This past Thursday, Dr. Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize winning author and columnist for the Washington Post, came to speak at Gustavus as a part of the Lindau Symposium. By most accounts the event was a smashing success. Well over 600 people attended—so many in fact that the event filled one overflow room and moved into a second. Dr. Krauthammer gave an erudite and intelligent summation of a political view which is seldom heard on campus. Yet, for all its apparent success there was a major problem with the event: Gustavus students did not attend.
Of the well over 600 attendees, I would estimate that there were roughly 40 Gustavus students. The average age of Symposium goers was likely well over 50. What does it mean that our students were unwilling, or perhaps unable, to attend what was probably one of the best extracurricular learning opportunities offered on campus this year? What does it mean that there were more people at the Sorority Progressive Dinner than at the lecture of a Pulitzer Prize winner?
As members of the Gustavus community we like to pat ourselves on the back for our involvement and congratulate one another for our dedication. However, we should also be focused on learning opportunities outside of what we are already involved in. We have the chance here at Gustavus to make ourselves richer and fuller persons by taking advantage of every single educational opportunity which comes our way. I realize that is not always easy.
Often our social activities or our homework obligations prevent us from going to see speakers or the screening of a documentary. We can’t attend every extracurricular event, but how often do we even try? I am willing to bet that in most cases, unless our friends are involved, we tend not to. It is my firm belief that not only should we attend as many extracurricular events as possible, but that it is almost our duty to attend.
Extracurricular learning is important, but without professors standing behind us, how many of us will be willing to seek knowledge on our own, outside of class? The ability and desire to self-educate is and will continue to be an essential tool for any career minded individual. Gustavus provides a number of opportunities to foster this skill by offering non-required speakers, films and other educational events. To ignore these opportunities is as foolish as it is wasteful.
You don’t need anyone to remind you that learning can be fun. You should all know that by now. At this moment you are all paying an absurd amount of money for the privilege of four years of learning. While we are still here, we should seize these opportunities to learn for the sheer pleasure of it.
After our time here (as I as a senior am rapidly coming to realize) they will become fewer and more far between. Seize every opportunity for knowledge with both hands because it isn’t likely that it will be offered again. Perhaps then the next time a Pulitzer Prize winning author and contributor to the Washington Post arrives on campus there will be more than forty students in the audience.