Join NAS January 11 and 12 in Orange, California as we discuss disgrace in higher education.
In 2009, ten days before the inauguration, I was in Washington for the NAS conference but had decided to stay near the National Mall at the ritzy Hay-Adams across from the White House. With Blair House unavailable, President-elect Obama had also picked The Hay, so my stay had been filled with concrete barriers, metal fences, and Secret Service. One night, walking back from the conference, I stupidly headed the wrong way, towards Delaware, 180 degrees from The Hay. In the drizzle, I heard, “Hey, beautiful brother . . .” as a woman on a bicycle coasted by on the wet street. I shook my head but a minute later I heard her again, “I’m no threat to you.” The panhandler had dismounted and was already at my elbow. “You’re following me . . . .” “Yeh, but I can’t hurt you,” she said, looking up. She was slender, with chocolate skin, soulful eyes, a real smile unperfected by braces, wearing a puffy nylon jacket. I started walking but she launched into her pitch: raised by her grandmother, finding her mother dead on the floor. “Some folks have just had a harder time, you know?” I gave detached “hmmms” and “ohs,” but also wondered about her—she was engaging, persistent but gentle, obviously smart. She asked, “What’s your name?” Cautious, I said, “David. I’m from California, here for a conference, but I think I’m going the wrong way.” “I’m Robin. Where you staying?” “The Hay-Adams.” “Oh, you kidding me? That’s where Obama’s staying! Aren’t you going in the wrong direction! C’mon, I’ll take you there!” She wheeled her bicycle around, pushing off into the night. “David from California. You know, isn’t that something? There you was, lost, and I came along and found you.” She shook her head. “That’s how I know there’s somebody more up in the sky than the Man in the Moon.” “Are you from Washington?” “My whole life. I have five kids, but . . .” she ducked her head, “I don’t have any of them.” “Robin,” I said, “I’m a teacher. You seem as able as most of my students.” She was silent. We reached double digit streets, nearing The Hay, but I no longer wanted the encounter to end. “Robin, with your personality I’m sure you could . . .” (I thought frantically how to convey confidence in her without being patronizing) “. . . get a regular job.” She looked down again. “I don’t like living in the shelters. There’s too many drugs. I have to hide my stuff around.” We cut through a Metro station where human figures hunched near the warm wind pouring up the stairwells. Back in the rainy night Robin exclaimed, “Look! Ducks!” Under a sapling, on a patch of wet grass, two young Mallards huddled, dazed by the glare of headlights and neon. “Do you read?” I asked. “Yeh. `DON’T WALK.’ `NO TRESPASSING.’ `CLOSED.’” She smiled, then repeated:
Imagine that, David from California. There you was lost, and I was supposed to find you.
“Are you going to the inauguration?” Her face clouded, “I don’t like crowds.” We saw the floodlit Hay now. She slowed and said hopefully, “I know you would take care of a sister.” Not yet. She had to know that I was not embarrassed to be with her. The moon gleamed off temporary bleachers and metal barricades around the White House as we walked the final block. At the checkpoint, she stopped again. I took the last $50 bill from my wallet and said, “Thanks, Robin. Please take this. I’m glad I met you and that we got to talk.” Robin stared at Ulysses Grant; I wondered what she knew about history. “Oh, there’s more in the sky than the Man in the Moon.” She shook her head, smiled up at me, and we embraced. Then she swung onto her bike, and I turned toward the security tent, the metal detector, and the shiny black cars. These days, I often think of my beautiful sister Robin, huddled in a D.C. shelter, still hiding her stuff, still waiting for hope and change.
Via Professor David Gordon, president of NAS's New York affiliate, an announcement specifically for NAS members:
THE NEW YORK ASSOCIATION OF SCHOLARS
THE CUNY ASSOCIATION OF SCHOLARS
INVITE YOU TO ATTEND OUR SECOND EVENT OF FALL 2009
will discuss his recent book
Growing Up Jewish Under Stalin
Many years after making his way to America from Odessa in Soviet Ukraine, Emil Draitser made a startling discovery: every time he uttered the word "Jewish" — even in casual conversation — he lowered his voice. This behavior was a natural product, he realized, of growing up in the anti-Semitic, post-Holocaust Soviet Union, when "Shush!" was the most frequent word he heard: "Don't use your Jewish name in public. Don't speak a word of Yiddish. And don't cry over your murdered relatives." This compelling memoir conveys the reader back to Draitser's childhood and provides a unique account of mid twentieth-century life in Russia as he struggled to reconcile the harsh values of Soviet society with the values of his working-class Jewish family. Draitser, today a professor of Russian at Hunter College, in addition examines Odessa's social fabric as exemplified in film, literature, humor, headlines, holidays and vernacular to offer valuable, poignant snapshots of this turbulent, terrifying time in a work that one reviewer called “whimsical, heartfelt and candid," and another found "a wonderfully evocative memoir of childhood and adolescence during one of the most tragic epochs in Russian history. As grim as the historical background of the memoir is, the mood is redeemed by Draitser's perfectly Odessan Jewish humor, sad yet optimistic, compared with that of another great Odessan, Isaak Babel."
December 13, 2009 3:00 PM
at the home of Nahma Sandrow and Bill Meyers
180 Riverside Drive. apt 3A
Entrance on West 90 Street New York, NY
RSVP - David Gordon (718) 289-5658 firstname.lastname@example.org
NAS Executive Director Peter Wood addressed the annual meeting of NAS affiliate, the Minnesota Association of Scholars on April 19. He offered an overview of the various reform initiatives in higher education and proposed a way to gather many of them into a more broadly-based movement. This is his text.