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Angelou to Zappa: 47 famous visitors who are part of Lawrence history

U.S. Rep. John Lewis was honored at Lawrence’s 2015 Commencement. It was his third visit to campus. (Lawrence Archives)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

They’ve come to campus as commencement and convocation guests. They’ve come to deliver musical performances. They’ve come as candidates on the campaign trail. They’ve come as invited speakers.

As Lawrence University celebrates the 175th anniversary of its founding in 1847, we take a moment to remember these famous visitors to campus. Our list includes one sitting United States president, three others who would go on to win the presidency, and one former president. It includes icons of the music world and writers of global fame. It includes civil rights activists who changed the world and news makers who dominated the headlines, for better or worse.

We celebrated 10 visitors in this earlier Black History Month feature.

Please note that this is not a complete list of every notable visitor to Lawrence. There have been hundreds. We had to cut it off somewhere. So, we’ve chosen to provide a flashback to 30 of these memorable visits, and then salute another 17 with a listing at the end. That brings it to 47 in honor of, yes, 1847.


Frederick Douglass, 1866: The famed orator and abolitionist made several stops across Wisconsin in 1866, one year after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. News reports had him in Janesville and then Oshkosh before coming to Lawrence for a May 3 speech before the Philalethean Society in Main Hall. The Crescent reported on the speech and the Appleton Motor advertised the coming speech of Fred Douglass. The Crescent called Douglass “an eloquent speaker, easy and graceful in manner, withering in sarcasm” and said his speech, “The Assassination and its Lessons,” was the “same lecture he has been giving so patriotically all over the country.”


President Taft speaks in front of Lawrence’s Main Hall on Oct. 26, 1911. (Lawrence Archives)

William Howard Taft, 1911: This is the first and only time a sitting president has come to the Lawrence campus. Taft spoke in late October 1911, addressing about 10,000 people from the front steps of Main Hall. Taft was welcomed by a group of students and faculty inside Main Hall before emerging through the front doors to give his speech, according to coverage by The Lawrentian. “When Mr. Taft emerged from the big front door of Main Hall, he was greeted with yells by the Lawrence students and lifted hats.” Taft went on to talk about conflict in Europe and America’s role in the world. “We have been showered with God’s best gifts and we ought to realize our responsibilities to do the best with what God has given us for the good of the whole world,” The Lawrentian quoted Taft as saying.


Booker T. Washington, 1914: Born into slavery, the legendary author and educator would go on to found and lead the Tuskegee Institute (now University) and become one of the most influential Black voices in the late 19th century and early 20th century. He came to Lawrence to speak one year before his death at age 59. The Lawrentian covered Washington’s speech, saying he “gave a highly interesting description of his life, his struggle for education, and of the founding and successful growth of the Tuskegee schools.” The student newspaper said Washington “brought his address to a close with a plea for a sympathetic understanding between the white and black inhabitants of America.” The paper went on to state: “Dr. Washington was very well received, and leaves a host of friends and admirers in Lawrence and Appleton.”


William Butler Yeats, 1920: An icon of 20th-century literature, Yeats spoke about poetry, theater work, and his Irish roots in a visit to Memorial Chapel. The Lawrentian previewed his visit with a front-page story the day before: “In welcoming Mr. Yeats, Appleton and Lawrence College realize what a splendid opportunity is theirs,” the story read. “It is not often that we have the good fortune to hear a man of such international reputation as the great Irish poet.”


John Philip Sousa, 1924, 1926: “The March King” made two visits to Lawrence, leading performances in Memorial Chapel. He was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era whose work lives on in the form of military marches—The Stars and Stripes Forever, The Washington Post March, and the Marine Corps’ Semper Fidelis, among them. His performances were among the early musical draws to the Chapel, which was built and dedicated in late 1918.


Marian Anderson (Lawrence Archives)

Marian Anderson, 1941: The celebrated contralto who paved the way for other Black artists delivered a brilliant concert performance at Memorial Chapel, the overflow audience calling her back for multiple encores. “No artist in recent years in Appleton has received the tribute which the audience gave Marian Anderson,” The Lawrentian reported. But off campus, Anderson wasn’t treated as well. Appleton was a “sundown” town at the time. News reports say Anderson was allowed to stay the night in Appleton’s Conway Hotel, but she wasn’t allowed to have dinner in the public dining room. In 2014, Lawrence held a concert in tribute to Anderson, recreating the repertoire from her 1941 performance.


Frank Lloyd Wright, 1943: The famously blunt and outspoken architect paid a visit to Lawrence in November 1943, speaking to students about architecture and a bevy of other topics of the day. He told students to stay true to their ideals. The Lawrentian reported on his talk: “He believes that no one should ever compromise if he feels he is right. An architect, a professor, or anyone, should feel that it is not worthwhile to live if he cannot stick to his ideas absolutely.”


Vice President Richard M. Nixon speaks with Lawrence students in the Music-Drama Center during his 1959 visit. (Lawrence Archives)

Richard M. Nixon, 1959: The then-vice president of the United States paid a visit to Lawrence in November, shortly before he launched his campaign for president. He spoke in Memorial Chapel, delivering a speech titled “America and the World Community,” and answering questions from a panel of students and faculty. He also met with students informally in the Music-Drama Center. He would go on to lose the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy. But he would win the presidency in the 1968 election and be re-elected in 1972 before resigning from office in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal.


Louis Armstrong, 1960: The jazz pioneer nicknamed “Satchmo” made a late-career visit to Lawrence’s Memorial Chapel. His appearance pre-dated Ella Fitzgerald’s concert by a year. The Lawrentian previewed Armstrong’s visit, calling him “the greatest of all jazz musicians” and urged the campus community to get their $2 tickets early or risk being left out. “Because of the interest expressed by townspeople and high schools in the area, it seems that the concert will be quickly sold out,” the student newspaper reported. Indeed, it was.


John F. Kennedy spoke at Lawrence nine months before he was elected president. (Lawrence Archives)

John F. Kennedy, 1960: Kennedy made a campaign stop at Lawrence in March 1960, delivering his speech in Riverview Lounge in the old Memorial Union. He would go on to be elected the 35th president of the United States later that year. Two years later, he was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade in Dallas. In a speech during a memorial service at Lawrence following the assassination, Lawrence President Curtis Tarr spoke to Kennedy’s gifts: “Mr. Kennedy gave new meaning to the presidency. … He was not defined by narrow causes. Beyond nationalism he saw the hope of peace, cooperation and community. Above the petty cares of the privileged he caught the spirit of brotherhood.”


