I'll be away from the blog for a few days over the long Memorial Day weekend while Clara and I travel to Oberlin, Ohio, for reunion and commencement at the best college east of the Mississippi.
Oberlin recently hired a marketing consultant to come up with a slogan to sell the college to prospective students. Above, you see the results: we are oberlin. fearless Despite the ridicule it has provoked, the new slogan has at least garnered some media attention, such as this May 1 story on NPR's "All Things Considered."
I'm skeptical of the need to hire marketing consultants and create expensive and ridicule-provoking media campaigns. Another northern Ohio-based institution, the United Church of Christ, did it a few years ago, creating the God is Still Speaking Campaign, complete with television ads and merchandise. None of it drew as much media attention to the UCC as did the recent controversy surrounding Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
The best publicity for any institution comes from actions, not overpriced words. And for 175 years, Oberlin has been a place of fearless action. The college, founded in 1833, was coeducational from its beginning, and admitted African-American students beginning 1835. Not surprisingly, the first African-American woman to earn a college degree, Mary Jane Patterson, graduated from Oberlin in 1862. Oberlin was founded by Congregationalist clergymen—predecessors of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who, like Rev. Wright, brought their evangelical fire-and-brimstone religious style to the pressing social justice issues of the day. In 1833, the most pressing issue was the abolition of slavery, and Oberlin's early leaders, men like Asa Mahan and Charles Grandison Finney, saw to it that Oberlin was in the forefront of the abolitionist movement. The town of Oberlin was also an important stop on the Underground Railroad. Oberlin always was fearless.
While Clara (Class of 1983) and I (Class of 1986) are attending Clara's reunion, her fearless brother (Class of 1976) and our fearless nephews (Classes of 2007 and 2011) are on the first leg of their epic bike journey from Izmir, Turkey, to Berlin, Germany. If John can find internet access along the way, you can follow the journey on his blog. I'll be back on Monday or Tuesday with a report on our Commencement and Reunion weekend in Oberlin. Meanwhile, enjoy Memorial Day if you're in the U.S.A., or your spring Bank Holiday if you're in the U.K.
Musical Outro. Click here for The Decemberists performing "Song for Myla Goldberg" in Minneapolis in November 2006. Myla Goldberg is the author of the wonderful novel Bee Season, and a graduate Oberlin College. How cool is Oberlin? Its graduates inspire songs by The Decemberists.
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
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