President James W. Dean Jr. Installation Remarks

President James W. Dean Jr.

Installation Ceremony: October 12, 2018

Thank you everyone for coming today and for your warm welcome.It is a privilege to be chosen as president of the University of New Hampshire, one that I aspire to live up to every day that I serve.On a personal note, I am particularly grateful to my family and friends for their support over many years, and for being with me today. I have been truly blessed to have such an incredibly wonderful family—my wife Jan, my daughters Noelle and Bridget, sons-in-law Colby and Sean, grandchildren Madi Ruth and Teddy, and my lifelong friends: Mike, Bill and Kathy. Also here to support me today are my sister-in-law and her husband, Linda and Rod Campbell.Thank you.And thank you to everyone who has contributed to making this event possible, including our wonderful student musicians.

I have come a long way in just a few months.As I have confessed to some of you, earlier this year I would have failed the following one-question true/false test: Does New Hampshire have a seacoast?And now I have eaten lobster rolls in Portsmouth and Rye, measured the purity of the water in Lake Winnipesaukee (although spelling it is another matter), and glimpsed the majesty of New Hampshire’s mountains.I have even cheered the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and wish them well in the next round of the playoffs. But more importantly I have met hundreds of people in my new home, and you have welcomed this Tar Heel with open arms.My sincere thanks for your kindness.

Introduction

I wonder if you know these slogans? Heart of Dixie…World Famous Potatoes…America’s Dairyland…Greatest Snow on Earth?

Until recently, Live Free or Die was, to me, just another charming license plate slogan. But after only a few months in New Hampshire, I am beginning to appreciate its profound resonance among the state’s citizens.

 