Ella Fitzgerald, 1961: The “First Lady of Song” was a full-on jazz superstar when she performed in concert at Memorial Chapel in early May. Her visit to Lawrence was a cross-country stopover between a two-and-a-half-week stand at New York’s Basin Street East and a three-week engagement at the Crescendo in Los Angeles. “Ella rocked Lawrence College’s staid, old Memorial Chapel with a battery of upbeat material Tuesday night,” The Post-Crescent reported. “And she appeared to enjoy every minute of it. She carried the torch, too, as only she can do. A house just short of capacity couldn’t have loved the first lady of song more.” 


John Lewis, 1964, 2005, 2015: In June 2015, Rep. John Lewis returned to Lawrence to deliver the Commencement address in the 50th anniversary year of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. It marked the civil rights icon’s third visit to Lawrence. He first came to campus in 1964 as head field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He would return to deliver a convocation address in Memorial Chapel in 2005. In his Commencement address, Lewis pledged unity no matter your race, religion, or sexual identity. “We are one people, we are one family, we are one house,” he said. “We are brothers and sisters.”


Abbie Hoffman, 1970: Hoffman was one of the counterculture’s most visible figures in the late ’60s and early ’70s. With other radicals of the time, he formed the Youth International Party (Yippies), protesting capitalism and the Vietnam War. He was a leader of the “Conspiracy Seven,” charged with inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. The trial was ongoing when he visited Lawrence to speak at Memorial Chapel as part of a two-day symposium that a student organizer described as insight into youth culture and urban studies.


Maya Angelou made her second visit to campus in 1997. (Lawrence Archives)

Maya Angelou, 1976 and 1997: The poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist has been among the most influential voices in America over the past 50 years. She was awarded an honorary degree by Lawrence in 1976, seven years after I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings drew international acclaim and launched a phenomenal literary career. She would return to campus more than two decades later to deliver a 1997 convocation address in 1997. Her 1993 book of essays, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, was a mainstay on the New York Times best-seller list shortly before her visit. She was greeted by an overflow crowd in Memorial Chapel.


Paul Harvey, 1978: The famed radio broadcaster was an American icon, with his “The Rest of the Story” news and commentary reaching millions of listeners a week between 1951 and 2008. He spoke on campus and joined students for a Q&A session. The conversation steered mostly away from politics, according to The Lawrentian. Harvey instead talked about his role observing and commenting on life. “I consider myself a professional parade watcher who can’t wait to get up every morning and watch the parade,” he said.


Yo-Yo Ma, 1986: One of the most accomplished cellists of all time paid a visit to Memorial Chapel in 1986. The one-time child prodigy was 31 when he performed at Lawrence as part of the 1985-86 Performing Arts Series. He was fresh off winning a 1985 Grammy for Outstanding Solo Performance. That would be the first of 18 Grammys he would win in a career that has also seen him awarded the National Medal of Arts and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Dianne Reeves, 1987: The jazz vocalist extraordinaire led a star-studded lineup into the 1987 Jazz Weekend Celebration. She was joined by icons Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry. Reeves was early in her career at that point, but she wouldn’t be overshadowed. She had released her first album in 1981 and had just signed with Blue Note Records in 1987. She was an ascending star, and the audience at Memorial Chapel got an up-close view.


Vice President George H.W. Bush speaks in Memorial Chapel. (Lawrence Archives)

George H.W. Bush, 1988: The vice president was a Republican candidate for president when he made a campaign stop at Memorial Chapel in March 1988. The Post-Crescent reported that the student-dominated audience gave Bush a mixed review, with cheers and boos interspersed with chants of “Just say no to Bush.” Bush, who would go on to win the election, pledged in his Chapel speech to make excellence in education a top priority. “I want to be the education president,” he said. “I want a mandate from the people to improve our schools.”


Wynton Marsalis, 1988: The legendary trumpeter was 27 when he came to Lawrence to perform at Jazz Celebration Weekend. The concert sold out so fast that Lawrence officials arranged for a second concert. He met with students while on campus, challenging them to be culturally aware as they pursue music and other studies. “If you don’t research the world of possibilities, you always will accept less,” he told the students, according to The Post-Crescent. “It’s not a matter of right or wrong; it’s a question of possibilities.” His brother, Branford Marsalis, performed at Lawrence in 2007.


Joshua Bell, 1990 and 1998: The violin virtuoso came to Lawrence to perform early in what would become a highly decorated career. He’s been among the most honored musicians of his time, taking home Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone, Echo Klassik awards and the Avery Fisher Prize. And he took a liking to Appleton. Bell had first come to Appleton in 1983, then as a teenager, to play with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra. He’d return seven years later to perform in Lawrence’s Memorial Chapel as part of its Performing Arts Series. He was back in the Chapel in 1998, and has since come back to Appleton twice for symphony performances at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center (2003 and 2017).


Marilyn Horne, 1994: The American mezzo-soprano sits among the greatest voices of opera. She has received the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, and four Grammy Awards. She came top Lawrence for a performance at Memorial Chapel as part of the 1993-94 Performing Arts Series.


John Updike (Lawrence Archives)

John Updike, 1993: The late novelist, essayist, critic, and poet was among the most prolific writers of the 21st century. Among his best-known works were The Witches of Eastwick and a series of novels focused on Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Rabbit at Rest in 1991, two years before his visit to Lawrence, where he delivered a convocation address. He had a strong connection to Lawrence; his son, Michael, previously attended. Lawrence Today magazine reported that Updike shared his writing experiences with his Lawrence audience, took part in a Q&A session with students and faculty, and sat in on a fiction writing class. He lamented the decline in time spent reading: “I think the number of people who are willing to devote the eight or so hours it takes to read a book, seeking out pleasures that only a book can give, are fewer and fewer at the moment.”


Henry Louis Gates Jr., 1997: The creator of PBS’s Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr. came to Lawrence to deliver a convocation address during the 150th anniversary celebration in 1997. He would go on to serve a stint on Lawrence’s Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2003. Gates, who teaches at Harvard University, is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, journalist, author, and cultural critic.


