Professor’s message: Model global citizens are steeped in liberal arts education

May 24, 2011

On the eve of their graduation from McDaniel College, the class of 2011 gathered in Baker Memorial Chapel for Baccalaureate to reflect on their experiences on the Hill and to hear this year’s faculty speaker, Christianna Nichols Leahy, reinforce the value of their liberal arts education in preparing them to be active, engaged global citizens.

A professor of Political Science and International Studies, Leahy called the soon-to-be graduates’ senior year memorable in terms of youth “unleashing their potential and changing the world in the places thought least likely to do so with any success.”

“As we together watched with elation the unfolding of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisa, followed by the absolutely unbelievable occupation of Tahrir Square that culminated in the peaceful overthrow of what was unequivocally one of the most repressive regimes, that of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, we openly wept tears of joy together. We pulled together a solidarity event in Red Square using the same social networking sites that helped the revolutionaries to organize their movement.”

Leahy talked about human dignity, and how many people don’t understand what the term means.

“I am happy to know that our students are not puzzled by the term human dignity, for they are versed in the liberal arts that so steadfastly dwell on exactly that – human dignity.  For what does it mean to be liberally educated but to become versed in the tools that most allow for the expression of human dignity.”

Many of the graduates had studied abroad, and all had contemplated human dignity in classes such as Sophomore Interdisciplinary courses Southern Appalachia, The Arab World and Propaganda, Leahy said.

“All the while you were not alone, you had philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, economists, and humanists of all kinds with you in the books in your backpacks, on your laptops and smart phones, in your lecture halls, and in e-mails to your professors with whom you are so comfortable that you friend them on Facebook.

“Yes, you know what a liberal education consists of and why it matters.”

The class of 2011, Leahy said, raised funds for the victims of natural disasters in Haiti, Chile, China, Indonesia and Japan, and experienced worldwide economic recession. The seniors also witnessed the power of putting people over profit in the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, she said.

“You are already citizens of the world (in Diogenes sense) whether you realize it or not. What we have endeavored to do up on this hill is to equip you with the tools that we believe the liberal arts supply the best, to become model citizens of the world.”