  1. What is the origin of Live Free or Die? 
    1. As New Hampshire schoolchildren all learn, the phrase was immortalized by heroic General John Stark, in a toast he proposed in the heady aftermath of the American Revolution.  It was adopted by the state as its motto in 1945 and replaced the somewhat less distinctive slogan “scenic” on New Hampshire license plates in 1971.  Shortly afterward, members of one New Hampshire family showed their Yankee independence—and perhaps their deep appreciation of Live Free or Die—by fighting a legal battle to be allowed to cover up the slogan on their plates.  (It went all the way to the Supreme Court, and they won.)
    2. Back to General Stark.  In his celebrated toast, he was expressing sentiments that have sprung from the hearts of brave women and men for centuries.
      1. Live Free or Die was a motto for the French Revolution. From 1789 on, Vivre Libre ou Mourir! rang out through the streets of Paris, where it is now inscribed in the Pantheon.
      2. The Declaration of Arbroath, written by Scots in 1320 in an appeal to the Pope to support their independence, stated (and please imagine me reading this with a Braveheart accent): “It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honors that we are fighting, but for freedom—for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”
      3. A contemporary hero, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, said, “I had two options.  One was to remain silent…and then to be killed by terrorists.  The second option was to speak up for my rights and then die.  And I chose the second.”
      4. So General Stark crystallized in just four words the transcendent importance of freedom that inspired the dreams of the world’s people for centuries.
  2. But what is meant by freedom? And by its close relatives, liberty and independence?  What was it that John Stark, Robespierre and Malala said we should be willing to die for?  I invite you to ponder with me the meaning of freedom.
    1. Freedom means not being enslaved or imprisoned. It implies the right to act, to speak or even to think as one wishes. In the political sphere, it means the absence of subjugation to foreign domination or to a despotic government. This is, of course, the freedom that Stark and his fellow patriots fought for in the Revolution.   
    2. By the time General Stark proposed his toast, many specific freedoms had already been enshrined in the Bill of Rights. And more than a century later, President Abraham Lincoln described freedom as “the last, best hope of Earth.”  
    3. But it was in the State of the Union address in 1941, in the foreboding days between the Great Depression and America’s entry into World War II, that President Franklin Roosevelt captured the essence of freedom as many Americans understand it, identifying four essential human freedoms:
      1. Freedom of speech and expression;
      2. Freedom of every person to worship God in his or her own way;
      3. Freedom from want; and
      4. Freedom from fear.
    4. New Englander Norman Rockwell famously portrayed these freedoms in a series of paintings that we have all likely seen: the man standing up to voice his opinion at Town Meeting to represent freedom of speech, the grandmother serving her family Thanksgiving turkey to represent freedom from want, and so on.  Rockwell lodged these freedoms enduringly—and endearingly—into the American popular imagination as no one else could have done.
  3. Why am I so focused on freedom in this speech, at the moment of my installation? Because true freedom depends on education. Our freedoms are largely created by education, and on the knowledge and understanding that education produces.  (And by education, I mean ALL education, not just at the university level.) True freedom is created by and depends on education, and on the knowledge and understanding it produces. In fact, education and freedom are so tightly intertwined that it is impossible to imagine true freedom without education.  And not surprisingly, their opposites—ignorance and oppression—are also tightly linked.
    1. When tyrants dream of denying a people their freedom, they can be counted on to withhold, or to pervert, their education, because education is a challenge to tyranny.  This is why slaveholders tried so hard to keep the enslaved people they thought they owned from learning to read or write.  Even after emancipation, formerly enslaved people struggled to be truly free, because they had been denied the basic human right to education. This denial or perversion of education is happening even today in places such as North Korea. 
    2. You may know that the liberal arts, a fundamental component of higher education, means the subjects that are studied by people who are free. The Greek term liberalis, meant “appropriate for free people.” The freedoms we enjoy as Americans are derived from the founders’ appreciation of liberty, which was rooted in their classical liberal arts education.
    3. These freedoms are among the reasons why students from around the world leave their homes and come to the United States—including many to UNH—to pursue their studies.  In fact, more students come here to study than to any other country in the world.
  4. What are the liberating effects of education?
    1. Beginning with freedom of speech and expression, education helps people to develop ideas to be expressed, as well as the skills to express them. Are we truly free if we have nothing worth saying or no capacity to express our thoughts?  Education also gives listeners and readers the critical faculties to assess the quality of the arguments they are presented.  When we are exercising our freedom of speech by writing a letter to the editor, making a campaign speech, or arguing for a warrant article at Town Meeting, we are drawing on a lifetime of education.
      1. Citizens of New Hampshire take particular pride in our role in democracy.  This exercise of freedom depends on our education.  New Hampshire citizens are famously discerning consumers of political speech, and consistently exercise their responsibility to educate themselves on the candidates and issues.
      2. We are a nation of laws, and our laws enshrine freedom of speech.  Our courts have preserved this right in case after case.  I am proud that our UNH School of Law produces graduates who understand the importance of protecting free speech rights.  A restriction of speech for any—however well-intentioned—is a threat to the rights of us all. Without education on this essential American value of free speech, it could wither away.
    2. Freedom of every person to worship God in his or her own way
      1. Every weekend in America, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, people go to their mosques, to their temples, and to their churches to worship their God as they see fit, and no one stops them.
      2. Our founders had learned from hard experience the value of religious tolerance, as many of our early settlers, for example in Massachusetts and Maryland, were fleeing religious persecution.
      3. Our educational institutions defend this freedom by teaching the values of diversity and tolerance, and by helping students to understand the complex historical and cultural dynamics that have led to our kaleidoscope of religious practices.
