Insight Over Prestige

Initially, Harvard Professor Lani Guinier began her address to the community in similar fashion to the thousands of Martin Luther King Jr. Day speakers delivering speeches that day. She praised the work of Dr. King and offered her reasoning as to why it is important that we, as a country, acknowledge his life’s work each year. However, Guinier’s speech soon took a different turn to making vast generalizations about genders. She made the generalization that most males speak during class discussions due to a ubiquitous urge to be noticed, and women fail to partake in classroom dialogue because they are intimidated by men. I understand that her message of gender equality is very relevant to Dr. King’s mission, but I felt alienated as a male by the various generalizing and belittling quips. “Men should try to be more like women” is an example of one of the off-putting comments that she made that distracted me from her point of gender equality. After a perplexing All-School Meeting, I went to my assigned workshop, “Mr. Glass,” a one-man show featuring Andover alumnus Jonathon Dent ’05. Dent impersonated important figures throughout his life, telling his life story leading up to and including his time at Andover. While Dent is just a recent college graduate, his presentation of his past experiences as an Andover student allowed him to establish a connection with the audience that Guinier failed to make. Dent was able to utilize the celebration of a civil rights hero in order to prompt members of the audience to reflect on what their race means to them—an issue that Guinier ultimately failed to discuss. Dent presented his journey to self-discovery in an entertaining, relatable and thought-provoking way. His show caused me to grapple with pertinent issues in my life at Andover such as racism, self-identification, social dynamics and drug use. When compared with Guinier’s presentation from earlier that day, it was clear that “Mr. Glass” was the more informative, enriching and personally stimulating of the two programs. I understand that Dent’s credentials do not have the “wow” factor that Guinier’s naturally possess as a tenured professor at Harvard Law School. However, the “wow” factor that a personally meaningful program such as Dent’s “Mr. Glass” can have on an audience far overshadows the superficial impressiveness of a speaker with standout credentials. I propose that the Dean of Students Office, as well as the Community and Multicultural Department Office, reevaluate the selection process for keynote speakers during All-School Meetings. An impressive resume does not always translate to a captivating and meaningful message. Speaking ability, conciseness and clarity of message should be the characteristics we look for in All School Meeting speakers. We need more people like Jonathon Dent at All-School Meeting. We need programs to be captivating, insightful and personable. If we get speakers like this, maybe we all learn something that even a Harvard professor cannot teach. Brian Delaney is a three-year Upper from Darien, CT and an Associate News Editor for The Phillipian.