2023 Education for Citizenship Address
>> Good evening, everyone. Good. Good to see you. I'm Melissa Gilliam, Executive Vice President and Provost of the Ohio State, and it is my pleasure to greet you on this very special occasion, which is our Second Annual Education for Citizenship Address. So we began this tradition last year. That's why it's the second. And we expect this to become one of the hallmarks of a Buckeye Welcome Each Autumn Semester. And that's why went straight to Ohio State University's motto, really thinking about this thing that is inscribed on our seal, and it means Education for Citizenship. And it sets a lofty and really uncompromising goal because it calls upon you to use your Ohio State education to become model citizens, to lead the way in changing the world, to leave it a better place than the one you found. If you had the chance to attend convocation a week ago, I talked a little bit about the importance of civil discourse. Maybe you remember that I defined civil discourse as a conversation in which there is a mutual airing of views without rancor. It's an unspoken understanding that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if you find those opinions disturbing, and that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. It's not easy, but that is what we aspire to. So a first step in fulfilling Ohio State's motto is committing yourself to the practice of civil discourse as you exchange perspectives with others who don't necessarily agree with you. And this evening's, address memorializes that motto by formally kicking off a new academic year of our Civil Discourse project. And it's great to see so many leaders of this work in the audience. And so throughout the year, this project will provide both curricular and extracurricular opportunities to learn more about how to engage with others. 'm delighted that we are joined by an expert whose research uses a mix of neuroscience and narrative theory to help numerous organizations, from Ohio Public Schools to the US Army Special Operations, increase empathy, creativity, courage, and other citizenship skills. We are truly privileged to have Dr. Angus Fletcher on our faculty. But also with us today to deliver this year's Education for Citizenship address, a professor and story scientist in our Department of English. Dr. Fletcher is actively involved with Ohio State's Project Narrative Podcast, a leading academic think tank for the study of how stories work. Dr. Fletcher's own story is a fascinating one. He began his career in neuroscience and worked for four years in a University of Michigan Medical School, Neurophysiology Lab. He began that work thinking that the human brain worked like a computer, taking in data from the outside world, crunching that data into conclusions, and then acting on those conclusions. But slowly, he came to the realization that he had been wrong and that the brain is not a computer. Rather, it is a very different kind of machine. Instead, he discovered that the brain isn't particularly data driven, nor even particularly logical. Instead, it is emotional and creative and powered by story. To better understand how emotion, creativity, and story worked in the brain, Dr. Fletcher decided that he should study places where all three converged, like novels and poetry and movies. From there, he left the lab and went on to earn his PhD in literature at Yale. As a scholar, his publications include his latest book titled Wonderworks, which was published in 2021, and lays out how generations of authors had innovated literature with breakthroughs that can help the human brain process grief, recover from trauma, increase joy, stimulate creativity, and provide dozens of other neural benefits. His current research focuses on teasing out the brain secrets of how history's greatest creative thinkers, from DA Vinci to Einstein to Maya Angelou, worked their imaginative magic. In addition, he was recently featured on an episode of Ohio State's new podcast series, Now at Ohio State, I hope you are as excited as I am to hear more about Dr. Fletcher's research and for him to share his stories in his own words. It is now my great pleasure to introduce to you Professor Angus Fletcher.
[Applause ] >> Thank you very much. >> You're welcome. >> Thank you very much. Thank you all for having me. I am thrilled to be here. So when I was four years old, I went to school for the very first time, and it was a wonderful experience. I was told by all my teachers that I was very polite and very curious and very kind. But then at the end of the first week, we went on a field trip, and I was led out of the classroom by my teacher along with all the other students. And we got onto a big yellow bus, and all the other students filed into their seats and sat down. And I did not. I did not sit down because there were no seatbelts on the seats. And I had always been taught that it was not safe to ride anywhere unless I was buckled in. So I stood there in the aisle and I asked for seatbelt. And the driver was a very nice man. He turned around, he said, don't worry, there are no seatbelts on this bus, but it's completely safe. Just go ahead and sit down. And if you sit down, I can start driving. So you know what I did? I continued to stand. I continued to stand. And then my teacher came over, and my teacher said, can you please