Thursday, September 22, 2022 – Morgan Lecture

Poster for Roosevelt Montas's EventAnita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7 p.m.


Morgan Lecture

Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation

Roosevelt Montás, Columbia University

What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, replaced by flexible distribution requirements and ever-narrower academic specialization. Many academics attack the very idea of a Western canon as chauvinistic, while the public increasingly doubts the value of the humanities. In this Clarke Forum lecture based on his book Rescuing Socrates, American academic Roosevelt Montás tells the story of how a liberal education transformed his life and offers an intimate account of the relevance of the Great Books today, especially to members of historically marginalized communities.

This program is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and the Morgan Lecture Fund and co-sponsored by the Roberts Fund for Classical Studies, and the Latin American, Latinx & Caribbean Studies Program.

Topical background written by Georgia Schaefer-Brown ’25

Biography (provided by the speaker)

Roosevelt Montás PhotoRoosevelt Montás grew up in the Dominican Republic until, at twelve years old, he moved to New York City. He discovered the classics at age sixteen after rescuing a copy of Socrates from his neighbor’s trash. He went on to study at Columbia University, where he is now Senior Lecturer in American Studies and English. His book, Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation, details his experiences as a student and teacher, telling the story of how the Great Books transformed his life and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds.

Morgan Lectureship

The Morgan Lectureship was endowed by the board of trustees in 1992, in grateful appreciation for the distinguished service of James Henry Morgan of the Class of 1878, professor of Greek, dean, and president of the College. The lectureship brings to campus a scholar in residence to meet informally with individuals and class groups and to deliver the Morgan Lecture on topics in the social sciences and humanities. Scholars have included Jorge Luis Borges, Francis Fukuyama, Michael Ignatieff, Samantha Power, Art Spiegelman, Sandra Steingraber, Kay Redfield Jamison, Patricia Hill Collins, Winona LaDuke, Lila Abu-Lughod, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and Anthony Appiah.