Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, Riverside Community College
Copyright © 2001 Janice Kollitz
After I read How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer, I became convinced that to live a civil life in a civil society requires the individual to gain an understanding of the world–a term I call “intellectual prosperity.” The search for intellectual prosperity through diversity begins on a world stageSchaeffer writes:
There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind—what they are in their thought world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity. It is true of their corporate actions, such as political decisions, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world. This is true of Michelangelo’s chisel, and it is true of a dictator’s sword. (19)
I’m still searching for intellectual prosperity. Actually, I’ve been searching for this elusive asset for almost 64 years. I was born in September 1937. My first significant memory is from the World’s Fair on Treasure Island in San Francisco in 1939. My mother was carrying my baby brother in her arms; he was wrapped in a blue blanket with fringe on the edges—my father was holding my hand. This is the day I recall starting my search for answers to abstract problems.
Treasure Island was a new man made plot of land in the middle of San Francisco Bay, right by Yerba Buena Island with an entrance in the middle of the Bay Bridge; the present bridge opened to vehicle traffic the same year. The bridge was a marvelous fete of engineering, but so was Treasure Island. As we walked through the Exposition, my father noticed a Japanese man selling helium filled balloons and he bought one for me. I was so thrilled with the balloon. I remember questioning my parents about how that balloon could stay up in the air with only a thin string. I also remember touring an airplane with camouflage paint. I thought the design was exciting.
My second memory of searching for intellectual prosperity happened when I was four years old. I could read proficiently. I recall discussing the word “infinity” with my father. He made me look for the word in the dictionary. I could understand how something could have no ending but I just didn’t understand how anything could have no beginning. Can you? Do you remember thinking these thoughts? I remember being frustrated and trying to search for understanding. Today, I understand how my family’s Anglo-Saxon roots in Christianity influenced the development of my thinking.
About the same time as I was wondering about “infinity,” an event occurred that cemented itself on my memory forever—the fateful Sunday morning—December 7, 1941—”the day that will live in infamy.” On Sunday mornings, my father would always give me a reading lesson. I was sitting on my father’s bed reading the Sunday comics when the news came over the radio about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor. My father found Pearl Harbor and Japan on the map for me and explained that our lives would change because America was now directly involved in World War II. A little more than two years after I visited Treasure Island for the first time, we were at war with Hirojito in Japan, Mussolini in Italy, and Hitler in Germany—the Japanese American selling the balloons was probably unjustly sent to an internment camp and the airplane with camouflage paint was probably being used to fight the Germans or Japanese.
Growing up in the San Francisco-Oakland bay area before, during, and after WWII gave me an eclectic view of people whose race, culture, and religion was different than my own because I was exposed to great diversity. My neighbors were 4th generation Japanese. They owned two city blocks of glass greenhouses—they grew begonias, camellias, and gardenias for their livelihood. My grandparents and their siblings were German immigrants. I remember my German immigrant grandfather or my German immigrant great Uncle George taking me for a walk through the neighborhood. They would frequently stop and visit with my Japanese neighbors and discuss gardening and plants. These Japanese neighbors were always so kind; the wife would always give me a flower when we stopped to visit. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, neighborhood hoodlums broke all the windows in the greenhouses and my neighbors were hauled off to an internment camp. I remember the day clearly, when my parents explained to me the great injustice my neighbors were experiencing—they were solid American citizens, but we were at war with Hirohito. My Japanese neighbors were incarcerated without due process of law. But, my mother and her family were not being hauled off because they were of German heritage, though we were also at war with Hitler. This event created my first memory of how a majority can oppress a minority whose ethnicity or culture seems different.
Though I was only a few months past four years old, I absolutely understood that I was now a “grown-up” with the ability to comprehend the causes of problems and how the resulting effects developed. Throughout the rest of my life, I’ve been searching for answers to abstract problems—my personal search for intellectual prosperity. Think back to your own childhoods. I’m sure all of you have similar experiences when remembering your own searches for answers to abstract ideas. You’re probably asking yourself, “what exactly is intellectual prosperity in the 21st century?” Are you searching for intellectual prosperity? I asked some RCC students to define the term—they volunteered their ideas in writing and in the video you just watched.
While searching for intellectual prosperity, we also search for both spiritual and secular redemption. Personal redemption comes from gaining the ability to acknowledge mistakes, become repentant, and atone. Individuals searching for intellectual prosperity at the beginning of the 21st century might begin their quests by studying the roots of western culture.
