On Nov. 11, the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement and Center for the Study for American Democracy (CSAD) hosted a virtual panel in honor of Veterans Day. The panel, entitled “Citizenship, Service and the Liberal Arts,” explored the relationship between military service and a liberal arts education. Moderated by Professor of Political Science and Director of CSAD David Rowe, the event also featured guest speakers, including Lieutenant Commander Thomas Au ’08, Lieutenant Colonel Ron Bliss ’68, Jenny Lu Mallamo ’08 and Greg Spaid ’68.
Following opening remarks from President Sean Decatur, Rowe introduced each speaker and explained the goal of the discussion. “Our intention this evening is not a partisan debate or the scoring of partisan points, but rather to strive for a constructive, probing and civic discussion that takes others seriously,” he said. “[It] seeks to generate greater understanding about the vital role that military service plays in our democracy and how the liberal arts may help our citizenry to better appreciate, understand and use this awesome responsibility.”
The panel then began with discussion of a 1780 John Adams quote claiming that the study of politics and war and the study of the liberal arts progress linearly, with older generations studying the former so their descendants can study the latter. Some of the speakers disputed this claim, arguing that all of these disciplines must necessarily coexist, and that a society without the study of war is an impossible ideal.
“All of these [disciplines] exist together,” Bliss said. “All of them can exist together, and in a prosperous nation like ours they should exist together.”
The speakers went on to discuss the relationship between Kenyon’s mission statement and military service, particularly the meaning of “lives of purpose and consequence” in relation to military service and the liberal arts. While the panelists agreed that a life of military service lived up to that ideal, Spaid expressed the importance of self-reflection.
“It has to be entered into with deep questioning about the morality of what the nation is asking us to do,” he said.
Au mentioned the intersection of the military and liberal arts at military institutions such as the United States Army War College and Naval War College, degrees from which are required for those seeking command status.
“The point is not just to be well-read,” Au said. “The point is the same goal as you have in Kenyon: to help you learn to think about issues and to think about the world from different angles.”
Other topics discussed included the role of war in today’s society, the obligations of both citizens and military leaders to ensure proper use of force, and Kenyon’s responsibility as an institution to address and pursue these questions.
The full panel discussion lasted for an hour and 45 minutes and can be viewed online.