Greetings from the New Anderson Hall. The bell rang 145 times today at noon. Please feel free to come visit and be amazed by the new home of the Humanities Division at Maryville College. We are profoundly thankful for all the support we receive from our alumni!
Today we were visited by The President of the United States, Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden. I was fortunate to attend the event as a volunteer, which granted me a chance to view a slice of the behind the scenes preparation over the last few days. Knoxville must have been the safest place on the planet today. Watching the secret service agents, The White House staff, and local law enforcement work seamlessly together to provide a safe space to host our national executives was uncanny. I saw the best of the best in action today. 2014 shed doubt on the professionalism of those guarding our leader, but if this was sloppy, I don't want to see them on point. The leaders of our nation create an atmosphere of success around them, making everyone involved strive for perfection. (Also, there is a guy who puts The Seal up anywhere they speak, its totally cool) I am proud to have been a small part of making this event run smoothly. Hearing Dr. Jill Biden talk to us as educators and equals was amazing, confirming that what we do as teachers and guides is as big and as essential as what the President and Vice President do each day. She has committed herself to the classroom, making her role as Second Lady about devoting energies to better, wide-reaching, and lasting quality education for all. Dr. Jill Biden was warm, lovely, and clearly drawn to students in a way that I see mirrored by our colleagues, directors, and deans. Vice President Joe Biden was so excited to be in Knoxville. His reputation in congress makes him acquainted with our lawmakers and values. He remarked about how beautiful the drive to PSCC was from the airport. These scenes are ones which have touched me my entire life, but in the recent years, driving in each day to Maryville College, they have become vistas which promote reflection and have encouraged hours of thought enriched by those poignantly nagging questions a stellar liberal arts education leaves planted in one's mind. Being in the same room as a sitting president is a humbling experience. I have been inspired by Barack Obama since the beginning and watching him today did not disappoint. His enthusiasm and genuine nature are infectious. The man is nothing if not passionate. It is clear that he credits his achievements with his education. He is also aware that assistance, financial or otherwise, made striving for that education possible. This awareness sets his successes in relief. The hardest working, most driven student, can only get so far in today's market, which is not that of our parents and grandparents. Help can and must be sought out--from professors, advisors, mentors. But if these students cannot access the halls of learning, if the doors are barred by dollars and stagnation, we educators will have no work to do. Getting the students who most want to learn into the classroom is the goal. Showing students who considered education outside of their class that they too are able to work towards something greater is the goal. Giving everyone the same shot is the goal. I am so thankful that our President cares about the future of education and that a chance for real reform has the full weight of the White House. I cannot believe I actually go to see the President. He was in the same room, Y'all! He seems set to enjoy these last few years talking about the things which matter most to him. I love that. Watching my advisees and mentees and peers and colleagues light up from inside because he shared a sentence with them, because he reached for their hand, because he showed up, was powerful. It was a day like no other. I am touched and excited and wow, okay--Wow.
Dr. Eva Mroczek, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism at Indiana University, Bloomington paid a virtual visit to students in my "King David in History and Tradition" class. Professor Mroczek is an expert on the changing images of King David in the Second Temple, early Christian and rabbinic periods.