Intellectual prosperity is a quality of mind gained from a liberal arts education that allows the individual to develop analytic skills, an education that includes a knowledge:
- of science, mathematics, and technology
- of world history
- of world geography
- of world economics
- of world and domestic politics
- of major world religions
- of major world languages
- of world art and architecture
- of world philosophy and literary canon
Riverside Community College prepares students in all of these disciplines. When students receive an AA degree from this institution, they have started acquiring intellectual prosperity. But, since gaining this elusive asset encompasses lifelong learning, AA degrees only give students the skills needed to begin their quests. By understanding how these disciplines interact takes them to a higher level of understanding the world around them. Finally, reading the historical literary canon of western culture and traveling the world gives the student a deeper understanding of American culture and its heritage.
American and Canadian bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorates are the world’s most honored and most difficult to earn because both the United States and Canada require that students pass general education courses that include studies promoting abstract thinking.
Before the printing press and the mass distribution of books, students learned from lectures and memorizing information. The availability of books after the Renaissance gave more people the opportunity to learn to read and write. The late twentieth century and early twenty-first century have given us a new paradigm for helping students achieve their potentials. With the advent of the communication age, computers and space satellites and cell phones connect the entire world. People from all around the globe now earn college degrees “on-line.” The new Learner/Facilitator pedagogical model changes the role of both student and instructor. The student becomes a Learner and the instructor becomes the Facilitator to assist the student in acquiring knowledge. When the instructor gives up the role of Pontificator, as absolute authority on any given subject, students search for knowledge independently and develop their thinking skills.
I asked students to think about their classroom experiences at R.C.C. and how these little epiphanies have given them insight. Justin Pardee recorded their comments for you.
(Insert video of RCC students discussing their RCC education—8-10 minutes)
After listening to these comments, I began to understand clearly how intellectual prosperity in the 21st century begins with a study of classical western culture. In his work Italy Today, Mario Mignone writes:
The values of this civilization, “the West,” are now questioned, directly and indirectly, especially in the university controversy, part of which is a debate concerning cultural relativism. People ask why the thought and art of the West should be taught in American schools and universities, rather than the thought and art of China, India, Africa or the pre-literate cultures of the North American Indian. In this debate, Eurocentrism has become an umbrella term for the charge that American culture is hostile to anyone whose ancestors are not European. The political explanation given argues that European or European-descended whites have always controlled western universities and dominated western cultural life, imposing on others what suited them. (xi)
In light of the recent announcements about the human genome project (all races have same human genome–we are biologically identical) seems to diminish the validity of those who want to discount the value of European heritage in American life. Without African rhythm and European melody, we wouldn’t have jazz or rock music—many would argue this music is America’s most original artistic accomplishment. Without writers like Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Boccaccio, and Voltaire, we might not have become the world’s leading movie makers. How can a person appreciate the brilliance of movies like Seven or Hannibal without knowing the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, Chaucer, Dante, and John Milton or knowing the art of Giotto, Michelangelo, and DaVinci? How can Americans find their way out of the maze of political corruption and media hype without reading Machiavelli? We Americans think of pizza, tacos, sushi, chicken curry, spaghetti, roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy as American food, but these dishes didn’t really originate here. Likewise, American art and architecture can be traced to the streets of ancient Athens, Fiesole, Pompeii, and Rome. As with music, entertainment, and food, we have enhanced American culture with our ancestor’s roots in literary and religious canon.
Going back to Mignone’s comments, here at RCC, we honor the thought and art of China, India, Africa, and the preliterate cultures of the North American Indian. However, the idea that American culture is hostile to anyone whose ancestors are not European is absurd because America is a nation of mixed ethnic groups, mixed races, and mixed religions; we are a hybrid people who embrace the canon and art of the entire globe. Recently, social scientists predicted, from statistics gathered from the latest US census, that within 10 years 20% of Americans will come from multi-racial families. Riverside Community College’s student body already provides a fairly accurate representative microcosm of America’s cultural and economic diversity. Students from this diverse microcosm join together in small groups several times a year for “globe-trotting.” Initially, these students who come from black, white, orange, purple, green, striped, polka-dotted, and plaid Riverside families, are lured by the excitement of adventure in foreign lands. However, they come back home appreciating America and its unique hybrid culture.
