SPEAKER: This is a production of Cornell University.
ASHLEY MCGOVERN: My name is Ashley McGovern, and I'm the president of Der Hexenkreis Chapter of Mortar Board National Honor Society. Der Hexenkreis is Cornell's second oldest honor society and was established in 1892. This chapter is also the founding chapter of Mortar Board National Senior Honor Society, which became a national organization in 1918 and currently has 226 collegiate chapters.
Because of our rich history and notable alumni, Der Hexenkreis has been an important part of Cornell's history and remains active on campus today, counting some of the campus's most outstanding organizational leaders and athletes as its members.
Each spring, through application selection, we tap 25 to 35 of Cornell's most promising juniors who are leaders in scholarship, service, and activism on campus. This event is one of our oldest. And I'll ask Ellie Erpenbech, our Last Lecture chair, to tell you a little more about our esteemed speaker.
ELLIE ERPENBECH: Good evening, and welcome to Mortar Board's presentation of the Last Lecture. My name is Ellie Erpenbech, and I am this year's Last Lecture chair. As Ashley said, Mortar Board is an all senior honor society, and our oldest and most defining event is the Last Lecture, where we invite esteemed faculty members to deliver what would hypothetically be their last academic lecture.
Previous lectures have featured Paul Chirik from the Department of Chemistry, Brian [? Wancing ?] from the Department of Applied Economics and Management, and Cornell President Dr. David Skorton. Today, we have a very special treat. It is my immense pleasure to introduce our 2008 Last Lecture with the former Cornell president and current professor of classics, Dr. Hunter Rawlings III.
Distinguished scholar, leader, and visionary, Dr. Rawlings has built an impressive record as a professor of classics and administrator at the University of Colorado, Iowa University, and, most recently, at Cornell. As the 10th president of Cornell University and the interim president from 2005-2006, he strengthened the school's commitment to academic excellence and shaped Cornell into much of what we know and love today.
During his tenure, he supported increases in student diversity, made permanent Cornell's commitment to need-blind admission policy, and launched the residential initiative, resulting in the transformation of North Campus into a living and learning community for freshman and West Campus for upper level students. He enriched opportunities for undergraduate education, and, in recognition of his commitment to scholars, the Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Program was named in his honor.
Rawlings also strengthened Cornell's Medical College and signed an agreement to establish the new branch in Qatar. Dr. Rawlings III stands as one of Cornell's most important figures, and it is with immense pleasure that I now invite this true leader and visionary to present his Last Lecture.
HUNTER RAWLINGS III: Thank you very much for that kind introduction, and thank you for honoring me by asking me to come and give my Last Lecture. Now, this series' title is unnerving.
I have had a lot of people ask me in the last week what's going on here. And they ask the question rather nervously, like are you leaving soon? Or are you retiring? Are you going to another university? Do you only have a few weeks to live?
And then today, in my Periclean Athens course, I had the best question of all. Professor Rawlings, does this mean that you won't be lecturing on Thursday?
Cornell students are always trying to get an edge. And this student, who will go nameless, had that question for me this morning. So everybody's looking for an edge, and this student thought he had an edge. I tell him, no, I'm lecturing on Thursday. Be there. So I hope he's going to be there.
Now, I gather that the idea here is that a professor should unburden himself or herself of a lot of thoughts and concerns that he or she has had over the past many years. Today, I would like to just unburden myself about one thought, one subject, which is close reading.
Now, this subject has been at the heart of my academic concerns, my academic career since it began. And it's something that classicists do. And I realize that very few of you are classicists, though I see a few out there, happily. And so close reading is not something that is generally within your own purview.
And in fact, most of the reading being done today in American society is the opposite of close reading. That is, it is superficial reading being done on the internet, in newspapers, and in the other media that are today, of course, so dominated by digital communication.
So most of the reading we do these days tends to be highly superficial reading. It is the idea of googling something or, as John McCain would say, doing a google in order to find some information that you need for some particular purpose, usually a purpose that is going to be served in a short amount of time. That is, you want some quick information on something.
That's not the kind of reading I have in mind. In fact, that kind of reading distresses me a great deal. But I'm going to try to resist the temptation today to speak in an avuncular fashion as classicists of my age tend to do. I'm going to try-- and you'll have to judge whether I succeed in this-- to resist the temptation of complaining about the lack of learning in today's world. Enough of that.