Joyce Carol Oates, 1999: The famed novelist spoke at an Honors Convocation and received an honorary degree. She has been one of the most accomplished novelists over the past six decades. When she came to Lawrence in 1999, it wasn’t long after We Are the Mulvaneys, one of her most-recognized books, had spent considerable time on the New York Times best-seller list and had received the added plug from Oprah’s book club. She is one a litany of notable authors who have delivered Convocation addresses at Lawrence through the years.


Jane Goodall, 2001: On Oct. 26, the famed wildlife researcher spoke in Memorial Chapel, part of the Jane Goodall Institute lecture tour. The visit was coordinated through the nearby Mosquito Hill Nature Center, where she also made a stop. Among her other work, Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education, and Conservation in 1977, providing field research on wild chimpanzees and working to improve the environment for all animals.


Lech Walesa, 2001: The former president of Poland and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize came to Lawrence to deliver a convocation address. He also received an honorary degree. Walesa, who had galvanized the Solidarity movement and became Poland’s first democratically elected president, spoke at Lawrence six weeks after 9/11. He called the attack the start of “the third world war,” one that will be fought via “intellect and technological thinking against crudeness and naked violence.”


Arianna Huffington signs copies of her book during a 2004 visit to Memorial Chapel. (Lawrence Archives)

Arianna Huffington, 2004: The nationally syndicated columnist and best-selling author who would go on to co-found the Huffington Post (HuffPost) spoke at a Lawrence convocation in advance of the 2004 presidential election. She was considered one of the nation’s most influential political commentators, and her work with the Huffington Post, founded in 2005, would be a game-changer in many ways as the Internet reshaped how news was reported and consumed.


Salmon Rushdie, 2006: The celebrated British author spoke at a Lawrence Convocation 18 years after he generated a firestorm of controversy among Islamic fundamentalists with the release of his 1988 book, The Satanic Verses. In his Convocation address, he spoke on freedom of expression, religion, and their relationship to modern society. The Lawrentian described him as “unaffected and unassuming” and said his presentation was both down to earth and funnier than expected as he talked about how art will save the world by breaking down barriers and leading us to new frontiers.


First Lady Michelle Obama speaks in Alexander Gymnasium in 2012. (Lawrence Archives)

Michelle Obama, 2012: The first lady spoke Sept. 28 at Alexander Gymnasium, a campaign stop on behalf of her husband, President Barack Obama, who would be re-elected five weeks later. She is the only sitting first lady to visit Lawrence. She spoke in Appleton about Obama’s fight for health care reform, despite potential political consequences. “He cared that it was the right thing to do,” WHBY Radio quoted her as saying. “And, thankfully, because he fought for health reform, today our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our young people can stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old.”


Former President Bill Clinton is welcomed at Lawrence’s Warch Campus Center in 2016. (Lawrence Archives)

Bill Clinton, 2016: The country’s 42nd president came calling April 1 on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton, then a candidate for president. He became the first former president to visit Lawrence. As noted above, William Howard Taft was the only sitting president to ever visit Lawrence (1911). Three future presidents paid visits: Richard Nixon (1959); John F. Kennedy (1960) and George H.W. Bush (1988). Clinton told the gathering that his wife had the ideas and experience to be president, according to coverage in The Post-Crescent. “Experience is a dry, old term that old people like and young people don’t,” he joked.

And a sampling of 17 others who have spoken or performed at Lawrence: Vladamir Horowitz, 1930; Langston Hughes, 1945; Upton Sinclair, 1963; Pete Seeger, 1964; Muddy Waters, 1968, Julian Bond, 1969; Frank Zappa, 1969; Dick Gregory, 1973; George Will, 1984; Tom Wolfe, 1985; Ralph Nader, 1986; Dizzy Gillespie, 1987; Gwendolyn Brooks, 1994; Diana Krall, 1997; Ben Stein, 2007; Branford Marsalis, 2007; Audra McDonald, 2013.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

10 students heading to Senegal; one of largest groups in program’s history

Students spending Spring Term in Dakar will take classes on Senegalese culture, literature, and history; French language; beginning Wolof; and Senegalese music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s study abroad program in Dakar, Senegal—part of the school’s Francophone Seminar—is returning this spring in a big way.

Ten Lawrence students are expected to depart for Senegal on March 28, one year after the program was put on pause amid COVID-19 pandemic protocols. It’s one of the largest Lawrence groups to ever take part in the program in the West African country.

“I really think there’s more awareness about global issues,” Dominica Chang, the Margaret Banta Humleker Professor of French Cultural Studies and an associate professor of French, said of the uptick in interest. “I think the past few years have opened students’ eyes to the fact that they should be aware of things outside of America and outside of Europe.”

The 10 students are senior Kylie Zajdel, juniors Claire Chamberlin and Misha Mikhalev, and sophomores Melissa Ndabarasa, Mackenzie Petty, Lauren Chamberlain, Athea Foster, Emily Dorr, Matthew Rynkiewicz, and Marelis Alvarez.

Dominica Chang has been meeting weekly on Zoom with students in preparation for the 10 weeks in Senegal.

Learn more about the Francophone Seminar in Dakar, Senegal

Accompanied by Chang, the students will stay with host families and study at the Baobab Center while being immersed in local customs and languages and working on independent study projects over the course of 10 weeks. They’ll return to campus in early June.

Some of the students are French majors, but not all. Many are double majors, with French paired with global studies, biology, music, geosciences, and government, among others.

Participating students need to have completed French 202, just two terms beyond Lawrence’s language requirement, but otherwise the program is open to all, Chang said. They’ll speak French and Wolof languages while living, studying, and working in Senegal.

“They’ll be in a completely different space,” Chang said. “Mentally, culturally, linguistically, they’ll be pushed out of their comfort zone. It seems like students are more willing to do that now.”

Four students were part of the Senegal trip in 2019. It’s a program that is on the docket every two years. But COVID interrupted last year’s plans, pushing it back to this spring.

The four students on the 2019 trip—Greta Wilkening ’21, Bronwyn Earthman ’21, Miriam Thew Forrester ’20, and Tamima Tabishat ’20—came back from Senegal so enthusiastic that they launched into an independent study project with Chang so they could continue their studies in the Wolof language. That sort of enthusiasm gets around, and partly explains this year’s numbers, Chang said.

