Jeff Kalin, an expert on prehistoric Native American life, visits schools and universities to show how early humans lived and to discuss the human condition.
Lecturing at the invitation of Dr. Laurie Weinstein, professor of anthropology, Kalin used a moose antler as a chair, placed a deer skin across his lap and chipped a flake from a stone. The flake was sharp, and he used it to slice a small piece from the animal hide.
“The invention of this tool was so important to us,” Kalin explained to a group of students. “Today we drive cars. We fly in planes, we use the Internet. These things came about because of our ability to envision. We can look at a rock and say ‘Wow, I can see a knife inside this rock.’ We can imagine things that don’t exist.”
Luong Ung, author of “First They Killed My Father,” was a young girl in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge came to power and began a reign of terror against their own people. Ung described how the Khmer killed both her parents, among other horrors.
“We were among the 2 million Cambodians evacuated out of the city of Phnom Penh in 17 hours. What would you pack if you were in that situation?”
Ung was able to immigrate to New Hampshire, where she was raised by a local family. She grew up to became a social activist. Her memories are her motivation.
“Since I have left Cambodia I have been back 30 times. When I go, I make it a point to go to a mass grave and experience a moment of silence. In Cambodia, a country the size of Oklahoma, there are 20,000 mass graves.”
Before she left Cambodia, she was trained by the Khmer in a war camp for children.
“I was lucky. It ended before I believed them, that my parents were weak and traitors and didn’t love me.”
Rev. DeForest Blake Soaries Jr., former secretary of state of New Jersey and commissioner of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, spoke about his joy at the election of an African-American as president, and his view that it doesn’t change much in U.S. society.
“To live long enough to see a member of that same oppressed minority rise up to become the most powerful person in the world is unbelievable. It’s unprecedented in the world. What concerns me today is that there are deeper implications of having an African-American president than have been discussed.”
Soaries pointed out that in any university cafeteria, most students still self-segregate by race. And he pointed out the correlation between race and the reliance on subprime mortgages to buy a home.
"Unless we take our responsibility seriously to form relationships not only beyond our racial pride or ethnic pride, but our economic pride, we will have symbols of success and still have no understanding of each other,” Soaries said. "Institutions have rules that never take into account ethnic cultures. Unless we are willing to look at institutional structures, we can all get along, but we can still have an unjust society. Justice requires institutional analysis. Multicultural means the entire fabric of our institutional reality reflects the ethnic fabric of our community.”
Douglas K. Mellinger gave the Macricostas Entrepreneurship Lecture and told students that they will be successful if they stay nimble, expand their contacts, and keep a positive outlook.
“The entrepreneur has to supply the vision and culture of a company. It’s absolutely critical. In many companies, people have no idea why they are there,” Mellinger said. “The entrepreneur’s job is to tell them. If you are an entrepreneur, you tell everybody – I don’t care who they are – they are in sales. We’re here to grow. Forget about shrinking. That’s unacceptable. And if your business does go down, are you just going to live with that or are you going to change to get into something else?”
Mellinger said good business people get used to disaster, too.
“There is almost no example of an entrepreneur who you would know today, who runs a company, where this is their first company. They failed,” he said. “Business always changes. The moment they stop changing they slowly, and sometimes quickly, begin to die.”
He concluded with this advice for students: “If you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re right.”