President Cornwell talks politics at 139th Convocation

Members of both the campus community and the Wooster community gathered in the newly renovated McGaw Chapel Tuesday morning for the formal convocation of the College’s 139th academic year. Student ensemble The Eleventh Hour Saxophone Quartet played a sprightly prelude before the sound of bagpipes ushered in the procession of administrators, professors, and the class of 2009, all dressed in their academic robes.

After Campus Chaplain Henry Jefferson Copeland and Director of Interfaith Campus Ministry Linda Morgan-Clement opened with a prayer, Vice President for Academic Affairs Iain Crawford welcomed the crowd, announced new faculty promotions and retirements, and paid respect to the three emeritus professors who have passed away since last year.

Katherine Pifer ’09, new President of the Student Government Association, then took the stage, focusing her student address on the phrase “Under Construction”, the first-year orientation theme for the class of 2009.

“In our three years at Wooster, we have seen some of the most significant evolutions in the college’s history,” said Pifer, citing suite-style dorms, the major renovation of Kauke Hall, and President Grant Cornwell’s inauguration. Pifer compared these changes to those that Wooster students go through from their first year to graduation.

Lauren McIntyre ’10, President of the Black Student Association, invited students to participate this year “in an open dialogue‚Ķwith the entire campus community”. Itai Njanji ’11, President of the Inter-national Student Asso-ciation and ambassador of Zimbabwe to the college, challenged each student to “reach out, explore, and be explored.”

President Grant Cornwell concluded the ceremony with his Convocation Address, entitled “Global Citizenship in an Election Year.” Cornwell offered “some thoughts on the immediate and urgent business of liberal learning, the larger global context within which this American presidential election is taking place, and [things] to think about as you reason about how to vote.” He described a perspective of current world affairs that centered on what he referred to as “the decline of the American Imperium.”

“You are coming of age at the end of the American Imperium,” said Cornwell. “You will hear in political rhetoric all kinds of nostalgia, talk of failure and loss, and [recapturing competitiveness]. Narratives of U.S. supremacy are nostalgic and dangerous. They orient us to a world order that has passed, and any quest to recapture it is both doomed and ethically wrongheaded.”

Cornwell concluded by urging students to allow these world affairs to influence their decisions as they vote for a new President this November, and as we prepare to inherit the new world he described.