RCC students enrolled in our study abroad programs in England, Italy, Spain, France, Japan, Mexico, and Central America discover they are “Americans” and are tied together in many unexpected ways, and these ways are directly or indirectly connected to those values brought to this continent by our own immigrant ancestors who came from every continent on the globe and from the first European immigrants from England, Spain, France, Germany, and Italy.
Today, in America, students cling to the cultural values of their ethnic origins. Valuing cultural identities is not a new idea. Geoffrey of Monmouth, a Catholic priest, wrote The History of the Kings of Britain in 1136 by attempting to establish the validity of the English throne and the cultural heritage of the British people. In the medieval world, and especially medieval Briton, few people were literate because of a feudal system that kept the masses ignorant and subservient. In the forward to his translation from Latin to modern English, Lewis Thorpe tells us that:
Geoffrey’s purpose in writing the book was to trace the history of the Britons through a long sweep of nineteen hundred years, stretching from the mythical Brutus, great grandson of the Trojan Aeneas . . . . [who] landed there in the twelfth century before Christ, down to his last British King, Callwallader, who harassed by plague, famine, civil dissention and never-ending invasion from the continent, finally abandoned Britain to the Saxons in the seventh century . . . . Between these two extreme limits in time, he planned to relate for us the history of the British people . . . . permitting an individual incident or anecdote to swell out of proportion and to become a narrative in its own right. For Geoffrey, his history was a pageant of striking personalities, moving forward to the greatest personality of them all, King Arthur . . . Geoffrey’s essential inspiration was a patriotic one. (9-10)
In Geoffrey’s tale, we find the first written accounts of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Cymbaline, and Malory’s King Arthur and his knights of the round table. You’ve all heard of King Arthur and his magician guru, Merlin. Geoffrey tells us the reason Merlin could accomplish such miraculous fetes was because he was conceived as the son of a virgin mother and an “incubus demon”—an entity that lives halfway between heaven and hell (168). These legends formed the basis of English literary canon later established by Shakespeare, Malory, and Tennyson and provided the British people pride in their cultural heritage, a cultural heritage tied to the ancient Greeks.
If you would like to believe Geoffrey’s account as accurate reporting, I have some tropical swampland to sell you in Alaska—I’ll meet you right outside the door when I’m finished speaking and, of course, you’ll need cash to complete the transaction. A little side note: I’m sure you won’t totally hear about Geoffrey’s work in an RCC history class, but you can learn more about him if you enroll in English 6 next Fall.
Now, you are probably wondering why I believe RCC students will gain “intellectual prosperity” by reading The History of the Kings of Briton and many other dated texts, texts considered part of the traditional western canon, texts written by old, dead, and mostly white, European men and women. You are also probably wondering why I believe students who join one of R.C.C.’s Study Abroad Programs will gain this valuable asset.
I have come to believe our intellectual ideas and our cultural and political lives develop from the influence of historic, religious, philosophical, and scientific literary canons. To understand our presuppositions, we need to search for intellectual prosperity by personally experiencing western canon and art with all our senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.
The ancient Greeks provided us with the basis for western culture. Early Greek life surged with passion; we can experience this passion in their religion, politics, literature, architecture, and art, and especially their pottery. They studied mathematics and astronomy. Homer related cultural ideals and religious myth in his epics the Iliad and Odyssey. Plato recorded the ethics and arguments of Socrates. Aristotle, a student of Plato, continued to develop philosophical arguments as he classified the sciences. Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripedes penned drama we still study today. Aristotle’s student Alexander the Great spread Greek thought throughout the known world as he conquered foreign lands. The Greeks also gave us Herodotus, the first modern historian.
When RCC students visit Fiesole, high on the hilltops above city of Florence, they get a glimpse into the northern Italian civilization began by the Etruscans a thousand years before Christ. The Etruscans developed an efficient maritime operation, trading with the Egyptians and Greeks.
And, these Etruscans developed a highly sophisticated system of architecture. Eventually, they controlled the ancient city of Pompeii and then were absorbed by the Romans.
Greatly influenced by the Egyptians in northern Africa, the Greeks in the eastern Mediterranean, and the Etruscans of northern Italy, the Roman civilization became a direct ancestor of contemporary 21st century American society. We use the Roman alphabet and calendar. The Roman nation became a giant sponge because the Romans had an ancient sense of diversity. This spongelike quality was probably one of the greatest Roman accomplishments: they acquired, preserved, and incorporated into their society, the knowledge, literature, art, and architecture of the known world. The United States of America has become the most powerful nation on earth by emulating this Roman quality. We see this spongelike quality in our diversity, our laws and political system, our philosophy and religions, our music, our art and architecture, our literature, and in our science and technology.
