Editorial: Tisch College Distinguished Speaker Series presents strong roster

The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life often goes under-appreciated in the Tufts community. In an effort to “prepare students for a lifetime of engagement in civic and democratic life, to study civic life and its intersections with public and private institutions and to promote practices that strengthen civic life in the United States and around the world,” Tisch College features a host of programs, internship opportunities and scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students at Tufts. Tisch College is undoubtedly a part of the Tufts identity and provides an outlet for diversity of opinion.

But never before has Tisch College honored its mission like it has this semester, with a roster of speakers that are not only high-profile, but also inspiring, controversial and diverse. We commend the College for its Distinguished Speaker Series. First up is environmentalist and former vice president Al Gore, whose talk on Wednesday, Feb. 7 will follow a special screening of his climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth (Feb. 6). Next are Maine’s Republican Senator Susan Collins (Feb. 21) and members from The Boston Globe’s investigative unit, Spotlight, widely regarded for its reporting on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (March 15). Cecile Richards, current president of Planned Parenthood (March 28), and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer (April 4) round out the lineup. Tisch College will also feature a lunch with Tufts alumnus Eric T. Washington (A ’76), a Senior Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, and a two-day symposium on prison and education, among other programs.

In this era of seemingly unprecedented political divisiveness, programs like these are more crucial than ever. The opportunity to hear from a variety of esteemed speakers is an essential aspect of higher education. Listening to speakers who present different opinions on a wide span of issues, some of which students may not know much about, forces them to challenge their perspectives and broaden their intellectual horizons. Students will have the opportunity not only to listen and learn from the speakers, but to ask questions and challenge them by submitting potential questions through the Tisch College website.

The Distinguished Speakers include both an environmental activist and a center-right Senator; a champion of reproductive rights and a team of tireless investigators in the pursuit of truth. When the news cycle is cluttered by scandal, it’s easy — especially for young people — to grow disillusioned with the political process and resign to the inevitability of ideological divide. The Speaker Series provides students with a welcome antidote: exemplars of activism, truth-seeking and intellectual rigor.