just sit down? Can you please sit down and we can get this ride started? And I continued to stand. And I will say my teacher was very surprised because I'd always been very obedient and very polite, and she did not know what to do. So finally, she decided the only thing that she could do was to summon the school principal. So the school principal comes out of his giant office and comes down to the bus, and he says to me. Young man. Young man, you are inconveniencing all the other students, and you are delaying the school trip. And if you do not get into your seat, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to call your parents, and I'm afraid your parents will not be pleased to know that you are being disruptive. Well, you can imagine it's a fairly terrifying thing being four years old, in your first week of school, being scolded by the principal. But I did not sit down, and eventually I was escorted off the bus, where I did finally sit down all alone in a corner of the school office until my mom came and picked me up. And from that day, I've always had a healthy skepticism about teachers because my teachers were telling me what was best for them instead of thinking about what was best for me. And so since I today am your teacher, I hope you have the same skepticism towards what I'm going to say to you this evening, because what I'm going to say to you this evening is very important to me, but it might not be right for you. And what I'm going to talk about is the importance of being a citizen. And the reason that being a citizen is so important to me is that I had to make a conscious choice to decide to become a citizen. And I made that choice when I was 18 years old because I was not born in this country. I was born in a faraway, exotic land known as Scotland, or as we would call it, Scotland. And so I had to decide, when I turned 18, did I want to become an American citizen. And on the one hand, I thought, well, I really should become a citizen because I knew there were a great many really wonderful and good things about America. But on the other hand, I'd always spent most of my time living here feeling like an outsider. I dressed kind of funny, a spook kind of funny. And then I had this weird name, Angus. So everyone was always calling me Agnes or Fungus or another particular one is you drop the G out of the middle of Angus. You have A-N-U-S. What is that spell? So I got called that a lot. But I decided to give it a go. I decided to give it a go, and I have not regretted it. And I'm going to tell you a little bit now about three things that I gained from being a citizen. And then I'm going to talk a little bit about three ways that you can get some of those benefits for yourself based on my research. So the first benefit that I experienced was an opportunity for personal growth. What do I mean by personal growth? What I mean is that when I was 18 years old and I got to college for the first time, I went to my first week of classes, and I was really tremendously underwhelmed. I sat in on a bunch of lectures, and I thought to myself, you know, most of the stuff that these professors are saying are things that I've already heard before from other teachers or it's stuff that doesn't really seem that relevant to me. So I went home to my dorm. I picked up my phone, and I called my mom, which is Scottish for mother. I called my mom, and I said to her, you know, Mom, I'm going to leave college. I've decided I've had enough. I've been here for a week. I've seen really all there is to see. And my mom knew better because she remembered me being that four-year-old on the bus. She knew better than to tell me to go back into class and take a seat. So instead, what she said to me was, I want you to answer this question. Do you think there's one person on this entire campus that you could learn something from, one person who could teach you something you could use? And of course, I said, well, yeah, of course I'm sure there's one person. And so my mom goes, we'll go find them. And then she just hung up the phone. It's a hard lady, my mom. So I was like, all right. So I go out of my dorm, walk. Finally, I get all the way to the far edge of campus, and there on the far edge of campus, was this very high, strange building. I walked inside that building, and inside that building, I discovered a special kind of neuroscience lab known as a neurophysiology lab. And I just walked in there. I asked a scientist in there, I said, can you tell me how the brain works? Now, those scientists did not have to tell me how the brain worked. First of all, the building was technically off limits, and I was not supposed to be there. I'd actually broken my way in, technically, because I did not have access privileges. So they would have been fully within their rights to tell me to leave or to have me arrested. But they didn't do that. Instead, they said, sure, come in. And they sat me down at this million dollar microscope, and I got to look through that microscope scope, and I got to see how the brain works. And I liked it so much that I stayed there for four years. I did research. I published papers, changed the course of my life. Why did those scientists invite me in? Why did they treat me with generosity and openness instead of suspicion? Because they viewed me as citizens of the same community. And because