“The last group went out and showed that you don’t have to be a French major,” Chang said. “You can be an environmental studies specialist and you can come back and say I navigated this, I wrote a paper and did a presentation, and I did weekly service-learning internships, all at the Ministry of the Environment. We had a biology student who did work in traditional medicine while there. It’s open to all disciplines.”

Chang and the students have been keeping an eye on COVID numbers, not only here but in Senegal as well. They knew if the situation took a turn for the worse, the travel plans could be halted. As of now, all is promising, Chang said.

“As we’ve followed the COVID numbers in Senegal, they’ve been doing very well,” she said. “They’ve been handling the pandemic well. Their numbers have always been much lower than here in Wisconsin.”

And after two years in the pandemic, Spring Term couldn’t come soon enough, Chang said.

“They’re going to have this new world opened to them,” she said of the 10 students. “And it’s going to help Senegal, too. They also have struggled. They’ve been closed down and are finally starting to open up to the world. Our friends are waiting for us there.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

His students applaud as John Holiday finishes inspired run on “The Voice”

John Holiday sings Where Do We Go during Monday’s finals of NBC’s The Voice. (Photo by Trae Patton/NBC)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University voice professor John Holiday finished his wild ride on NBC’s The Voice Tuesday night, placing fifth in the 19th season of the popular TV singing competition.

Holiday, an associate professor in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music since 2017, showcased a voice that John Legend called “otherworldly” as he advanced through the blind auditions, the battle rounds, the knockouts, the live playoffs, and the live semifinals, where TV viewers cast votes to move him into the Final 5.

On Tuesday’s finale, he was joined on stage by Legend to sing Bridge Over Troubled Water, his final performance during an inspired run.

“It’s been an incredible dream I could never have imagined,” Holiday said of his time on the show.

But the title for Holiday wasn’t to be. Carter Rubin, a 15-year-old coached by Gwen Stefani, was named the winner, based on viewer votes following Monday night’s live finals performances, earning a recording contract in the process.

Late Tuesday, Holiday tweeted: “America, I love you so much! I appreciate every prayer that helped me and my #TheVoice family soar. Congratulations, @carterjrubin! The world is ready for your fierce talents and beautiful spirit. #HoliBaes forever! I love you and I am excited to be on this ride with you.”

Holiday excelled in a competition that began in the spring with thousands of hopefuls and drew an average TV viewership of more than 7 million people during twice-weekly airings over the past two months. The show was conducted without its usual live audience and with social distancing protocols in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get to know Lawrence’s John Holiday here.

Follow along with the John Holiday Tracker here.

Flashing a fun sartorial style to match a vocal talent that has made him a rising star in opera circles, the 35-year-old Holiday drew plenty of applause along the way, earning attention in the Los Angeles Times and USA TODAY, hearing effusive praise from the show’s celebrity coaches—Legend, Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, and Blake Shelton—and growing a fan base he calls his Holibaes.

Holiday’s voice students at Lawrence, who affectionately call him Prof, cheered him every step of the way, including through tonight’s finale.

“From day one, Prof has told us that one of the main reasons he pursues his career is to show us what’s possible,” said David Womack ’21, a senior voice student from Austin, Texas. “Watching him quickly become a household name is direct proof that we can do anything we set our minds to, as he frequently reminds us.”

John Holiday sings Halo during the live finals of The Voice. (Photo by Trae Patton/NBC)

In Monday night’s live finals, Holiday delivered Beyonce’s Halo as his cover song and the Justin Tranter-produced Where Do We Go as his original.

“I love that you continue to show America more of yourself,” Legend told him. “You put your heart out there every single week. You have an out-of-this-world gift.”

Staying genuine

Holiday jumped into the competition after the pandemic shut down his performance schedule in the spring. He continued to teach remotely while quietly taking part in the auditions and the early rounds of the show from Los Angeles. The recorded segments—launched with Holiday delivering a stunning performance of Misty that quickly drew Legend to his corner in the blind auditions—began airing in mid-October. Holiday was sworn to secrecy as he advanced through each round as part of Team Legend. He returned to L.A. as the live rounds and viewer voting began two weeks ago.

Sarah Navy ’22, a junior voice student from Holiday’s hometown region of Houston, Texas, said she and her Lawrence classmates already appreciated Holiday’s immense talents. Seeing other viewers discovering not only that talent but also his joyful heart was part of the fun.

“Even though I have spent so much time with him and have heard him sing so much, sometimes I go back to the first time I met him and I become that girl in tears who knew one day she could be great, too,” Navy said. “He is such a genuine person who works so hard and is being a representative for so many people.”

That genuineness shined through all levels of the show, whether Holiday was talking to Legend or host Carson Daly about his teaching at Lawrence, being Black and gay, singing opera, his incredibly high falsetto, growing up in his beloved Texas, his relationship with the grandmother he calls Big Momma, and the pain being felt by artists around the world in the midst of the pandemic.

“He is always so authentic to who he is, which is so inspiring to see,” said Jack Murphy ’21, a senior choral student from Neenah. “And just witnessing the outpouring of love for him. Not only for his talent, but what he stands for as well. It’s encouraging and wonderful. I am so immensely proud of him, and so is our entire studio.”

During his run on The Voice, Holiday became the student under the coaching guidance of Legend. In Monday’s episode, he thanked his mentor for instilling in him confidence that he could shed labels and transcend musical boundaries.

The Voice has been a place that has helped me to stretch myself far beyond what I thought was possible for me,” Holiday said. “Having John as one of my biggest supporters, his belief in me means the world. … I spent so much of my life hiding, and I won’t ever hide again. He’s given me permission to fly.”

Lawrence pride

While NBC billed Holiday as a native of Rosenberg, Texas, his home the past three years has been in Appleton. He represented Lawrence well throughout the season, speaking not only to the power of music education but also to the need for musicians to live and perform authentically and with empathy, resiliency, and flexibility.

“We couldn’t be prouder of John Holiday and his incredible journey on The Voice,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory. “John is the perfect example of the flexible, versatile, virtuoso musician that the 21st century needs and Lawrence strives to produce. He is an opera star who can sing jazz and pop at the highest levels. He is a top-tier performer and a top-tier educator who values his students above all else. What an incredible role model for our students and musicians around the globe.”