Instead, I'd like to do three case histories in my remarks this afternoon, three case histories, all of them my personal experiences. And so I'm going to give you three examples of how I have run into the joys of close reading. And I hope that they will serve at least as something for you to think about in terms of reading when this lecture is over.
So let me go back to 1968. Now, 1968, I know to many of you, is an impossibly long time ago. It is, to use the phrase we like to use in classics, ancient history. For me, of course, it's not quite so ancient. In 1968, I was 23 years old, and the Vietnam War was raging. And it was the only thing on the minds of my generation in the year 1968. It dominated everything.
I was a graduate student at Princeton University. I know, I know. Don't go into that. And I was a graduate student in the field of classics, which means classical philology, the study of Greek and Latin language and literature and history. And it was very difficult, as you might imagine, to concentrate on technical subjects in Greek and Latin at a time of such stress and tension and pressure as that caused by the Vietnam War.
And I had a difficult time understanding what my studies in graduate school had to do with what I was seeing around me every day of the week. And what I was seeing around me, of course, was friends being drafted into the military to go to war, others of us protesting the war on a regular basis, and American society torn by an extremely divisive struggle.
So how do you concentrate on Latin and Greek under those circumstances? Well, I didn't concentrate especially well on Latin and Greek under those circumstances until I took a course in the Greek historian Thucydides. Thucydides is known to us for only one thing. He wrote the history of the Peloponnesian War, the war between Athens and Sparta.
And I took a graduate course in the historian Thucydides in 1968, and it literally changed my way of thinking. We're fond of saying it changed my life. I guess it's true that it changed my life as well, because I found an author who spoke to me directly about what I was experiencing day in and day out in a very difficult war.
Thucydides describes a war that lasted 27 years. And it was a war that was not fought on the other side of the planet, which could be safely watched from one's living room. It was a war that was fought directly and immediately at the city of Athens for a 27-year-long period. Now that is a long and intense thing to endure.
Thucydides himself served as a general in that war. He was exiled from the city of Athens because of what was thought of as a failed generalship. In exile, he decided to write a history of the war, which he was not able to complete. It remained unfinished. We don't know exactly why. Perhaps he died before he could complete it. But he left it as a memorial, a monument to what war can do to an advanced democratic society.
And he writes this history in a rhetorically very sophisticated way. Now, to take it another step, it wasn't just rhetorically sophisticated. It's written in exceedingly difficult Greek, particularly the speeches that appear in Thucydides' history. And ordinarily, students resist this Greek because it is hard. It is exceedingly difficult to read and to interpret.
Furthermore, the thought in Thucydides is hard, by which I mean there are no easy answers in Thucydides' history of the war between Athens and Sparta. There are no easy questions. They're all difficult, extremely difficult-- ethically, morally, politically, socially, psychologically difficult.
What I found in reading Thucydides, however, was that this difficulty matched perfectly the difficulty I was having with the Vietnam War. That is, I found that hard to cope with. And I found Thucydides hard to cope with. And that was a good thing. The harder Thucydides was, the more I liked it, unlike most things.
Most of us want easy answers to questions. We want to be told what's right so that we can reply correctly on an exam or a paper. Thucydides doesn't let you do that. There is nothing right in Thucydides. It's all hard. But being hard seemed to me to be appropriate to the nature of war, particularly that kind of intense war which splits a democratic state into two, an enormously divisive difficult war.
And so in reading Thucydides, I found a lot of depth. And here today in the year 2008, 40 years later, I'm still reading Thucydides slowly, carefully because he's still telling me things. And the harder those things are, the more I think they get the matter essentially right.
So Thucydides is not an author who can be read casually. He's not an author who can be read easily. He's not an author who can be read, as he said himself, for fun. There's not a lot of fun in it. But there is an enormous amount of depth.
And the kind of intense close reading that one can do in an author as sophisticated and as morally deep as Thucydides is good for the soul, I would submit. So that was my first lesson in close reading, close reading in an author who spoke to me directly. And I was lucky in a sense that I had the chance to study an author like that at a time such as 1968.
So this began to teach me something that I found important. And that is there are a lot of easy truths in life, a lot. They're presented all the time. Most of us like to grab hold of those and be done with an issue. But the easy truths in life really aren't that interesting, and they aren't really that important. It's the hard truths that are interesting and important and the ones that we pay very close reading. That's my first case history.