they did that, they changed my life. So that's the first benefit you can get from being a citizen of a community. Second benefit is an opportunity to grow stronger by being part of something bigger than yourself. Now, when we think of strength and gaining strength. We often think of that as something that we get from our community, but really something we get from giving to our community. And that's because of how our brain works. Our brain gets stronger the more that it gives to others. I'll just give you a quick example from my research. I work a lot with the US Army Nurse Corps, and those nurses were in Afghanistan in April 2021, evacuating Kabul, and one of them was working one of those large transport planes. If you've seen the images of those planes, you've seen just the people crushed inside those planes, desperate to get out. So one of these nurses was working one of those planes, and a woman came up to her and handed her a bundle of clothes. And so the nurse looked at the bundle of clothes, and she realized there's actually a deceased infant. And the woman said to her, this is my baby. Bury my baby. I can't take care of her because I need to take care of my other kids. Can you take care of her for me? Now, can you imagine that? Can you imagine being handed someone else's child because they can't take care of them? That happens all the time if you're a nurse. All the time if you're a nurse, you take care of people because their families can't take care of them. And that's why you will never find anyone in this life stronger than a nurse. And why is it that people trust nurses to take care of their most precious lives? It's because they see nurses as part of the same community. It's because they trust nurses as part of their community. And when you become a citizen, you will get the same opportunity to earn that trust and from it the chance to grow strong by giving strangers care. Now, the third thing that I'm going to try to sell you on as a benefit of being a citizen is the chance to discover your own unique story. Now, all of us has a unique story. And as I can tell you from my many years of research into narrative, the idea that there are universal stories is a myth. There are no archetypal biographies. No one leads a generic life. Our lives are like the trees of the forest. If you go into a forest, you won't see one timeless, ideal tree. You'll see countless varieties oaks, maples, pines, redwoods, and all of them branching upward in their own unique way, because that's how nature works. Nature is diverse, evolving, changing, branching. And we are most happy when we find that unique diversity in ourselves, which we can do again by being citizens. To be a citizen is to be part of a richly varied community, which gives you the opportunity to have a richly varied friend group. And science shows the more varied your friend group, the more likely you are to discover what is special about yourself. Which sounds paradoxical, but it's true. We find our unique story not by turning inward, but by looking outward. Just like a playwright or an actor discovers their narrative by listening to their audience. We create our individual path by surrounding ourselves with different lives. OK, so those are three benefits that come from being a citizen. And now I'm going to give you three quick tips if you want to get more of those benefits in your own life. These tips come from my recent research with United States Army Special Operations. So they come from working with groups like Special Forces Green Berets, and other classified units that I'm not allowed to name. And when I tell people that I work with Army Special Operations, they're usually pretty surprised. They are like, why are operators working with you? Why are you working with them? When I see guns, I don't run towards them. I run in the opposite direction. But it's because operators and I are different that we've taught each other something. And they've taught me an enormous amount about being a democratic citizen. And the first tip that I want to give you from them is create emotional security. Emotional security. If you're in Army Special Forces, your primary goal is to create security, wherever you go, whenever you make a new partnership, whoever you work with, your first job security, security, security. And security's foundation is physical security, or in other words, making sure that people are physically safe. But the critical next step is emotional security, which is making sure that people feel safe. You don't just want to be a cop on the street. You want everybody to feel safe enough to leave their homes and join you outside. So why does Special Forces place this enormous emphasis on emotional security? As long as they're keeping you physically safe, why do they care if you feel emotionally safe? The answer is that emotional security is necessary for the personal and mental growth that produces complete citizens. And let me give you a scientific example of this that's always really stuck in my mind. It comes from back all those years ago when I was working in that neuroscience lab in college, and there was another nearby lab that was researching tadpoles. And specifically what they were doing is they were researching what happened when tadpoles got scared. So to do this, the lab would do all these incredibly ghoulish