      4. Wars have been fought over religion for centuries and have continued into our lifetime.  The contribution of education to religious freedom is to help people to understand that someone else’s practice of religion is not a threat to theirs, and that on the contrary the restriction of religious freedom for one group could lead to a restriction for all.
    3. Freedom from want
      1. The connection between prosperity, or freedom from want, and education is perhaps the most obvious.  My parents and grandparents, and probably yours, made real sacrifices to provide education for their family.  My parents, who grew up in the Great Depression, were able to raise our family without want because of the education that they received.  Due to their sacrifices, I was the first person ever in my family to go to college.
      2. Freedom from want is a public good.  College graduates are three times less likely to be impoverished and five times less likely to be imprisoned.  They pay on average half a million dollars more in taxes in their lifetime and consume $50,000 less in government services.
      3. There is a unique contribution to freedom from want that is provided by universities.  We are responsible for providing the educational foundation for a successful lifetime of productiveness and economic security.  Job markets change, industries come and go, and people move from place to place, so the education we provide our students cannot be tied solely to a specific job or to current economic conditions.
        1. My own family provides a powerful illustration of this point.  My wife Jan graduated from high school and went to nursing school to become a registered nurse, or RN.  This education served her very well for a few years.  But she increasingly realized that her ability to fulfill leadership roles in nursing would be limited without a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.  So, in the great American tradition, she went back to school at night to get her BSN, which allowed her to take on a series of different nursing roles as healthcare continued to evolve.  Making careers like Jan’s possible is among the best things we do as universities. (It is poignant that Jan dug deep to get her degree at the University of Pittsburgh, in a region where thousands upon thousands of steelworkers were being displaced by the collapse of the industry, with limited education to soften the blow, thus exposing them to real want.)
      4. At a societal level, the creation of leisure time (literally, free time) is a function of productivity increases in agriculture, manufacturing and household work brought about by research, another product of education.  Think of the green revolution in agriculture and the discoveries of, for example, George Washington Carver or Thomas Edison.  The quality of life we enjoy in America today, the freedom to live so well and without want, is predicated on centuries of research and education. Where will the discoveries that further enhance our freedom and quality of life come from? Where will the new companies and new industries come from? Who will find cures for cancer and multiple sclerosis? New freedoms will come from people now being educated.
    4. Freedom from fear
      1. Education in both science and the humanities promotes freedom from fear. A lunar eclipse is just an astronomical event, not a sign that God is angry with us.  The Earth really is round (even Kyrie Irving is on board), and we will not fall off.  Kings and queens are simply people whose ancestors seized power; they have no divine right to impoverish and abuse their subjects. We are all homo sapiens; there is no inherent superiority of one race over another.
      2. One way that universities ensure freedom from fear is to insist that truth matters.  When people attempt to conjure up a world in which everything is a matter of opinion, and all narratives are equal, the world they are creating is one of terror.  What can we hold onto in such a world?  Universities must help their students learn how we come to understand the world, how discovery operates, how evidence and proof are related, and how to make and assess arguments based on statistics and logic. This will give them the confidence they need as citizens in a world where the uninformed are the prey of the unscrupulous.
      3. Many universities have the word “light” in their motto, generally in Latin. My alma mater, Catholic University, has Deus Mea Lux Est (God is my light).  My former university, UNC Chapel Hill, has Lux et Libertas (Light and Liberty). At the University of California, it is Fiat Lux (Let there be light). Education draws people out of the darkness of ignorance and fear and into the light of freedom.
      4. While I have focused on how freedom is dependent on education, it is also important to recognize that quality education depends on freedom, specifically academic freedom.   American universities are the strongest in the world, at least partially because we cherish and protect academic freedom, the freedom to follow the truth where it leads, which we must continue to support.
  5. Conclusion and Call to Action
    1. Last month, U.S. Senator from New Hampshire Maggie Hassan spoke at the naturalization ceremony for new citizens held in this very room.  She said that her father, who had served in WWII, devoted his life to freedom and began asking her at breakfast each day what she was going to do for freedom.  She said she often wasn’t sure.  (In fairness she was in fourth grade.) But the faculty and staff of UNH need never be unsure what we are doing for freedom today or any day.  
    2. Because every day…
      1. We are helping students learn our history and values, so they can deeply appreciate the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
      2. We are teaching students the communication and analytical skills that will allow them to effectively participate in our wonderful chaotic democracy.
      3. Every day we are creating scientists and engineers whose inventions will provide future citizens freedom from dangerous work, from disease, and from drudgery.
      4. And we are helping to inspire and educate business people who will build organizations that will employ thousands of people, freeing them from want.
    3. In his celebrated speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. exhorted us to “let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.”  Let us today rededicate ourselves to our precious freedom, and to the education that makes it possible. Because of our efforts at the University of New Hampshire…
      1. Freedom will ring from the tower of Thompson Hall, as we secure the future of our students by educating them broadly and deeply for the world in which they will live and lead;
      2. Freedom will ring from the rooftops of Murkland and Kingsbury Halls, and from the bottom of the ocean into space, as we proclaim the ideas and create the inventions that will eliminate fear, intolerance and want, and raise the standard of living for the people of New Hampshire and the people of the world; and finally
      3. Freedom will ring from Keene, Conway and Concord, from Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Plaistow, from Northwood, Nashua, and North Stratford, as we rededicate ourselves to promoting the liberating effects of education for all people and to continue to push back the darkness of ignorance, so that we…and all our fellow citizens…can truly live free!

Thank you very much!

 

 

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