Profiles in Leadership Series Prepares Campus Voters for US Elections

November 17, 2020

Aquinas College hosted a Fall lecture series, Profiles in Leadership. The series held in Breen Hall on three Tuesdays in October welcomed members of the faculty by invitation to speak on virtuous leadership in this time of upheaval. Speakers included Sister Mary Edith Humphries, O.P., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English, presenting “Learning to Lead: From Passive Spectating to Civil Engagement in Homer’s Telemachy,” Vince Ryan, Ph.D, Associate Professor of History, presenting “John Quincy Adams and the Spirit of Public Service,” and Katherine Haynes, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, presenting “Dante’s Plea for Good Governance.”

The series brought to light various personalities from life and literature as a vehicle to highlight virtuous leadership.

In The Odyssey, Telemachus is introduced as a young man stuck in an extended adolescence. Rather than face the problems before him, he daydreams of resolutions. Through Athena’s wise pedagogy, Telemachus is taught to embrace maturity, helping himself and the whole polis.

John Quincy Adams’ rise as a young diplomat and political leader was formed by early influences that had implications for his style of service. Following the disappointment of what seemed like a failed presidency, Adams seized the opportunity to continue to exercise a role of service for the common good in the House of Representatives until his death—just hours after casting his last vote related to the Mexican War, from the House floor.

Dante Alighieri did not hesitate to contribute to the public discourse of his day with a Catholic perspective, often at the expense of his own popularity and personal safety. Dante incurred persecution and exile from his native Florence for his views. From exile he penned De Monarchia, in which “he called upon his audience to fulfill their obligation to establish and secure a stable, virtuous government that would provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare, such that the vulnerable are protected and society would be free to flourish” (from the lecture announcement).

The Profiles in Leadership lectures were timed in light of current events and the obligation of every American Catholic to participate in the political life of society with a conscience formed by the teachings of the Church, especially Catholic social doctrine.

The college began a long history of public lectures in 1971 with the start of the Schoen Symposium, which brought prominent speakers and churchmen from the United States and the Vatican to Nashville for talks in theology and philosophy. Through years of varied lecture topics and themes at different times of the year, Aquinas College has hosted a number of lecture series prior to presidential elections. These series have aimed to prepare Catholic voters to consider timely issues through the lens of Catholic social teaching and to enable the truths of the Catholic faith to inform and guide conscientious decisions at the polls.

Due to health precautions, the Profiles in Leadership lecture series attendance was limited to current students, faculty, and staff of the college. Previously recorded Aquinas College lectures are available at https://soundcloud.com/aquinascollege.

Photo: Official presidential portrait, John Quincy Adams, GPA Healy, 1858. 

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