experiments. I won't tell you all of them, but one of them was to take this large water tank and put a mesh divider in the middle of it. And then one side, they put all the tadpoles, and then on the other side, they put a predator. Now, as you might imagine, the presence of that predator freaked out the tadpoles. I'll be honest, it also kind of freaked me out. I felt terrible for those tadpoles because even though those tadpoles were protected from the predator by that barrier. They didn't know that they had no emotional security. They thought that at any moment, they were going to die. And do you know what that fear did to those tadpoles? It accelerated their life cycle. And what that meant was that those tadpoles turned faster into frogs. Their brains knew that it was not safe to be a tadpole. They knew that they had to grow up faster to protect themselves. Sounds really smart, right? Biology. It's really smart. But that accelerated transformation had a drawback, which is that because the tadpoles turned faster into frogs, they had less time to grow as tadpoles. So instead of turning into full sized frogs, they turned into little frogs. That entire side of the tank became filled with miniature adults. And the same thing happens to us when we feel stressed or scared or unsafe. Our ideas don't grow to their full size. They look like full size ideas. They seem all grown up, but they're little frogs. And that's why it's so important to create emotional security here in our university community. Because without emotional security, our ideas jump ahead too fast. They look all grown up, but they don't have that chance to develop fully. So if you want to be a citizen of a community and help it produce the biggest ideas that it can, work hard to create that climate of emotional security. Make the people around you feel safe, empathize with their vulnerabilities. Acknowledge their fears. And don't be that predator on the other side of the water tank. So my second tip from Army Special Operations is cultivate true curiosity. True curiosity. It comes from asking questions that we don't have answers for, which turns out to be harder than it sounds, because we have this thing in our brains called judgment, which makes us believe that we have more answers than we actually do. Judgment is the death of curiosity. The moment we start judging, we stop learning. So to keep your brain in this state of endless curiosity, let me give you this Special Forces technique for not judging. It's a simple technique. Ask who, what, when, where, how, but not why. So, for example, let's say that someone tells you that their favorite book is "The Autobiography of Malcolm X". You could ask them what parts of the book they like. You could ask them when they first read it. You can ask them where they found the book. You could ask them who else they know who likes the book. But don't ask them why they like the book, because when you ask why, it forces a judgment, it prompts the person you're speaking to draw a conclusion about their behavior, which then invites your brain to draw a conclusion about their behavior. So even though we ask why because we're curious, asking why has the effect of shutting down curiosity. If you want to keep curiosity alive, focus instead on those other questions. Focus on who, what, when, where, and how. As I discovered when I was first taught this technique, it takes a lot of practice to get good at it. It's very hard not to ask why, because it's hard not to want to make judgments. If you ask someone what parts they like about "The Autobiography of Malcolm X and they say, well," I really like the part where Malcolm X is in jail, your brain will immediately want to know, why do you like that part? But you can't do it. You instead have to ask, what happens when Malcolm X is in jail? Who does he meet there? How does he live on the inside? The more you practice this technique, I promise you, the more you practice this technique, you'll see that you will cultivate true curiosity, which will then produce true empathy, which in turn creates emotional security and personal growth. Here's my third and final tip from Special Forces, be a force multiplier. Be a force multiplier. When you're a force multiplier, you create opportunities for people, who then create opportunities for more people so that your initial act of citizenship is multiplied. So the power of this was driven home to me when I volunteered the summer after college to teach biology at a Philadelphia public school. I'd never been a teacher, just terrified about setting foot in the classroom. But I was mentored by this wonderful, experienced biology instructor who had taught many people to be teachers, in turn creating the opportunity for them to create opportunities for their students. So she was, in other words, an education force multiplier. And it was a very good thing that I had her help, because the moment I set foot in the classroom, everything went totally wrong. So my plan was to teach biology by using this life size human dummy. It was this amazing dummy. It had all these plastic removable parts. So you could take out the heart, you could take out the lungs, you could take out the liver, you could break them apart. You can hand them around to everyone. You could show exactly how it worked. And so for the first few days of class, I got up