With The Voice now finished, Holiday will prepare for Winter Term at Lawrence while getting at least a bit of his performance schedule back. Opera Philadelphia announced last week that Holiday will take the lead in Tyshawn Sorey’s Save the Boys in February, to be streamed on the Opera Philadelphia Channel.

Hannah Jones ’22, a junior voice student from Houston, will be among the Conservatory students excited to welcome their professor home, even if it has to be via Zoom for a bit longer.

“Prof always tells us, ‘I want to show you that it is possible,’” Jones said. “Well, he was doing that well before The Voice, but this is another level. Words cannot describe my excitement for Prof’s success.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

In midst of pandemic, Disasters class draws poignant lessons from history

Jake Frederick (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Jake Frederick is drawn to disasters.

Natural and unnatural disasters. World-altering disasters.

He doesn’t wish for them or the pain and destruction they bring. But the Lawrence University professor of history is unapologetically fascinated by them, struck by the physical, cultural, and emotional recalibration that comes in their wake.

By the nature of his chosen profession, Frederick is usually focused on disasters from long ago, exploring how they altered life in the years, decades, even centuries, that followed, how they exposed inequities, and how they reshaped cultural norms. But right now, as we’re living through a global pandemic unlike anything seen in 100 years, it’s tough for even a history scholar like Frederick to keep the focus squarely on the past. When he was teaching his Disasters That Made the Americas class during the last Winter Term, he found conversations quickly shifting to the present as the spread of COVID-19 arrived in the Americas and the panicked hoarding of toilet paper signaled that life as we know it was about to change.

“I think in any class, whether it’s history or English lit or physics, when students see what they’re studying unfolding in the world they’re living in, they always find that very stimulating,” Frederick said.

“At the moment, this group of students is living through a more dramatic historic moment than I think students have in 100 years. There hasn’t been anything like this since the Spanish influenza outbreak in 1919 and 1920. Even the second World War, there was a home front, so you could always be away from where the disaster was happening. But in the case of the pandemic, it’s everywhere.”

It’s not just the pandemic, of course. The wildfires that burned through large chunks of the western United States in recent months, fueled by climate change that is rapidly altering the planet, provide even more fodder for the intersection of historical disasters and modern times.

Disasters That Made the Americas, a 400-level history course that is focused mostly on Latin America, is being offered again in the upcoming Winter Term, and Frederick said the pandemic and the wildfires will certainly be incorporated into the class discussions. How could they not? The current disasters can help inform the study of past disasters, whether illness, climate, war, or otherwise, and perhaps provide some insight into what lies ahead.

“History is interesting in and of itself,” Frederick said. “But I think we can learn a great deal from the modern moment. I wouldn’t dare say what will be the effect of COVID, because historians get very freaked out by the present tense. We need a good 10, 20 years to figure out what the impact will be. But as we look backwards and look at cholera outbreaks, the Spanish influenza outbreak, there is always something contemporary you can refer to in helping them understand the historical point you are talking about.”

Ricardo Jimenez, a senior biology and music performance double major from Barrington, Illinois, was in Frederick’s Winter Term class. He remembers Frederick talking about COVID-19 on one of the first days of class, in early January, two months before it would be declared a global pandemic. There were reports of a few thousand cases in Wuhan, China, and Frederick talked to his students about keeping a close eye on its spread.

In nearly every classroom session to follow, Frederick would start the discussion by giving an update on the virus as more news came out. He tried to contextualize the gravity of the moment and what might lie ahead based on lessons from history.

“We saw it go from a few thousand to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, and then eventually to other countries,” Jimenez said. … “I will never forget the day in which it arrived in the Americas and we had class the next day. Professor Frederick sat us down and said, ‘I don’t think we will be seeing each other next term.’ By this time, Europe was already on lockdowns.

“It was a very sobering moment to hear from a professor of disasters of human civilizations that this event that we were experiencing was a historical moment.” 

Up close and personal

Frederick, a member of the History Department faculty since 2006 and co-director for Latin American Studies, comes by his fascination with disasters via experience. He fought forest fires in the 1990s before going to graduate school. The firefighting he did in Mexico piqued his interest in the history of that region, leading him to a Ph.D. from Penn State University with a focus on colonial Latin America.

“I’ve always found the history of fires really interesting and thought I could marry these things together,” Frederick said.

He’s on sabbatical during Fall Term as he works on a book about fires in 18th century Mexico. When the Disasters class returns in January, the students will, among other things, draw parallels between today’s ongoing disasters and those that dot the history of the Americas.

“Human beings care about the same things now that they cared about a thousand years ago,” Frederick said. “But it’s sometimes difficult for students to put themselves in that mindset. But with the kind of things they’re encountering right now, and with us looking at disaster as the focus of the course, we are going to have a lot of good conversations.”

Much of Frederick’s focus is on what comes next. What happens after a disaster alters life in a particular region? What inequities have been exposed? And what responses come from leaders and from the populace?

“To a certain extent, the disasters are the sexy hook that makes it very interesting to engage these moments, but the disasters themselves are isolated moments,” Frederick said. “What really is most compelling about them is the impact that they have.”

History suggests some of that impact is communal, at least in the short term. People—today’s anti-maskers notwithstanding—tend to rally together in times of disaster, trending away from the popular mythology that disasters cause societal breakdowns and lead to anarchy.

“In the wake of disasters, particularly very acute disasters, people tend to come together,” Frederick said. “In a big disaster, the first responders are always the neighbors, the nearest community. The rescue forces are there immediately. So, what you often see, after a big disaster, there is a big moment of community-building. And these things can do a lot, at least in the short term, to bring people together. Even if that’s not a lesson for the future, it debunks every disaster movie out there. In reality, people really do tend to provide a lot of help to their neighbors.”

The lessons of history

For all of our advanced medical technology, our radar systems, our smart phones, and the like, the disasters of 2020 provide a reminder that we are as subject to epic natural threats as humans were in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries—pandemics, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes.

“When these things happen, there are very, very familiar consequences that tend to unfold,” Frederick said. “You find that certain parts of society will suffer the most. … What they tend to expose are pre-existing stresses that are in society, the pre-existing shortcomings of a society.”

The United States, for all its advancements, is no different, and the news cycle that is 2020 is making that clear.

