The Charles McKinney prizes, established in 1878, award excellence in oratory. This year AHI undergraduate fellow Xiaohan Du, Hamilton College class 2012, won first prize for her speech “A Call for the Revival of Humanism in Liberal Arts Education: When the Diversity of Ideas meets the Ideas of Diversity.”
Ms. Du, a native of China who had studied math and science in Shanghai, “had long felt an urge to understand where I come from, to locate myself within the vastness of time and space, to process the phenomenon of today’s world, to lead an examined life in a most meaningful way.” Arriving in the United States in transit on her intellectual journey, she embraced her newfound freedom, began enjoying it, but eventually wondered where the freedom was taking her and toward what end. She found the anything-as-you go education enshrined by an open curriculum ultimately unsatisfying. She had no desire to run “adrift in a sea of nihilism, relativism, and political correctness.”
Ms. Du’s peroration, drawing on the work of James Piereson and Allan Bloom, called for a return to the traditional understanding of a humanistic education as the real meaning of “diversity” in a liberal arts education. The AHI congratulates Ms. Du on her award-winning performance.