Roman law and political philosophy acted as a paradigm for the writers of our constitution, when they designed a republican form of government for the United States in 1787. We can better understand this connection by reading the Federalist Papers written by John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.
As great road builders, under the influence of Julius Caesar, the Romans quickly spread their civilization to Europe and Britain in the north, to Africa in the south, and the Mesopotamian cradle of civilization in the east. American innovation has emulated the Romans by connecting diverse groups through technological roads of communication—radio, television, movies, and the internet.
When I was in junior high school, my parents insisted I study Latin, instead of Spanish or French. While learning the written Latin language, I struggled for several years reading Julius Caesar’s accounts of Romans conquering Gaul, Belgium, and England. At 13 and 14 years old, I remember thinking that Julius was an arrogant elitist because he made rude remarks about my Germanic and British ancestors—he thought them uncouth and barbaric. Didn’t Thomas Jefferson charge King George III with the same kind of arrogance and elitism when he wrote the Declaration of Independence?
According to Julius Caesar, Rome provided the ultimate paradigm of civilized culture for the rest of the known world. Recent movies such as Gladiator and Titus give us an insight into our perceptions of Roman life.
As great architects, the Romans created prosperous and luxurious living for citizens with aqueducts that improved agriculture, great public baths similar to modern swimming pools, and water systems inside homes, including cisterns and toilets. Built from poured cement as a temple for the worship of Roman gods, the Pantheon still stands and is used as a Christian church. While in Rome, some of our R.C.C. students went into the Pantheon and observed a priest marrying a young Italian couple.
Roman religion, greatly influenced by the religious beliefs of the Greeks, failed because the gods were finite, not infinite. Both Greek and Roman gods were like men and women, but larger than life—they were amplified humanity, but not divinity. In the 21st century city of Rome, we find 2000 year old larger than life statues of the Roman gods and goddesses in their original locations within the city.
From the Roman occupied territory during the reign of Caesar Augustus was to come a new and unique religion when Jesus Christ, a Jew, was born. RCC students, as learners in quest of Intellectual Prosperity, learn to understand the ridicule and the oppression of early Christians, when they visit the Coliseum and the Catacombs in Rome. Christ’s life provides a perfect example of the non-violent civil disobedience, that would be practiced by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 20th century. Any movie-goer who sees the movie Gandhi or any reader of King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” will immediately see this influence.
Long before the influence of Christ and the non-violent movement of diversity and prosperity through peace, the great Roman poet, Virgil, explored a world in which the Roman religion flourished as Rome emerged. He wrote The Aenied, an epic poem about Aeneas founding Rome, inspiring Geoffrey’s ultimate writing of the History of the Kings of Britain, and inspiring Dante to write The Divine Comedy.
R.C.C. students who visit 1600 year old churches in Ravenna, start to comprehend the intense religious devotion of the Byzantine world. They show astonishment when they visit the perfectly preserved tomb of Gallo Placidia, a woman who ruled the Roman empire. Most people don’t know a woman ruled the world circa 500 A.D. When they visit Venice, they can see the connection between Rome and the development of Venetian culture.
During the medieval period and the development of the modern university system, few people were literate. Artists repeated stories of history and religion in their frescoes, mosaics, sculpture, epics, and passion plays. Trained rhetoricians who could spread knowledge through oratory were highly respected citizens.
The magnificently forceful Charlemagne, was born in Aachen, in what we now call Germany. He became emperor by order of Pope Leo III in Rome on Christmas Day in the year 800. Charlemagne took the crown from Leo III and put it on his own head, becoming one of the most important founders of the middle ages because he was an energetic man and a formidable warrior. He united all of Europe under the pope, giving the pope a strong land base in Italy and converting the northern peoples he conquered to Christianity. He established monasteries throughout northern Europe—in these monasteries the monks developed our present university system by studying and copying the Bible by hand, as well as the ancient Greek and Roman texts, especially the works of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine.
