Inaugural Symposium: The Power of the Liberal Arts — NEH Chairman, Former Colby College President William Adams on How Liberal Arts are Critical to National Welfare

william adams

William Adams

The Power of the Liberal Arts, the symposium that is prelude to the inauguration of Clayton S. Rose as Bowdoin’s 15th president, comprises leaders from the worlds of business, design, government, higher education and public health. The symposium will be held in Pickard Theater, Memorial Hall, 2 p.m.­–5 p.m., Friday, October 16, 2015. In advance of the discussion, we continue a series of participant profiles.

The formal education of William Adams, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, was interrupted by the Vietnam War, where he served as a 20-year-old combat infantry advisor. After returning home, he was motivated by his wartime experience to study and teach the humanities. “I came face to face, acutely, with questions that writers, artists, philosophers and musicians examine in their work — starting with, ‘What does it mean to be human?’” he has said.

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Retirement Plans: Are You an Ant or a Grasshopper? (The Atlantic)

One dollar origami money butterfly

Analyses of individuals’ financial habits tend to explain financial success and failure in terms of personal character. People have personalities that make them more or less likely to save, the argument goes. Some people are “ants,” always toiling for tomorrow, while others are “grasshoppers,” who live by instant gratification.

But dismissing retirement savings as a matter of individual responsibility obscures the institutional factors that make it difficult for people to save, argues Teresa Ghilarducci: The real reason people have trouble saving is a lack of access to straightforward retirement plans. Read the article.

How a Company Selling Sweetened Tap Water Achieved Global Domination (Vox)

White Coke Can256

Coco-Cola and PepsiCo have each made fortunes of selling sweet tap water to the world, but don’t let the simplicity of their products deceive you of their ingenuity, argues Marion Nestle, public health advocate and professor at New York University.

In an interview with Julia Belluz from Vox, Nestle explains how Coco-Cola’s big push came during World War II when the company made a deal with the Army “to provide a Coke to any solider anywhere in the world at a nickel a piece.” Once the infrastructure and distribution channels were established with the help of the Army, it was just a matter of marketing after the war to make Coke the household name it is today. Read the article.

‘The Point of Vanishing’ a Tale of Two Years Spent in Solitude (Salon)

snowy evening

After experiencing a freak accident that left him blind in one eye, Harvard student Howard Axelrod found himself unable to cope with the life he had once considered normal—a life he increasingly felt was pushing him down a road toward personal achievement instead of personal fulfillment.

So he decided to leave the world he knew and live alone in the woods of Vermont. Two years of seclusion changed his personal priorities, his perception of time, and his sense of connection to his fellow humans. In the end, Axelrod discovered that the true value of his experience in the woods —”the point of vanishing”— wasn’t what he’d originally thought. Read the article.