These remarks opened the 2018 Induction ceremony of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in which the 238th class of new members were welcomed to the Academy. The class included 150 US-based Fellows and 25 International Honorary Members.
Let me add my warm welcome to the Class of 2018, and to your families and friends who have joined us to celebrate this special occasion.
The Academy benefits from the wise and dedicated leadership of its Officers and members of the Academy Board, Council, and Trust. As a result of their efforts, the American Academy is a thriving institution. We are grateful for all that they do for the Academy, and especially for the leadership and encouragement of our Chair, Nancy Andrews.
The Academy was founded in 1780, during the American Revolution, by John Adams and 62 other scholar-patriots who understood that the new republic would require new institutions to gather knowledge and advance learning in service to the public good. Their determination to create this Academy, at a time of such peril to themselves and their families, is a sign of their confidence in their cause. It is also a testament to their faith in the free exchange of ideas as the basis of a thriving democracy.
In the Preface of the Academy’s first publication, the Memoirs, published in 1785, the Founders reflected upon their brave decision:
“[T]o the honor of our political Fathers be it spoken, that although the country was engaged in a distressing war, a war the most important to the liberties of mankind, that was ever undertaken by any people, and which required the utmost attention of those who were entrusted with our public concerns—they immediately adverted to the usefulness of the design, entered into its spirit, and incorporated a society…to promote most branches of knowledge advantageous to a community.”
Today, as members of the Academy, we preserve this legacy for future generations by working together to fulfill our Charter mission “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” We do this through our major initiatives to advance scientific research, humanistic inquiry, education, international security, and the vitality of our civic institutions; through our lectures and programming around the country; through our publications including Dædalus; and through our fellowship programs fostering the next generation of scholars.
Members of the Class of 2018, I invite you to join in our current endeavors but also to think about new challenges and opportunities in our quest for a more just, humane, and peaceful world. I look forward to meeting each of you, to hearing your ideas, and to finding new ways to include you in the work of this important fellowship. Once again, congratulations on your election.