History is not so very long ago
Went to a special event this week. I graduated from the School of International Affairs (now the School of International and Public Affairs) of Columbia University in the City of New York in 1978. This year is the 250th Anniversary of the University. It was founded as Kings College by George II. So to commemorate this event, Columbia sponsored a film about the University and the event was the screening of the film.
The film was made by Columbia graduate Ric Burns who is a noted historical film maker. Among other things he did the 3 hour American Experience on the World Trade Center that was recently on PBS. While Columbia paid for the film it had no editorial input on the film.
It was fascinating to see the film and the changes the University went through from its first foundings. Most of the changes that make Columbia what it is happened during the 20th C. When I was there, Columbia College still was not admitting women. If you were a woman you went to Barnard, but could take classes in the College.
Columbia was a wonderful experience for me from a learning perspective. At first I was concerned that I wasn't learning anything. Then I realized that what I was learning, was how to question, how to think and analyze. It was a most profound change in me. In fact it is what my whole career was about - but that is another topic for musing.
The film also brought out the fact that they don't coddle you there and that if you find your feet, you can survive anywhere. VERY TRUE.
Some other truths:
- it was the first time I felt what hate was. I lived in NY - on the edge of Harlem and people looked at me, didn't know me, and projected hate. It was tangible.
- I was a lesser being. I had gone to a state school (University of California Berkeley) not an ivy league school. I came from upper middle class parents whose net worth was less than $1 Million and didn't do the country club or debutante route.
- I was a Jew, but not a jew - a western jew - a reform jew.
- I was in a great cultural center and could visit museums and the performing arts as much as time would allow.
- it was a time of great hope for the future. Carter was in the White House and it looked like Middle East peace could be a reality.
- it was a time of change. My class was a third to half women and we were getting top notch jobs upon graduation.
- it was a time of personal growth. No longer was I just someone's daughter or preparing to become someone's wife, I was becoming me and I could handle anything that came my way.
Of course I wasn't blind to the problems around me, but they weren't going to stop me. It was an interesting time.