there with the dummy. I opened up the dummy, I took out the stomach and the heart and the lungs. I explained how all the different parts worked. I then handed it around for the students to examine. And I was completely confident as I was doing this, that my students were on track to learn biology and ace their final exam. But here's what happens on the third day when I walk into the classroom. I walk into the classroom and I see to my horror that the dummy is dangling from the ceiling fan in the center of the room. Somebody had hanged the dummy. They had wrapped a rope around its neck and suspended it from the fan, and its plastic intestines were literally just falling out, spilling all over the floor. So of course, I did what any true teacher would do. I stood up in front of the room and I said, who is responsible for this anti-educational act? Who did this? And so what did my students say? My students say, all of us did it. All of us did it because we're tired of learning about what happens inside the bodies of white people. Now, I will be honest with you, I found this answer so incomprehensible. At first, I thought the students were pranking me. They were not. They thought that I had spent the first two days teaching a class on white people's anatomy. They thought I had taught them about what the stomachs of white people looked like and what the hearts of white people looked like. And they thought this because I'm white, the dummy had white skin. My students did not. And so what I was forced to confront in that moment was the obvious fact that I was being the opposite of a force multiplier. The grand result of my first two days of teaching had been to convince my students that I literally had a different kind of heart than they did. So I thought back to that biology instructor who had taught me, I thought back to how she had been a force multiplier. I asked myself, what would she do? And I decided that she would probably stop lecturing about this human dummy and instead practice a little bit of curiosity and empathy. So I brought the students in. I spent the rest of class listening to them, trying to discover a little bit more about them. And finally I said to them, look, if you were teaching this class, hypothetically, how would you teach it? What would you do? And they sat there and they thought for a while, and they said, you know what we would do? We'd like to look inside our own bodies with our own eyes. That's what we would do. So what happens next day they come in? What have I done? I've set up microscopes for them. The cheaper version of that million dollar microscope that I got to look through when I was in college set up microscopes. I taught them how to take cells from inside their cheeks, put them under the microscope so they could look at them, so they could see into their own bodies with their own eyes. And when they had finished doing that, I took some cells of my own body, and I said, would you guys like to look at what I look like inside? And they said, yeah. I said we'd be interested. So they took my cells and they put them on the microscopes, and they compared my anatomy to theirs. And of course, I knew, I knew of course, what the students would discover. They would discover that my cells were identical to theirs. They would think in their minds, beneath the skin, everybody is identical. Inside we're all like the dummy. But that is not what they discovered. Instead, what they said to me is, we noticed that all our cells look a little bit different from each other, and your cells look a little bit different too. None of us are exactly the same inside. And when they said this, I had a sudden vision. I had a vision of a different kind of summer school where students could use cutting edge scientific instruments to discover what made each of them unique inside. I thought that would be an incredible force multiplier. And you know what happened when I got to Ohio State 15 years later? You're thinking, the answer is that I created that summer school. That's not correct. The answer is the summer school had already been built. I got here, and someone had already built the summer school. It's run by the Center of Cognitive and Brain Sciences. I actually work there now as the co-director alongside Professor Andrew Leber of psychology. We invite high school students into these labs, and we invite them to run these experiments in which they figure out how to increase creativity and reduce anxiety. And at Ohio State, that summer camp, it is not the only place you can be a force multiplier. There are, in fact, no end of places. We are a very big school. We have something like 70,000 citizens here. Everywhere you go, there's a chance to empower someone. So now that I've given you those three tips, let me end by emphasizing there is no right way to be a citizen. There's just an opportunity to get on the bus. That opportunity can be life changing but can also be unsettling. Sometimes you might wonder who's driving this bus. Sometimes you might wonder, where is it going? Which is why riding the bus has to be a free choice. It has to be something you do because you think it's right for you, not because your school tells you to take a seat. But I do hope that you will decide that it's a journey you want to take. I hope you decide to join us on this school trip, and I can promise that if