“The responses (to disasters) tend to show the same thing,” Frederick said. “Wow, we have this disease coming, and it turns out that in the United States and across the world, health care is really unequally distributed. You might think that can be tolerated up to a point, but disasters tend to push those systems to the fracturing point.”

Lessons can be drawn, for example, from the cholera outbreak in Peru in the 1960s, which led to a reimagining of the country’s medical infrastructure.

“It was not necessarily, how are we going to prepare for the next cholera outbreak, but rather, how does this show us what is wrong with the system that exists now?” Frederick said. “And what it shows is that, disproportionately, poor people, people on the bottom of the socio-economic scale, were getting crushed by this disease. And there was a racial disparity. Indigenous people were getting disproportionately harmed by this disease.”

For Jimenez, learning how that has played out over and over again through history has given him perspective as he and his fellow students navigate the pandemic.

“I think studying past catastrophes helps you learn how events like these tend to unfold, who is really affected by them, and what the aftermath tends to look like,” Jimenez said. “I think the biggest takeaway from the course is really learning that the poorest in our society are those who suffer the most during any catastrophe. They are the most vulnerable but also the ones who are forgotten.”

These lessons from the past can inform the present. And vice versa. It’s what drew Frederick, the one-time firefighter, to the classroom in the first place.

“You can get a sense of relief and comfort from history,” Frederick said. “When you look at a disaster like COVID, you see that the world has gone through things like this before and we got out to the other side. It can be an awful process, and I promise this is going to get much worse before it gets better, but people have managed to get through this sort of thing and worse. Every single time, humanity has come out on the other side.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Interested is readings from the Disasters class?

If Jake Frederick’s Disasters in the Americas class has piqued your interest and you want to read more, try these books that are part of the class:

The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, by Jonathan Katz; New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2013. This book is about the 2010 earthquake.

A Paradise Built in Hell, by Rebecca Solnit; New York: Viking, 2009. The thesis of the book is that in times of urgent disaster people have a greater tendency to pull together than to turn on each other.

Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Niño and the Fate of Civilizations, by Brian Fagan; New York: Basic Books, 1999. See chapters on the classic Maya collapse and the destruction of the Moche civilization.

On Main Hall Green With … Getting to know Jake Frederick, other Lawrence professors

Creative Writing major adds new path in English for Lawrence students

David McGlynn, professor of English, teaches an Advanced Creative Writing: Fiction class during Winter Term. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Students looking to major in Creative Writing can now do so at Lawrence University, marking a significant shift in how the school’s English curriculum is structured.

Beginning in the fall, students in the English program will have two curricular tracks to choose from, one leading to a major in Creative Writing and the other to a major in Literature.

“The new ‘track’ system in the English department—essentially two majors, one in literary analysis and the other in creative writing—beautifully showcases the range of talent within our faculty while giving students the opportunity to explore their passions as readers, critics, and writers to the fullest range of their ability,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat.

See details on the new Creative Writing: English major here.

David McGlynn, professor of English and chair of the English department, said the newly launched Creative Writing: English major will allow students who want to focus on writing to do so with more depth and purpose. It will build on—not replace—an English major with deep roots, one that has produced a wide range of novelists, journalists, technical writers, poets, and book editors through the years.

“We’ve seen more prospective students articulating their desire to focus directly on creative writing,” McGlynn said. “More current and prospective students are seeking graduate-school and career opportunities in writing. We believe the new track system will allow students more flexibility to pursue their goals.”

Lawrence has offered a minor in creative writing for nearly a decade. Many of the writing courses — taught mostly by McGlynn and colleagues Melissa Range and Austin Segrest — are already in place. But new offerings will be added, including an introductory creative writing course designed for first-year students as well as a senior seminar in creative writing for graduating seniors.

Meanwhile, the Literature: English major also will see new classes added, including one that focuses on academic writing at the advanced level and expanded offerings in the study of historically underrepresented writers.

“Both tracks will allow students more opportunities to focus on what they want to do with the English major,” McGlynn said.

As chair of the English department, David McGlynn has led efforts to launch a Creative Writing major within the English offerings, beginning this fall.

Lawrence has had no shortage of successful writers coming out of its English department through the years. Most recently, Madhuri Vijay ’09 had her debut novel, The Far Field, longlisted for the 2020 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

“Creative writing students learn how to work hard and to have faith in themselves over the long haul,” McGlynn said. “Developing as a creative writer takes years and the process can’t be cut short. But when we, as professors, find students who love to write, we do our best to encourage them to go big, to go for it.”

In addition to those who have become novelists or published authors, English graduates from Lawrence have found success in dozens of other fields where the ability to write and think analytically is so important.

“The skills learned in English classes, such as writing, communication, analysis, critical thinking, have applications far beyond studying literature,” McGlynn said. “Along with the writing comes the ability to look into the perspectives of other people, to consider things through someone else’s point of view. That turns out to be pretty good training for fields like social work, counseling, psychology; we’ve had students go on to study medicine, law, business, and library science. The possibilities really are endless.

“And when they get those opportunities, the writing, the thinking, the ability to sympathize and analyze simultaneously comes in really, really handy.”

English is often a popular option for a double major. The new Creative Writing major adds new possibilities across campus that has Kodat excited.

“In particular, it will be exciting to see what kinds of collaborative student projects the new track in Creative Writing unleashes at Lawrence, with its depth of course offerings in music and visual art,” Kodat said. “Expect to be dazzled and astonished.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence experience inspires, informs Madhuri Vijay’s path to “The Far Field”

Portrait of Madhuri Vijay
Madhuri Vijay ’09 has earned critical praise for her debut novel, “The Far Field,” including being long-listed as a semifinalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. The 24 semifinalists will be narrowed to six on Nov. 4. (Photo courtesy of Manvi Rao)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Madhuri Vijay ’09 was taken aback by the critical praise that accompanied the January arrival of her debut novel, The Far Field.

Now, nine months and a multi-continent book tour later, comes the announcement that her novel, published by Grove Press, has been long-listed for the prestigious 2020 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, a literary honor that could push her visibility to new heights.

“The whole thing feels somewhat surreal and a bit like a dream,” Vijay said by phone from her home in Hawaii, where she and her husband are preparing for the imminent arrival of their first child. “It’s always hard to take (the honors) seriously because it always seems like someone is going to call and say, this has all been a big mistake.”

