“Expose yourself to noble people.”
That is one of the best pieces of advice I was given in my previous life as an editor of parenting magazines. It came from Mary Catherine Bateson, noted writer and cultural anthropologist who also happens to be the daughter of Margaret Mead. Bateson was discussing the best things one can do to raise your children well.
Her counsel came to mind recently as I sat in the office of UConn History Professor Alexis Dudden, waiting for her to finish explaining to a campus policeman the details of the most recent menacing threat she’d received as a consequence of her passionate defense of human rights, in this case on behalf of an accurate historical record concerning brutal treatment of Japanese “comfort women” in World War II. Dudden writes in these pages about women in modern Japan struggling to maintain the country’s constitutional pledge of peace.
Bateson’s advice came to mind again in Jorgensen auditorium when, after watching Bill Clinton receive the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights, a co-winner of the prize, Molly Melching (pictured on homepage), took the stage. Melching received the award on behalf of Tostan, the organization she founded that has, in many African villages, managed to end the centuries-old practices of female genital cutting and child marriage. Melching went to Senegal as an exchange student in the 1970s and, observing human rights abuses, couldn’t bring herself to leave. I had goosebumps listening to her talk about how she made a difference by first spending years just being with these Senegalese women, hearing them talk about what they needed, and then how she has spent decades helping them get it.
And I found myself thinking about Bateson’s guidance a third time in as many weeks when, after interviewing basketball champion Sue Bird, I found myself telling my husband: She’s the kind of person you want your kids to know.
“Possessing, characterized by, or arising from superiority of mind or character or of ideals or morals,” reads a Merriam-Webster definition of “noble.”
I think my daughter and I got lucky landing at UConn; clearly, it will not be difficult to surround ourselves with nobility. I’m looking forward to sharing stories of noble people with her, and with you on these pages. The good news is, with this issue, there will be more pages of UConn Magazine on which to do just that. The magazine has almost doubled in size and will now show up in your mailboxes in January, May, and September. Please visit magazine.uconn.edu to let us know what you think of this re-designed magazine and also, please, share your own stories of nobility in our midst.
Our kids — all of us — need those stories more than ever.
– Lisa Stiepock