you do, we'll make sure that there's a seatbelt for you. Thank you very much for your time. [ Applause ] We have microphones set up if anyone wants to ask questions. If you don't want to ask questions, you can feel free to disperse and be citizens outside. Or if you just want to get up and make a citizen address of your own, you can feel free to take over the microphones or take my microphone from me or do anything you want that feels right to you in the moment. If I've stunned you into silence with the power of my oratory, I really am totally serious when I'm saying we can, we can, we can wrap it. Do you want to, how about we do this? How about we give you guys five seconds? And then if somebody asks a question before the five seconds is over, I'll answer it, and if not, we'll wrap and we'll go get refreshments outside. Does that sound good? All right. Are you cheering for someone to ask a question or not? Are you cheering to get out of your seats? We'll find out. Five oh, we got a question. OK. >> [Inaudible] so apology. Thank you so much for your talk. It was really wonderful. One thing that I'm curious about is how we can understand citizenship. So you mentioned, you know, becoming a US Citizen and that choice of state recognized citizenship versus, you know, if you're thinking about being citizens at OSU and what that might entail? So I'm curious how we might conceive of citizenship and what those sort of different components might be. >> So, unfortunately, you're talking to someone who's not a political science professor, and I have to imagine all political science professors were busy as a result, and they had to finally, in desperation, turn to a member of the English department. So what I'm going to say to you is that the way that I think about everything is the way that I trained to think about life in that biology lab when I was young. And I think of life as being about symbiosis. So going back to the dummy, going back to the body, the brain doesn't exist without the heart. The heart doesn't exist without the lungs. Lungs don't exist without the stomach. And what's fascinating to me about all of those relationships is that everything is itself. Everything is different, everything is unique, but it kind of helps support the whole. And so I tend to stay away from definitions of citizenship that say that there's this one right way to be a citizen, or this is what it truly means to be a citizen. I tend to instead think of the idea of being part of a community, and that a community is a rich and diverse thing that has lots of different needs and different ways to kind of support it. And then also importantly, from biology, I mean, what is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of life? The purpose of life is to grow. I mean, that's the purpose of life. It's to grow. And the same thing that goes for individuals, goes for communities. And so, I mean, I think whenever anyone signs up to be part of a community so again, I can just say this, just being an immigrant, I don't know if do we have any other immigrants here, any other people have come here. But, I mean, we came here my family came here in economic distress, which I think is the case for a lot of families. You know, we came from a place of hardship, and we just had this wonderful experience where America took us in, and I went to a Big Ten school on a full ride. And I did not grow up in the Midwest. I grew up on the east coast. A Big Ten school reached out to me and said, come here. We'll pay for your college. And that was how I went to college. And that's the reason I came back to Ohio State. People sometimes ask me, why do I teach to Ohio State? Why do other faculty here at Ohio State teach at Ohio State when we could teach other places? Well, in my personal case, I teach here because the Big Ten basically made me the person that I am. And so when I think about citizenship, that's really what I think about. I think about it as being a relationship in which the more you give to your community, the more community gives to you, and you're each in it to kind of help grow the other. So I think about it in that biological sense, but I'm not the person to ask about free speech or definitions of autonomy or liberty. I spent a lot of time when I was in graduate school being fascinated by classical liberalism and these kinds of things, and I realized I wasn't smart enough to understand it, so I went back to biology. So for me, it mostly just comes down to this sense that all of us, as humans feel this potential in us, feel this power in us. I mean, I imagine that most of you came to college well, maybe some of you came to college because you didn't know what else to do, because that was kind of how I came to college. But hopefully others of you came to college because you thought, there's something in me that hasn't been expressed yet. There's the potential in me that has yet to be unlocked. And I think that the power of democracy and the power of democratic communities is to give that to individuals, and in return, we give that back to community. And that's what I mean by being a force multiplier. So you see what happens when you ask me a question, I talk for 45 minutes, so if anyone else has a question, I'd be happy to answer it. I'll do the five, four -- oh, yes. >> How do you respond when you're in the world of people