My second case history concerns my favorite Virginian, James Madison. And I see a few smiles in the audience because my students know I have a certain bias in favor of the diminutive Mr. Madison. He was 5 feet 4 inches tall. So I've always felt sorry for him.
So I became interested in James Madison for some peculiar personal reasons, not like the reasons that drew me to Thucydides, but for some other geographical reasons. I come from Virginia. When you're a kid growing up in Virginia, you learn Virginia history all the time every year in school. Never mind that you've had it the last five years. You're going to have it this year, too.
And it all focuses on George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Nobody ever talks about James Madison. So I decided, I must say, relatively late in life to find out who this Mr. Madison was. Why didn't anybody ever talk about him? And what I found was nobody ever talked about him because he lacked charisma.
Washington was a great general. Jefferson had all kinds of Renaissance qualities that made him charismatic and interesting. James Madison was the opposite of charismatic. He was small. He was shy. He was a poor speaker. But it turns out that Madison had qualities that I could appreciate.
Alone among all of our presidents, all of our presidents, I think it's fair to say James Madison is the only real scholar, the only scholar. Jefferson, of course, would qualify by most people's definition. But Madison was the person who was temperamentally a scholar.
That is, that's what he was about. Not a good speaker. Not a great leader. Not a public presence. Not charismatic. But a thinker, a sophisticated, careful intellectual who approached problems from a scholarly point of view.
He was a great reader. He was someone who read ancient history, for example, constantly in order to learn from it as he thought about, pondered the problems he was facing in the 1780s that all Americans were facing. I want to tell you a brief story, a little anecdote about Madison to give you an idea of the role he played in forming the American republic, a role which often goes underappreciated because of his temperament, his personality.
As most of you know, Madison had a lot to do with the authorship of the Constitution. He was one of the leaders in Philadelphia. He was also one of the real thinkers in the Virginia House of Burgesses and in the Continental Congress.
And so when the first American government was formed after the Constitution was written and adopted and George Washington was elected the first president of the United States, George Washington decided it would be important at the opening act of the American republic to present an inaugural address to Congress, the first inaugural address in American history.
And Washington, like the good CEO that he was, found himself a top speech writer to construct his inaugural address. And the speechwriter produced a draft speech for President Washington. Fortunately for Washington and fortunately for us, Washington decided he'd better check with a friend, to have the friend look at the speech.
The friend he chose was the young James Madison, his Virginia friend. He said, James-- Madison was visiting Mt. Vernon-- said, James, look over this draft and tell me whether you think it's appropriate for my inaugural address to the First Congress, of which Madison was a member, as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives.
Madison said he would be happy to look at the draft. Well, the draft was 70 pages long. I promise not to go on that long this afternoon. And furthermore, Madison felt that it was not at all appropriate for this occasion. It did not set the country on the right path. It was the wrong tone. It did not give proper acknowledgment of Congress as the most important branch of the government. It simply missed all of the important points that a president should make at the opening of this new government.
And so the next morning at breakfast, Madison said, George, this is a terrible speech. And Washington, again, like a good CEO, said, well, if you don't like it, would you draft my inaugural? And Madison said, I would be happy to. And he did draft the inaugural speech, which George Washington delivered to the First Congress as the opening act of the American republic.
The First Congress thought that it was an excellent speech in all respects and decided that it would be appropriate to continue this opening act, to give a formal reply to the speech. Who should write such a reply?
Well, clearly, one person was qualified to write the reply, James Madison. So Congress went to Madison and said, Mr. Madison, would you please draft the reply to the president's speech? And Madison said, I would be delighted to.
And so he did. He wrote the reply, and he delivered it, and that was Congress's formal reply to Washington. Well, the story's not quite over. Washington was exceedingly happy with the reply. And so he thought, you know, I should respond to the reply now. Who should write this thing? Obviously James Madison. Asked Madison, would you do it? He said, of course I will do.
Washington said, well, why don't you do two, one to the Senate and one to the House? And Madison said, I'd be delighted. And so he now wrote two more speeches, which Washington delivered to the Senate and the House. So the opening act of the American republic is James Madison talking with himself.
