•  Living Life “The Right Way”

•  The Art of Vision

•  In Memoriam

•  Artists’ Quarter

•  The Language of Care

•  Alumni Bookshelf

One Man’s Journey Toward His ‘Wings’

Because the Biblical interpretation of brotherly love has fallen into casual neglect, it is a relief to uncover Amitai Etzioni’s My Brother’s Keeper: A Memoir and a Message (Roman and Littlefield, 2003).

The author has dedicated more than 40 years speaking and living communitarianism—a philosophy that advocates giving back to one’s community, and to “…treating our fellow human beings with full respect rather than tools to serve our purpose.” (p. xii.)

It is probably fair to say that Etzioni’s stalwart morality derives partially from his early struggles: a just-in-time escape from the Nazis; a year’s stay in a Greek school that was hostile toward Jews; and an immediate necessity to learn Hebrew upon arrival in pre-Israel Palestine. But the layers of premature pain evoked a determination to do good. After finishing boarding school:

“I departed…as a young Israeli, with a sense of purpose that was as strong as it was focused: to join those lining up to fight a war of national liberation against the British occupation…I could not wait to find a chance to follow in the footsteps of all those hardworking pioneers and courageous warriors…” (p. 14.)

The senior Etzioni also upended his life with a decision to live communally—hence the moniker of communitarianism. The family relocated to the village of Herzliya Gimmel, and with a few other couples, constituted a cooperative farm. Unfortunately, “the members of our community were engaged in incessant debates about what the best form of joint living: the high level of communalism of the kibbutz?” (p. 8.) Arguments persisted about how one kibbutz decided on an issue versus their own, and “debates about the merit of free enterprise verses the proper role of government, the question of the right level of communality was never settled.”

Later, Etzioni served in the Israeli army; then, he came to America and started his career as a Columbia University professor; the appointment proved to be a foreshadowing of occasional, knotty, academic collisions—and skepticism about his beliefs.

Despite long-term, intractable resistance, Etzioni has remained a public “conscience.” He demonstrated against the Vietnam War; he decried the nuclear arms race; questioned the enthusiastically anticipated Apollo project; and doubted President Carter’s economic policies.

Throughout the decades, Etzioni has been reproached for hoping to start a Communitarian Movement. But, in the last 10 years, the criticism has finally diffused, and recognition has begun:

“…The ideas I had been grappling with throughout my life somehow congealed into a coherent whole and—to my utter amazement—sprouted wings.” (p. xv.)

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The New School of University Leadership

Meanwhile, in the President’s Office, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the author of two previous essay collections, has now written Reflections on Higher Education (Oryx Press, 2002.) Wise, witty, and worrisome, this book elevates—sometimes to concern—the intricacies within universities. He discusses the affects of global education on institutions of higher learning, leadership, entrepreneurship, and collegiate competition for students, money, and survival.

One of Trachtenberg’s significant messages has inflections of caution: though there are more persons attending college than could have ever been imagined, more access to financial aid and scholarships, more diversity in student populations and programs, there is a surprise—especially to someone outside academic clusters—and that is the weightiness required in the profile of a university president.

Twenty-five years ago, the position was considerably less intimidating. A Trachtenberg “comparable” would have been considered passable even if he was reticent, uninvolved, a Calvin Coolidge-like figurehead. But now such a responsibility demands a dynamo with a mind for business and fundraising, a sympathetic listener, and a problem-solver for the student body. In addition, he must be attuned to the always circulating issues that have—historically—been more isolated to business: market share, annually increasing enrollment, higher SAT scores, and capital budgets to renovate, relegate, and build new facilities. Students are—in today’s parlance—customers. The faculty also must be invigorated by a school’s vision and leadership; otherwise, they can be recruited away.

A college can “die” if it does not continually advance its curricula and campus life to excellence-plus, but Trachtenberg, now in his fifteenth year as president of GW, has transformed the school from a so-so university into a Titan.

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Law Professor Builds Strong Arguments, Suspense

Thoroughly researched, Cynthia Lee’s Murder and the Reasonable Man: Passion and Fear in the Criminal Courtroom (New York University Press, 2003) examines various types of thematic and impromptu felonies of rage such as infidelity, racial prejudice, and gay panic.

Perhaps the most infamous are the twisted tales of Betty Broderick and Bernhard Goetz.

Broderick, a happy wife with four children, learned that her successful-attorney husband Dan, had been engaged in a three-year clandestine affair with his receptionist. When he asked for a divorce, he also suggested that Betty commit herself to a mental institution. Dan married his lover; Betty was enraged. One morning, she appeared at the window of Dan’s house. He heard noises and asked his wife to call the police. But Betty had a gun—she fired a cacophony of bullets, saw the blood, and fled.

The jury convicted her of second-degree murder.

A white male, Bernhard Goetz, entered a New York subway car with an unlicensed .38 caliber pistol and sat down. When two African American youths walked up to him and requested five dollars, he started to shoot. Goetz ran away, but eventually surrendered to the police, confessing to them: “…my intention was to murder them, to hurt them, to make them suffer as much as possible.” (p. 149.) Ironically, he achieved hero status in New York and elsewhere. During the trial, he claimed self-defense and was acquitted on all the charges, except carrying an illegal weapon.

Lee writes that scrutiny among cases is sometimes inconsistent, causing questionable judge/jury verdicts. Deliberations favor men over women and Caucasians over African Americans. She says that the standard of reasonableness—how a criminal’s actions are assessed—should be re-evaluated.

This book is as stirring and exciting as an Agatha Christie mystery.

—David Bruce Smith

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