Again, we read in Schaeffer:
The medieval situation was at the same time easier and more complex than it had been for the Roman[s]. . . .It was easier [because] Europe was regarded as Christ’s kingdom . . . . Thus Christian baptism was not only spiritually but socially and politically significant; it denoted entrance into society. Only a baptized person was a fully accepted member of European society. A Jew was a non-person in this sense, and for this reason he could engage in occupations (such as money lending) which were otherwise forbidden. But if the church baptized or consecrated by the state, this only made more complex the problem of conscience, because a government which is to all appearances in tune with society can, for that very reason, betray society with the greatest impunity. This, of course, was and is true of the church as an organization, too. (39)
When students visit medieval Siena, they visit the greatest artistic study of the society and government produced in the medieval period—Lorenzetti’s fresco, the Allegory of Good and Bad Government. This fresco “clearly distinguishes between good and bad government, showing on one side the devil presiding over all those vices which destroy community, and on the other side the Christian virtues from which all those activities—including honest toil—manifest oneness between men under God” (39). Schaeffer continues his discussion of the fresco by making an analogy about good government today—we consider a “good government” one that provides safety for a woman walking alone on a city street at night without fear and a “bad government” one that does not prevent a woman from being attacked, raped, or robbed.
James Ross and Mary McLauglin assembled a wonderful anthology for Penguin Press, The Portable Medieval Reader. In this compact text, students can trace the development of western thought. They write:
No area of the past is dead if we are alive to it. Men of the twelfth century were profoundly aware of living ties with the past. In fact, they, and their predecessors and successors as well, were confronted with the problem of the past in a particularly acute form. For theirs was the task of recovering and assimilating a vast cultural legacy from pagan antiquity and of reconciling it with the Christian revelation and way of life. Although they were by no means deficient in pride in their own achievement, the weight of their debt to the past often lay heavily on them. In our modern times, we seldom have occasion to lament the hold of the past on the present and we rarely feel dwarfed by its greatness. . . . As Americans, we are separated by geography from the physical environment and many of the tangible evidences of this phase of the past, and by our national history from the long middle ages of Western culture which is truly ours as it is that of European peoples. (2)
Any of you who would like to learn more about the time period would get a good start with this book. The editors have assembled an anthology that “includes an entire chorus of voices—of kings, warriors, prelates, merchants, artisans, chroniclers, and scholars—that together convey a lively, intimate impression of a world that might otherwise seem immeasurably alien.” You will read short essays and “contemporary accounts of the persecution of Jews and heretics, of the crusades in the Holy Land, of courtly pageant, popular uprisings, and the first trade missions to Cathay. You will find readings from Chaucer, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint Thomas Aquinas.”
Today’s western culture has been influenced by St. Augustine and by St. Thomas Aquinas, who discovered Augustine’s writings hundreds of years after they were written. Martin Luther and John Calvin, influenced by Aquinas started the reformation, which led to the council of Trent and reformed the Catholic church.
If you want to learn about what women were saying about their lives during this period, read Hildegard of Bingen—a German nun who cured illness with music, Christine DiPisan—a well educated Italian woman, Julian of Norwich—an English Abbess, Margery Kemp—a disciple of Julian who, after giving birth to 15 children, declared herself a born again virgin, gave up sexual relations, and traveled across Europe wearing a white gown and convincing women to choose celibate lives, rather than the drudgery of child-bearing and motherhood. I guess you could call Margery’s medieval birth-control radical thinking for the time. You can learn about these women’s writing in English 35.
During the middle ages, a struggle escalated between the two great powers of the age—the papacy and the empire. Dante Aligieri was one of the last great thinkers of the middle ages, a devoutly religious Christian who believed in the separation of church and state. Dante filled his life with three passions—the world of politics, the world of theology, and the world of learning. Banished from his beloved city of Florence after having a skirmish with the pope, he exposes what he believes to be corruption in government and corruption the church when he wrote his epic poem, The Divine Comedy. In this wonderful allegory, Dante takes us on a tour of the entire universe, from the extreme pains of hell to the ultimate joys of heaven. You can read Dante when you enroll in English 40 next semester.
One of the most widely read books in the world is The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. A handbook to guide rulers, this little text gives marvelous insight into human nature.