That's the way you get the new country started. You turn to the person who knows what he's doing. So this is a perfect example of James Madison working the way he liked to work, behind the scenes. He didn't like to be out in front. He preferred to be behind the scenes doing the thinking that went into the new Constitution and the new American republic.
So this is the guy we're dealing with when we're talking about understanding some of the most interesting and creative ideas that went into the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, and all the many other things that James Madison wrote as part of the beginning of this country's new government.
Now, I've recently assigned a bunch of James Madison to my students this semester. And they've been reading Madison, various writings of James Madison, his "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," some of his Federalist Papers, some of his own notes. And what I've discovered is this. And this is not the first time. And I see some of those students out there worried about what's going to come next.
Well, what I've discovered is it's hard for students to read James Madison. That is, it's hard to understand what he's saying. Now, part of that is no doubt because Madison's style is pretty typical of 18th century elite American style. That is, it has a sort of Ciceronian turn to it-- lengthy sentences, lots of subordination, sophisticated thought, not always easy to follow, especially if you're not used to doing close reading.
So what happens is students have a hard time sorting through the details of the points Madison is making, and it's the details that count. It's the details that count. So it turns out that students' ability to read James Madison is hampered by two things, I would say. One thing is a fairly unfamiliar style. The second thing is concentrated sophisticated ideas.
How often do we read concentrated sophisticated ideas? Not very often. If you go to presidential rhetoric today, I don't think you find very many concentrated sophisticated ideas. That may be about to change. But in general, that's not what we find. Nor do we find it in congressional speech or writing. Nor do we find it on television. Nor do we find it on the internet. I could go on.
The point is, how often are you confronted with careful, subtle, complex ideas? The answer is, I'm afraid, not very often. So when you are confronted with those ideas, it's hard. It's hard. It's hard even to know what is being said.
So the only way to deal with that is to read closely, to read carefully. And you can't do, by the way, 200 pages a week of that kind of reading. Classicists are fond of reading in their classes five or six pages a week. Now that sounds ridiculous. And in some ways, it is ridiculous, I guess.
But if you read five or six pages a week of a sophisticated author and you read those five or six pages carefully and you learn in detail what that author is saying and you come to appreciate not just the message but the style in which it's delivered, then you've done something. But if you have skim read 200 pages per course at Cornell for the week, I would submit you haven't learned a whole lot.
So that's the contrast I draw between superficial reading and close reading. It's a big difference. And it seems, in fact, counterintuitive that reading a few pages a week somehow is going to make you a learned person. But I would submit that's about the only way to become a learned person.
To be able to read difficult texts carefully with some serious understanding is a lot more productive in my mind. Not everybody agrees with me on this. But it's a lot more productive than reading hundreds of pages superficially. So that's the lesson I draw from watching students deal with James Madison.
Let me give you two sentences of James Madison's prose, which will be familiar to my students in the audience. These come from his remarkable document, the "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," a petition that Madison wrote in 1785 against Patrick Henry, who had proposed in the state of Virginia a new tax on citizens to support the Christian church.
Patrick Henry's proposal had a lot of support from leading Virginians-- George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, many of the big names, the FFVs, as we call them in Virginia. It had the support of a lot of Virginia leaders because it said we should tax our citizens in order to pay for the ministers of the Christian churches in Virginia.
And we'll make it a moderate tax, and we will allow you to designate whichever of the Virginia churches you would like to support, a modest, moderate proposal. George Washington even added that Jews and Muslims would not have to pay the tax in order to make it more palatable. So lots of support for this bill brought forward by Patrick Henry.
James Madison detested this bill. In his mind, this was the beginning of the end for the separation of church and state. This was the beginning of the end in this country of being able seriously to say that we are a country based secularly, in which churches are always welcome, but they are to exist within the private sphere, not within the public sphere.
And so Madison wrote a petition against this bill. It is an angry petition. But it's written in Ciceronian English. And so it's hard to even see it's angry unless you can see what Madison is actually saying. Let me just read you these two sentences. This is number five from Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance."
"We protest this bill because the bill implies either that the civil magistrate is a competent judge of religious truth or that he may employ religion as an engine of civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of rulers in all ages and throughout the world, the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation."
Now I just love that last phrase, "an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation." That's good, strong language. If President Bush had read number five, just these two sentences, and thought hard about them, I have a feeling he might have been somewhat more concerned about beginning his faith-based initiative, which runs directly contrary to what that English says.