That is not going to happen.

Ten years removed from her days as a Lawrence University undergrad, Vijay has arrived as a significant young novelist. The Far Field has been short-listed for the JCB Prize for Literature, long-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and has drawn stellar praise in book reviews from the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, and others. On Nov. 4, the 24 books long-listed for the Carnegie medal in the fiction category will be narrowed to six finalists.

Along with accolades from the literary awards circuit comes much admiration from faculty members at Lawrence who nurtured Vijay’s storytelling skills a decade ago, not to mention current students who see her as a rock star in the making.

“When Madhuri visited my creative writing class last winter — she read at LU on the day her novel was officially released — my students saw her as a kind of superhero: glamorous and whip-smart and on the verge of international fame,” said professor of English David McGlynn. “But they only glimpsed the end result of an awful lot of work and an endless amount of dedication and determination.”

The publishing of The Far Field came after a six-year writing and editing process that Vijay called grueling, exhausting, and exhilarating. The book, set mostly in Bangalore, a metropolitan area in southern India where Vijay grew up, and the more remote, mountainous regions of Kashmir, tells the story of Shalini, a restless young woman, newly graduated from college and reeling from her mother’s death, who sets out from her privileged life in Bangalore in search of a family acquaintance from her childhood. She runs smack into the unsettled and volatile politics of Kashmir.

When Vijay launched her book tour early this year, Lawrence was an important stop. She points to her time as a student here as the impetus to a life of writing. She will tell you she arrived in the fall of 2005 as a determined but narrowly focused freshman. She’ll then tell you she left four years later having explored, sampled, and embraced every nook and cranny of the liberal arts experience, a creative enlightenment that rerouted her plans, turned her focus to fiction writing, and led her to the story that became The Far Field.

She double-majored in psychology and English at Lawrence, but it wasn’t until she was midway through a 12-month Watson Fellowship following graduation that she called off her plans to go to graduate school for psychology, applying instead to the Iowa Writers Workshop, a highly focused two-year writing residency at the University of Iowa.

Details on Lawrence’s English major here

“Lawrence itself was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Vijay said. “I grew up in India, and our system of learning is in some ways very good because it’s very thorough and it’s science-based and it’s very rigorous, but it doesn’t allow for a lot of experimentation and play.

“So, when I got to Lawrence, I was overjoyed to discover that I could just dabble in all of these different things. I would take biology and Latin and I would sing in the choir and I would do all of these different things, which is the foundation of a liberal arts education. But it’s also, as I see it now, the foundation for being a good fiction writer, in that you have to be interested in everything all of the time and that nothing is divorced from the other thing. … Everything is worthy of study and everything is worthy of interest. That’s the thing I discovered at Lawrence.”

McGlynn was in his first year on the Lawrence faculty in 2006 when he first encountered Vijay, then a sophomore in his English 360 class. He recalled her being smart, poised and articulate, but her writing was far from polished.

“Her writing showed promise, but it also needed to be refined and to mature,” he said.

What made her stand out, though, was a willingness to work. That was evident from the get-go.

“She recognized her intellectual capacity, but she also knew capacity was only the beginning,” McGlynn said. “She knew she needed to work. She knew she needed to walk the path. That, more than anything, was her great gift. She remains one of the most dedicated and passionate students I have ever taught in my 13 years at Lawrence.”

With additional guidance from Tim Spurgin, the Bonnie Glidden Buchanan Professor of English Literature and associate professor of English, Vijay applied to and was selected for a Watson Fellowship, funding a year of travel and study. Her Watson study was focused on people from India living in foreign lands. Her travels took her to South Africa, Malaysia, and Tanzania, among other places, and her desire to write and create grew along the away.

Details on the Watson Fellowship here

“Being on the Watson means you are alone for a year,” Vijay said. “You’re absolutely independent in that nobody is looking over your shoulder. You either do the work or you don’t, which, in a nutshell, is what it means to be a writer. No one is waiting for you to produce anything. You either do the work or you don’t. All the urgency has to come from you, and it’s a lonely profession.”

Interestingly, it was during her Watson year that she first encountered Shalini and some of the other fictional characters that would eventually become key players in The Far Field. And it was her continued correspondence with McGlynn that in part set the wheels in motion.

“I wrote a short story during the Watson that had some of these same characters in it,” Vijay said. “It was very bad. But David McGlynn read it. He is one of the few people I trust to read even my worst writing. He was the one who literally suggested, ‘Why don’t you make this a novel?’ So, I wrote about 30 pages, and that’s how I got to Iowa, on the strength of those 30 pages. But it was a very different version. It had nothing to do with the book that eventually got published.

“After I got into Iowa, I didn’t touch those 30 pages, and I didn’t think about those characters for two years. It was only after Iowa when I was thinking about what to do next that I began thinking about those characters again. … If David hadn’t said that to me, I probably wouldn’t have written this book. I may have written something different, but not this book.”

Vijay is now a year into a follow-up book project that she says has yet to fully take shape. She knows the positive reaction to The Far Field assures nothing. It’s about continuing to put in the work.

“There is no point where you arrive at some sort of certainty where you say, ‘OK, this is a guarantee,’” she said of her life as a novelist. “Every single day feels like a gamble, feels like a risk, feels like you could fall at any given moment. That point (of certainty) hasn’t arrived, and I don’t think it ever will. And I don’t think it ever should. … You should always feel like you might fall flat on your face. That is the only way to do it honestly.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence alum shares ‘Window’ view in global journey with secretary of state

Glen Johnson ’85 (right) traveled the world
from 2013 to 2017 with U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry. A new book details
his deep dive into international diplomacy.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Glen Johnson ’85

When Glen Johnson ’85 first set foot on the Lawrence University campus in the fall of 1981, he was singularly focused on forging a career as a journalist.

He had opted not to attend a school with an established journalism program, preferring instead a liberal arts education that would give him the broad-ranging intellectual tools needed to pursue journalism while also prepping him for life’s unknown adventures.

Nearly three decades later, still fully engaged in a journalism career that had taken him to the Boston Globe and included coverage of five presidential campaigns, Johnson would find himself staring down one of those unknown adventures. John Kerry, freshly tabbed by President Barack Obama to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, reached out to Johnson in early 2013 with an unexpected offer — join his team as the senior communications advisor.