aren't a citizen? Like they haven't chosen any, like you said to get on the bus? Like how do you respond to someone in a way that still is a good way? >> You're suggesting that I shouldn't just respond to them with violence? Is that what you're suggesting? You're not part of my tribe, man. You're not part of my tribe. I'm going to damage you. I'm going to do damage. Well, again, this is the fascinating thing for me about working with the Army Special Operations Community, because I should say that before I started working with the army, I did not really have a very good impression of the army. If you asked me what I thought about the army, I thought That basically they existed to drop bombs on people who disagreed with us. I always pointed out that was actually the function of the Air Force, not the army. But regardless, I had this kind of negative view. And I should also say that I didn't spend a lot of time interacting people who weren't Americans because once I became an American, I stayed here and then I just hung out with other people who were Americans, you know, and so the idea of someone who kind of wasn't a citizen or whatnot. But, you know, over time, what I've really come to admire about Special Forces is that most of the time they are invited in by other countries. And those countries invite them in because they say we need help growing and sustaining our democracies. Basically say, how do we do it? And, you know, my view about interacting with people who are not citizens or who are not Americans is to always say, one if there's anything I can do for you, let me know. Because we are a big country and we are a strong country and we are a big country and a strong country because we have democracy and because we have this kind of strength and diversity within us that allows us to have this enormous economic engine. It also just allows us to have enormous optimism. And so I'm always of the view that you reach out to people in the way that you, I think, indicated. The other thing I say is invite people in. Invite people in. I've never understood maybe this is because I'm an immigrant, but I've never understood why people have a negative view sometimes of immigrants. And I think that if someone wants to come and join your community, let them. Let them join your community. And we as humans have this thing that we call status. It's also the thing you notice if you hang out with chimpanzees a lot. Chimpanzees get very excited by this thing called status. There's like the very important chimpanzees and the less important chimpanzees. And this leads us to build clubs and other things where we exclude people because it makes us feel better and superior. But the reality is that we're just much happier when we let people in and we're much happier when we give them the opportunity and the affordance to have the things we have. So I would just say that if you meet people who aren't citizens, just keep the door open and then, you know, gradually elbow your way into their life and see where it goes. But again, going back to biology, the thing that I believe is that things that work, work. And I've just noticed there's a lot of anxiety in this country about democracy. Is democracy under threat? Is democracy falling apart? Are all these things kind of happening? Do we have to kind of proactively go out and grow our country? Do we have to kind of maintain an active presence in foreign communities to kind of stop other ways of life from proliferating? I think that's all malarkey. I think democracy is the strongest thing that has ever been invented by humans. I think American democracy is tremendously strong, and I think the reason for that goes back to our biology. I mean, at the root of democracy is simply the idea that two heads are better than one. And that's really what it comes down to. And then two heads are better than one, three heads are better than one. And the whole point of democracy is the more you build those big, diverse, inclusive communities, the more problems you can solve, the more adaptive you are. And those communities, when you're inside them, are often terrifying because there's so many different ideas, there's so much chaos, there's so much rambunctiousness. But then when you mess with the democracy, all of that gets pointed at you. All of this is to say that I think you invite people in and you provide the opportunity for others to join, but you kind of know in your heart that at the end of the day, democracy is life. Do we have any other questions? I've been asked to have you walk up to the microphones because apparently this is being recorded. So do you want to walk up to the microphone to ask a question? I know this somehow makes it even more intense because you got to do like the walk up to the front. >> Yeah, you have all the spotlight. So I'd just like to say, as a current service member, I thought your speech was truly extraordinary. And I was wondering if you could share more in terms of how maybe you view your work with Special Ops Command within the army and things that the army does in terms of creating that feeling of inclusivity and then also the feeling of family. Because I just drilled this past weekend, and when I show up to drill, I feel like I show up with my family. And I think that's similar to what you were talking about in terms of maybe the difference