Celebration of the Arts and Humanities

These remarks preceded and concluded the Friday, October 5 Celebration of the Arts and Humanities, the first event of the 2018 Induction weekend. 


It is wonderful to welcome our new members and to be with so many friends and colleagues.

I would like to acknowledge the Academy Officers and the very dedicated members of our Board, Council, and Trust. The work of the Academy would not be possible without your vision, guidance, and support.

Those of you who are being inducted tomorrow join an institution rich in tradition, but also an institution that is always looking forward, toward the future, to the production of new knowledge and new forms of expression.  Distinctive among learned societies, the American Academy draws together leaders from the sciences, social sciences, arts, and the humanities; from law and medicine; and from business, public affairs, and philanthropy.  By combining the insights of this broad range of disciplines and professions, the Academy offers fresh ideas and new perspectives in its mission to serve the common good.  Each of you is now invited to participate in this important work, to add your particular talents and expertise to a greater cause—in the words of our Charter, to advance “the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

In 1941, the distinguished philosopher and metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead delivered an address to the Academy entitled “Statesmanship and Specialized Learning.” In that address, he praised the wisdom of our founders, who created an organization through which all of the disciplines and professions come together in productive collaboration:

“The comprehension of existence requires the combination of Arts and Sciences. In concrete human action, there is always a Science lurking behind an Art and there is always an Art stimulating a Science. This is the reason why one Academy should include both.”

Over the course of this weekend, we will explore together the ways in which the arts and sciences are combined in this Academy, through our projects, our publications, our programming, and our efforts to connect members from every discipline and profession, from around the country and the world, to share ideas and experiences in service to the public good.

We begin our Induction Weekend tonight by focusing on the arts, the creative effort to understand what it means to be human—as members of a larger community and as individuals with deep and rich inner lives.  Our program features several gifted new Academy members. Their work reminds us of the boundless energy and the inventiveness of the human spirit. As Alfred North Whitehead suggested, there is a vast store of knowledge, a science lurking behind every presentation.

I know that our speakers will inspire rich and meaningful conversations in the days ahead—among the scientists, social scientists, humanists, and leaders of public affairs who make the American Academy such a special place, and such an important resource for our nation.

Please enjoy our Celebration of the Arts and Humanities.


In 1981, at the dedication ceremony for the House of the Academy in Cambridge, former Academy President Edwin Land said:

“I like to imagine that here at the point where I stand we will all take our turn during the coming years to explore, in a way we cannot explore in our classes, our books or professional societies . . . delightful domains of new insight which must be approached with a combination of lightheartedness and fascination in the way that children search out a trail through heavy woodlands, laughing as they run, frightened as they go, excited about a trip to unknown territory.”

I hope this evening’s program has stirred your interest, as the first in many exciting trips into unknown territory.

So, let us now begin to forge new friendships, and to embark on our common enterprise, as we enjoy the reception right outside. Again, thank you for joining us this evening.

I now adjourn the 2070th Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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