Lee A. Jacobus writes:
Niccolo Machiavelli was an aristocrat whose fortunes wavered according to the shifts in power in Florence at the end of the 15th Century. Renaissance Italy was a collection of powerful city-states, which were sometimes volatile and unstable. When Florence’s famed Medici princes were returned to power in 1512 after eighteen years of banishment, Machiavelli did not fare well. He was suspected of crimes against the state and imprisoned. Even though he was not guilty, he had to learn to support himself as a writer instead of continuing his career in civil service. His works often contrast two forces: luck (one’s fortune) and character (one’s virtues). His own character outlasted his bad luck in regard to the Medicis, and he was returned to a position of responsibility. The Prince (1513), his most celebrated work, was a general treatise on the qualities the prince (that is, ruler) must have to maintain his power. In a more particular way, it was directed at the Medicis to encourage them to save Italy from the predatory incursions of France and Spain, whose troops were nibbling at the crumbling Italian principalities and who would, in time, control much of Italy.” His instructions to the prince are curiously devoid of any high-sounding moralizing or any encouragement to be good as a matter of principle. Instead, Machiavelli recommends a very practical course of action for the prince: secure power by direct and effective means. It may be that Machiavelli fully expects that the prince will use his power for good ends -certainly he does not recommend tyranny. But he also supports using questionable means to achieve the final end of becoming and remaining the prince. Although Machiavelli recognizes that there is often a conflict between the ends and the means used to achieve them, he does not fret over the possible problems that may accompany the use of “unpleasant” means, such as punishment of upstarts, or the use of repression, imprisonment, and torture. Through the years Machiavelli’s view of human nature has come under criticism for its cynicism. For instance, he suggests that a morally good person would not remain long in any high office because that person would have to compete with the mass of people, who, he says, are basically bad. Machiavelli constantly tells us that he is describing the world as it really is, not as it should be. . . . Such definite statements have several important qualities. One is that they are pithy: they seem to say a great deal in a few words. Another is that they appear to contain a great deal of wisdom, in part because they are delivered with such certainty, and in part because they have the ring of other aphorisms that we accept as true. . . . This may be why the speeches of contemporary politicians (modern versions of the prince) are often sprinkled with such expressions and illustrates why Machiavelli’s rhetorical technique is still reliable, still effective, and still worth studying. (33-34)
I would like to speak for the next few hours my passion for the wonders of the Renaissance, for the development of the world’s greatest invention—the printing press, for the discovery of the new world, for the industrial age and its influence on the elimination of the feudal system. I would like to speak about how European writers like Cervantes of Spain, Voltaire and Rousseau of France, Marlow and Shakespeare and Locke and Dickens of England, Ibsen of Norway, and Tolstoy and Dostovesky of Russia all helped civilize the world.
I would also like to speak about the literary women who have changed the status of women in western culture—Laura Cereta, Elizabeth I, Abigail Adams, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelly, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austin, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickenson, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gertrude Stein, Willa Cather, Agatha Christie, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison.
I would like to encourage all learners searching for intellectual prosperity in the 21st century to enroll in one of R.C.C.’s study abroad programs. I want you all to experience the art in Florence, Rome, Ravenna, Venice, Paris, Vienna, and Munich. I want you all to see Stonehenge and visit Shakespeare’s Globe Threatre in England. I want you all to hear opera in Milan and chamber music in Vienna.
But, I’ve run out of time so I need to stop speaking and leave you with this final thought.
At a press conference at LAX, Mayor Richard Riordan decreed May 9, 2001 as Dennis Tito Day, in honor of the first space tourist who paid $20,000,000 for a ride to the international space station in a Russian space shuttle. Riordan alluded to the famous science fiction film, 2001: A Space Odyssey and mentioned how so many of the predictions made in the film have actually become a reality. I truly appreciated the response from the sixty year old Tito, when he thanked Riordan for the unexpected honor. Tito spoke of obtaining his forty year old American Dream, a dream that started when America first put a man on the moon. Answering questions from reporters, Tito told how his parents came from Italy as poor immigrants; the family worked together and helped him enter college with a major in aerospace engineering. Tito knew he would need to become financially successful to obtain his dream. After becoming a successful engineer with a substantial income, he invested wisely, making billions of dollars in the stock market. He said, “I followed my passion.” He encourages young people to also follow their passions by starting young and paying attention to their educations. While in space Tito listened to 30 hours of opera while snapping 37 rolls of still photos and simultaneously making video recordings. He said space travel should be available for other civilians—he wants NASA to take at least one civilian on every flight; he believes those civilians should be selected from various creative disciplines. He believes that teachers, poets, writers, painters, musicians, and other artists should help make “space” part of our American POP CULTURE, a hybrid pop cultural drama enriched by our diversity and played on a world stage.
Thank you for listening to me pontificate about my passions. If you missed the student conversations about intellectual prosperity presented before my discussion, you are invited to remain and watch the part you missed. Thank you again.
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