Now, my guess is President Bush's successor, President Obama, is going to continue the faith-based initiative, at least he's been hinting that way. James Madison is rolling over in his grave at this connection between church and state. And I intend to continue to remonstrate, as Madison would say, against this idea because I think it is an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation. We can discuss that at another time.
My third case history concerns Abraham Lincoln, in my mind, the greatest of our presidents and, certainly, by far, the greatest of our speakers. Abraham Lincoln was a great, great reader. And so he fits under the paradigm I'm trying to talk about this afternoon-- a great reader.
What do I mean by a great reader? I mean someone who read the same text repeatedly. He didn't try to read as many books as he could. He read a very few books many times. In particular, of course, he read the Old Testament and the New Testament many, many times. It is said-- I don't know if it's exactly accurate, but it might be-- that during his presidency, Lincoln read the Bible every single day.
Now, why was he reading the Bible? Nobody knows absolutely for sure. Clearly, it was a horrible time to be president of the United States. Perhaps partly for solace. He had personal losses in his family, as well as terrible national tragedy. But it's also clear that Lincoln read every day because he found that text important for his own writing.
By that, I mean Lincoln drew inspiration constantly from the Bible for everything he wrote and presented to the American people. Speech after speech of Abraham Lincoln has to do with the Bible, not simply what it says but how it says it.
Now, that seems to be an obvious point. But let me suggest something to you. And this will be my third personal case history. Try an experiment like the one I tried about 25 years ago. I was in Washington, DC for some lobbying stuff. I don't remember what. I had a couple of hours free. And I walked down the Mall in the nation's capital, and I saw the Lincoln Memorial.
And I thought, you know what? I haven't been in the Lincoln Memorial since I was probably 12 years old on a school trip, bused up from Virginia to the memorial. I think I'll just walk into the memorial. Well, I went up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial. I walked inside, and I saw inscribed inside the walls of the Lincoln Memorial several passages from Lincoln's speeches, particularly from the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address.
And I was stunned by those passages. I guess I'd heard them. I guess I knew them a little bit. But reading those words incised in big letters on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial really hit me in the face. And I thought, how can somebody write like that? How can somebody write with so much power?
Fortunately, there was a little bookstore inside the memorial. And I went into the bookstore, and I said, do you have any copies of Lincoln's speeches? And they said, yeah, we do. And they handed me a book. And luckily, it was a book of Lincoln's speeches arranged in chronological order, from the earliest to the last. And on the plane home the next day, I started reading Lincoln's speeches in chronological order.
What's the point? The point is Lincoln developed his style constantly from year to year, from month to month, kept improving his style. So what started as a sort of rough hewn way of speaking became stronger and stronger, more and more polished, more and more subtle, more and more powerful.
And it's a good thing Lincoln did that all his life because he was confronted at the end of his life with the hardest problem that's ever been faced by an American-- civil war, brutal civil war, catastrophic civil war.
More Americans died in the Civil War than died in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam put together. So we think we've been through a tough war. Try a war in which World War I, II, and Korea and Vietnam get put together and still can't equal the number of American deaths. That's a brutal war.
How do you deal with that? Well, we were lucky to have Abraham Lincoln in the White House. We were lucky to have someone who had perfected his style gradually throughout his entire life, never stopped developing his style. Now, you say, developing a style, so what? Developing a style, that's just form.
Well, form has a whole lot to do with substance. The way you say something, the way you write something has a whole lot to do with the substance of that something. And that's what Lincoln produced.
So this year at Cornell, the freshman read, happily or unhappily-- I suspect mostly unhappily-- Garry Wills' book Lincoln at Gettysburg. It's a very good book. But don't make the mistake of asking the freshman in your class if they liked it or not. Because for an hour and 20 minutes, they'll tell you why they didn't like it.
So I don't make that mistake. When I teach that, I don't ask them whether they liked it or not. I'm not interested in whether they liked it or not. I want to know if they actually read it and learned something from it because, in this particular case, there was a lot to be learned.
Now, that book is about the Gettysburg Address, a great, great speech, 272 words long. When was the last time any of us wrote 272 important words? I mean, it just can't be done. It just can't be done. We require thousands of words, and we still don't have that kind of concentrated power.
