FALL 2012 | St. Lawrence University Magazine
he Olympic Games burnish our
hope to remake a world undone
by conflict and crisis. The rituals,
ceremonies and contests all suggest a tension
between friend and enemy that tips ultimately
toward handshakes and hugs. The question left
over, however, is one encoded with idealism:
can the pageantry translate beyond the field of
athletic competition?
Inspiring the idealism was the background
music of the London Summer Games, actually
the theme song from “Chariots of Fire.” Most
listeners, if they were not tuned out by cloying
repetition of the Bolero-like rhythms, would
be surprised that the origin of the story is a
William Blake poem. Blake’s refrain is Olympic
in tone: “Bring me my Bow of burning gold,/
Bring me my Arrows of desire.” Clearly, what
he had in mind was not the decathlon, but the
rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. He
was imagining a world that could someday be a
green and pleasant land.”
As the world writ small, a place green and
pleasant, St. Lawrence attains its highest-ever
enrollment of international students this year.
It is now possible to imagine the campus as
the academic equivalent of the Olympic Vil-
lage. We are also seeing record increases in the
number of American-born students who will
study and travel abroad within their four-year
college careers; practically all have passports and
more than half will spend a semester in another
country. St. Lawrence may be rural, but it is
no longer isolated, and it is certainly better
balanced in local and global sensibilities than
ever before. Six hundred of our alumni live and
work outside the U. S. Predictably, the broader
Laurentian presence in the world will continue
to expand in the years ahead.
How do we get our students ready for all
this international exposure? How do we help
them translate the ideals of the flame, the
poem, or the race in order to rebuild what each
generation always risks losing from war and
stiff memory? How will they travel the path
of “human otherness” or their own “different-
ness” that begins in a void of unknowing, and
is a transition from void to adversity, and from
adversity to friendship? These are large abiding
questions for all alumni to ponder after rehears-
ing them for a while in a close-knit campus
community framed by a liberal arts curriculum.
Whether it is achieved by deep thinking or
lived experience, I believe two themes neces-
sarily emerge in an education that includes
worldly and liberal qualities: power and scale.
It is not enough for students to gain mere
familiarity with social customs or cultural ar-
rangements foreign to themselves. They must
also understand there can be no social order or
Olympic comity without a power to uphold
and preserve peace, keep order and defend
shared values. Reinhold Niebuhr once warned
that innocence and power are a dangerous
combination: the world is competitive, not
passive, never innocent; and, even with good
intentions no group of idealists, no mighty na-
tion, no airtight philosophy can reliably move
the patterns of history or human nature toward
the desired goals of security and prosperity for
all. Power is not enough.
And then, there is the curious lesson of scale
as we learn the balances of the world in gaining
and losing. How can a country with just under
million people compete successfully against
nations 10 or a hundred times bigger in popu-
lation? Jamaica won 12 medals, more than
Mexico, Poland, Turkey and Kenya. Power is
sometimes an inverse ratio; and scale is impor-
tantly indicative of defying expectations, when
the few can have the affect of the many. The
Oxford don R. G. Collingwood looked back
upon the medieval centuries when nation-states
were first created, incredible cathedrals were
erected, and systems of law and philosophy
achieved. About scale, he said, “they seem to be
tiny people doing colossal things.” Similarly,
St. Lawrence represents great principles ex-
pressed in small ways while running races that
may change the world.
Wi ll iam L . Fox ’ 75
Distance and Hurdles
Tom Evelyn
Neal S. Burdick ’72
University Writer
Meg Bernier ’07, M ’09
Tara Freeman
Class Notes Editor
Sharon Henry
News Editor
Macreena Doyle
Sports Editor
Wally Johnson
Design & Art Direction
Jessica Rood
Class Notes
Sue LaVean
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