Johnson accepted, and he would be by Kerry’s side for the next four years, traveling to 91 countries and all seven continents, getting an up-close look at diplomacy at the highest levels and gaining perspective on world affairs that he said was both encouraging and daunting.

More information on the book can be found at www.glenjohnson.com.

His experiences are now shared in his new book, Window Seat on the World, published this summer by Disruption Books. It’s garnering significant attention, in large part because of the vast differences in diplomatic style between that of Kerry and the Obama administration and that of President Donald Trump and his administration. Johnson hopes the book will shed new light on diplomacy, its opportunities and its challenges, and provide a guide for those interested in a career in diplomatic service.

As Johnson makes the rounds of media interviews and book fairs, he hasn’t been shy about singing the praises of the liberal arts education he got at Lawrence and how that gave him a base on which to build a journalism career and then deftly shift into his role with Kerry.

“I came to Lawrence with the full expectation of being a reporter,” Johnson said. “I was fascinated by it.”

He majored in government at Lawrence, drew inspiration and insight from talented English professors and studied abroad in London for two trimesters.

“When I came out, I climbed the proverbial ladder rung by rung to develop myself as a reporter, from small newspapers to the world’s largest news organization in the AP, and then to the largest newspaper in the part of the country where I lived, the Boston Globe,” Johnson said.

“When I got this call from John Kerry offering the position at the State Department, it was a huge life decision, to change careers from the only one I’d ever done or ever really wanted to do. I thought about where I was personally, sort of mid-life with my younger kid about to graduate from college, and feeling like if I wanted to pursue a second act, now is probably the time.

“And then the specifics of the opportunity, the chance to have a high-level position with a top Cabinet officer and to see the world at his side. … If there was anything worth leaving the only career I ever had known, it was for something I considered to be the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Glen Johnson ’85 took more than 100,000 photos during his time with Secretary of State John Kerry, including this one of Kerry meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the four years that would follow, Johnson would spend the equivalent of four months on an airplane, logging enough mileage to take him and Kerry around the world 57 times. In addition to being Kerry’s lead communications officer, Johnson became the traveling contingent’s primary photographer, shooting more than 100,000 photos, many of which are featured in the book and are part of his public presentations about the book.

He had a front row seat for Middle East peace talks, Iran nuclear negotiations, and government transitions in Afghanistan and Nigeria. He witnessed the difficult diplomacy that comes with interactions with China and Russia. And he got a bird’s-eye look — and unsettling lessons — in the perils of climate change and their global ramifications. All of that is explored in the book.

“I wanted to deal with topics that really struck me and I thought had resonance and would continue to have resonance,” Johnson said.

It was climate change, and the stark reality of what’s at stake, that may have struck the rawest nerve, he said. And it came as perhaps his biggest surprise.

“At first I thought that was a strange thing for us to focus on,” Johnson said. “I knew John Kerry to be an environmentalist, but I thought it was almost a strange thing for a secretary of state to focus on when we first started. But not too long into this job, I realized it made sense because it was a problem that by definition transcended borders and was global in scope.

“And then the blessing of the job was to have the ability to travel the way we could. We ended up going almost to the North Pole, going almost to the South Pole. We saw above the Arctic Circle. We saw Antarctica. We saw all these places around the middle of the Earth. The effects of climate change were so readily apparent that you could see the effects of them on diplomacy. We have the potential now for issues with migration sparked by climate change, we have the potential for water wars between the haves and the have-nots.”

United States Secretary of State John Kerry flies in an Embassy Air Chinook helicopter from Kabul International Airport to ISAF headquarters in Afghanistan in April 2016. Glen Johnson ’85, who took the photo, says visits to Kabul and Baghdad were the two trips he and Kerry never told their families they were making.

Johnson minces no words about the abrupt change in attitude and message regarding climate change that came with the transition to the Trump presidency. He expresses other frustrations on topics of shifting diplomacy and approach, but the climate change conversation cuts particularly deep because of what he saw with his own eyes.

“It’s tremendously alarming and it’s frustrating and exasperating,” Johnson said. “I have zero patience for climate deniers because there is no factual basis for that belief. There are reams of empirical data and there is so much you can see first-hand to rebut that. The debate can’t be about whether climate change is occurring. The debate has to be focused on what to do to address it.

“If you have someone in office who talks about it as being a hoax and that kind of thing, you just can’t take someone like that seriously. And especially someone who has the opportunities that we had at the State Department, and that is to travel the world to see it first-hand. You don’t have to take someone else’s word for it. You don’t have to take 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the topic. You can get on a plane and you can go to Svalbard yourself or you can go down to McMurdo Station like we did. The current secretary of state or the current president can do all that, and yet they choose not to.”

While the widely different approaches to diplomacy between the Obama and Trump presidencies has drawn much of the media attention surrounding the book, Johnson said he purposely didn’t weave that into the bulk of the book. He saved that for a chapter near the end.

If this were just an Obama vs. Trump comparison, the book would have a short shelf life, Johnson reasoned. He’d rather the book take a deeper run at diplomacy and the call to diplomatic service.

“I wanted the book to stand up beyond these four, or even eight, years of a Trump era,” Johnson said. “I wanted it to be more about institutional lessons of diplomacy as illustrated by a more classical diplomat like John Kerry than an us-versus-them thing.”

The art of State Department diplomacy is a mystery to most Americans, Johnson said, even though it incorporates thousands of employees in offices, posts, embassies and consulates around the world. It’s often the most forward-deployed part of the federal government, more so than the U.S. military in many cases, but most people know little about it.

“I saw this book as a chance to teach about diplomacy, have some case studies about issues that continue on today,” Johnson said. “And then also potentially to serve as a guide to inspire diplomats.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence Academy of Music Holds Open House March 2

The Lawrence Academy of Music will hold an open house Sunday, March 2 from 2-4 p.m., offering information on its extensive student music programs as well as live lesson demonstrations, group mini-performances and model early childhood classes. Door prizes, refreshments and a musical instrument “petting zoo” will also be provided.

The Academy of Music, which offers high-quality music instruction to more than 1,800 area students of all ages and levels of advancement, is located at 100 Water Street, Appleton, across from the Fox River Mills apartments. For more information, call 920/832-6635.