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Great Issues: Then and Now

Along with his fellow Dartmouth students just after World War II, John Hatheway '48 was looking at a world of challenges. In the new atomic age, the aftermath of the Holocaust, and the advent of the United Nations, so many complex international issues loomed so large.

John Hatheway '48
Hatheway ’48: “I think anyone in our era would remember that course.”

In the fall of his senior year, Hatheway and his classmates began a new learning adventure: a Great Issues course, the brainchild of then President John Sloan Dickey. Every week, the seniors heard a talk-the centerpiece of the comprehensive course-by a leading figure of the day.

Dickey himself began the Monday evening series on October 6, 1947. He was followed by, among others, poet and public official Archibald MacLeish, social philosopher Lewis Mumford, Joseph Barnes of The New York Herald Tribune, and Chester I. Barnard of the Secretary of State's Committee on Atomic Energy. In follow-up sessions, the seniors discussed what they'd heard; each was also required to read at least one major newspaper every day.

"I think anyone in our era would remember that course," reflects Hatheway, a retired advertising executive who lives in Hanover and is a member of the Dartmouth Life editorial board. "It exposed all of us to some truly interesting, world-renowned people.

"One of the most important aspects of the course was the requirement that every student complete a paper on a major national or international story by following the story in at least six newspapers every day for three weeks. It was fascinating to recognize how different newspapers report on the same event. That has been something that has stuck with me. It was an eye-opener for all of us," he adds.

Fast forward to 2003. Kenneth Yalowitz, former U.S. ambassador to the Republics of Georgia and Belarus and the Norman E. McCullough Jr. Director of the Dickey Center, had studied Dickey's ideas and been especially struck by the Great Issues course.

"I meet with alumni all the time, and they all say this was a formative experience in their lives," Yalowitz says. "They developed a strong, abiding interest in international affairs, and this course, along with John Sloan Dickey himself, played a very important role in shaping a much more international outlook at Dartmouth."

Kenneth Yalowitz
Yalowitz: “Alumni ... all say this was a formative experience in their lives.”

So last autumn, Yalowitz inaugurated a new Great Issues lecture series. With one guest speaker in each of the fall, winter, and spring terms, the Great Issues series has so far featured Warren Rudman, former U.S. Senator from New Hampshire, who spoke on international terrorism; former Dartmouth trustee Susan Dentzer '77, medical correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, who spoke on global health issues; Faye Ginsburg, New York University anthropology professor, who spoke on the impact of U.S. culture on indigenous peoples; and George Rupp, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, who spoke on the challenges of today's refugee crises.

"We try to cover the broad gamut of issues," Yalowitz explains. "I feel very strongly that no Dartmouth student should leave here without a strong recognition and understanding of international issues and a commitment to do something about them-to be active and involved."

Open to students, faculty, and the general public, the lectures have been well attended. They go hand-in-hand with a brace of complementary student discussion groups on global affairs and issues at the Dickey Center, along with World Outlook, a student-written and -edited magazine on foreign policy that the center publishes.

"Dartmouth has a very good record of students who are interested in international affairs," says Yalowitz. "We've sent some outstanding young people out into the world.

"And that," he concludes, "is the whole purpose."

By Doug Wilhelm

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Last Updated: 7/24/18