research in the social sciences and humanities. And we also need people and approaches to motivate others to act upon that knowledge, recognizing its power as well as its limitations and the ethical and moral issues it might raise. For that reason, we need to renew the faculty within each of the basic academic groupings…. Today, in addition to underscoring the need for a broad sweep of faculty hiring, I want to make a special case for our efforts to bolster the arts and humanities. (Read full speech)

The ensuing parts of the speech are very detailed in reasons and examples for supporting the humanities and arts. Skorton concludes with a ringing call for Cornell to commit to hiring humanities faculty who “will define our university for a generation.” While “faculty hiring across the disciplines is Cornell’s top priority,” he says, “within that priority, we must be a leader in hiring humanities faculty.”

Soon after this widely-reported speech at Cornell, Skorton made a post on The Huffington Post (7 November 2010) that began:

The most wretched nonmonetary consequence of our nation’s economic distress over the past two years, in my view, is an acceleration of our country’s loss of values. No, I am not referring to coded political messages about “family values.” I mean values as related to language, literature, culture, and ethics, to the very breadth of knowledge that helps us understand ourselves and what it means to be human — in good times and bad.

Yes, I am talking about the humanities. (Read full statement)

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