272 words, the Gettysburg Address, most famous speech in American English-- 272 mostly short words. And it's a powerhouse. It's an absolute powerhouse drawn from the Bible, drawn from Pericles' Funeral Oration, as reported by the historian Thucydides, relying upon a thorough knowledge, a really deep knowledge of great Western texts.
That's what Lincoln had. He was a great reader. And he read the same things over and over and over again until they got into his blood. And then he could produce the language that he has given us. But for my texts from Lincoln today-- I'll be brief again-- I'm not going to quote the Gettysburg Address. I'm going to read three sentences from Lincoln's second inaugural.
Now I like thinking about this. First inaugural ever given in America by a president, George Washington's great speech, right? No. James Madison's great speech. That's who wrote it, as well as the replies. To Lincoln's second inaugural, the greatest speech, in my opinion, ever delivered by an America. That's just my own particular bias.
Greatest speech ever delivered by an American, second inaugural speech of Abraham Lincoln. Here are three sentences from the second inaugural. "If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribed to Him?
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"
Now those three sentences are powerful. Those three sentences are not nice. Those three sentences come to a conclusion very different from a conclusion that Lincoln's successors as presidents of the United States have had about God's role with this country.
Today, presidents talk about God bless America and God is on the American side. Abraham Lincoln said the opposite. He said we're being punished. We are being punished. And it's not going to end until God's ready to end it. We're not going to end it. We can't. It just goes on and on and on. And it's not going to end until God decides to end it.
That's not a nice message, not a nice thing to hear. It's a harsh thing to hear. But it's right. It's right. It's hard to argue with those three sentences-- two long sentences surrounding a short sentence, sentences of the kind you don't hear anymore, sentences that are difficult.
They're not just hard to understand in some sense. They're hard to take-- hard truths, hard truths expressed by a master of style, a master of powerful rhetoric drawn from the Old and New Testaments.
So this is what a masterful reader can do. A masterful reader can take the rhythms and the phrases from great texts and can turn them into powerful instruments to deal with terrible situations. That's what Abraham Lincoln did in an unparalleled fashion.
Now, I conclude this last lecture with a few lines from a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln, great American poet, Walt Whitman. This is the wisest thing I've ever read about reading. Here's what Walt Whitman had to say about the simple subject of reading.
"Books are to be called for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half-sleep"-- like 3:00 in the morning-- "but, in the highest sense, a gymnast's struggle, that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay-- the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start of the framework.
Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple and athletic minds, well-trained, intuitive, used to depend on themselves, and not on a few coteries of writing."
So the text supplies the clues. You the reader do the rest of the work. And you do it critically, carefully, closely, and, I would say, slowly. Don't read in a half-sleep. See it as a workout. Then you will become the complete thing. Good luck, and happy reading.
ASHLEY MCGOVERN: Do you want to do questions?
HUNTER RAWLINGS III: Sure, I'd be happy to.
ASHLEY MCGOVERN: So we're going to do a quick question and answer, so if anyone has any questions.
AUDIENCE: I have a question.
HUNTER RAWLINGS III: Yes.
AUDIENCE: While I agree with you on the global scale about the power of words, on a personal scale, don't think that three words are good enough-- "I love you"?
HUNTER RAWLINGS III: Well, that's a good comment to make. If you didn't hear the question, he says that while he agrees that words mean a lot, don't you think that three words can be enough? And then he said, I love you. That's three pretty good words. I mean, I think sometimes three or four words will do the trick. Most of us, of course, go on and on and on. Before I do, I'm going to stop right there.
Any other questions? Thank you very much.
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"Most of the reading we do these days tends to be highly superficial," Cornell's 10th president Hunter Rawlings told some 200 people in Goldwin Smith Hall's Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium Nov. 18. "It is the idea of Googling something, or as John McCain would say 'doing a Google,' to find some information that you need for a particular purpose."
Dr. Hunter Rawlings III has built an impressive record as a professor of classics and administrator at the University of Colorado, Iowa University and, most recently, at Cornell. As the 10th President of Cornell University, and interim President from 2005-2006, he strengthened the school's commitment to academic excellence and shaped Cornell into much of what we know and love today.
The Last Lecture series is sponsored by the Mortar Board National Honor Society chapter at Cornell.