of how the army and the branches in general handle certain situations, and the culture that they build, and that dichotomy between it and the civilian world and how, as civilians were very -- we view our family and whatnot, in a very individualistic manner, you know, it's us and our family. And in the army, it's not like that. It's a very collectivist culture in the grand scheme of things. So I was wondering if you could share maybe how you view that as a civilian working in partnership with the army and how you think maybe how the branches in the army itself can potentially share that and how we can replicate that as a society and improve, you know, polarization and different divisiveness within different things within our lives as Americans. >> Thank you. That's a beautiful question. Yeah. >> Thank you. >> Well, first of all, I have to say on that collectivist thing, first of all, my first thought when I encountered the army was that these guys are a bunch of communists. That was literally my thought when I first encountered the army, because I mean, literally everything is shared. But I started to realize, of course, there's a very different psychology at work there. And I suppose maybe the first selling point, I would say, in terms of the army is that they accepted me, they welcomed me in. And I found this to be very surprising. I had a lot of sort of very negative views about the army, and they welcomed me in. They have allowed me into some of the most secured areas that they have, some of the most secretive areas. I do not have a security clearance. I refuse to sign a security clearance form. I refuse to go through any of those kinds of things. The army has trusted me, and sort of by extending that trust to me, that has shown me sort of as you're talking about, the sense that they put things above and beyond the individual. A couple of other things that I think are fascinating to me about the army because I also have started to work recently in the business sector, and the more I work in the business sector, the more I run back to special operations. And the reason for that, broadly speaking, is that in the business sector, if someone doesn't like the job that you're doing or they have some other issue with you, they fire you, they get rid of you. But when you join the army, you are the army. And one of the things that I talk about all the time with commanders and leaders in the army is this thing known as inherited talent. And that's really a kind of army euphemism for we gave you these people, figure out how to make them work together as a team, and that's America. But we keep trying to pretend otherwise. We keep trying to pretend in America like we're a business and we can somehow fire people and get rid of them, and if we don't like them, they're gone. But actually, America is like the army, and the army is the longest continuous institution in America. I mean, it's because of the army that we exist as a nation. And I do think that for me, it has increasingly become a kind of role model to me in terms of the fact that it accepts everyone just about. It lifts them up, and then it has this attitude that, you know, once you're part of us, we're going to figure out how to kind of make it work for you. The other thing about the army, which I really respect, is they get handed problems and they're told you have to solve them. I spend most of my life running away from problems. I mean, I really do. And I think that's typical of the average American citizen. So anytime something isn't working around my house, I figure out who I call to fix it. If I don't like things, I just ignore them or avoid them. And we as a society, we as a country, have just an enormous number of problems, and 95% of us spend all our time blaming someone else for the problem. And one of the things I learned from the army is you just can't do that. It becomes your problem. And the army is always being called upon by the government just to fix problems that no one else will fix. So if there's a problem, oh, we've got to build a dam somewhere, the army will build the dam. We've got this problem of distributing food. The army will distribute the food. The army is always being called to do that. And I think that when you shift your psychology and you say to yourself, those problems are my problems, it seems at first kind of a pain, but it becomes rapidly very empowering. So I do want to thank the army for giving me that opportunity, and I want to thank you for coming up to speak. And I would say to anyone, if you're like me and you don't believe in war, don't let that disincline you from reaching out and talking to veterans and learning from our military community, because I do think they have a lot to teach us about being citizens. Are there any other questions? Five, four, three, two, one. All right. Thank you very much. You've been a wonderful audience. [Applause] And I think that there are some kind of refreshments outside.
New Ohio State students were invited to join Executive Vice President and Provost Melissa Gilliam in attending the 2023 Education for Citizenship Address on Monday, August 28, at 7 p.m. inside the U.S. Bank Conference Theater at the Ohio Union. The address featured faculty speaker Angus Fletcher, a professor and “story scientist” in the Department of English. Dr. Fletcher is actively involved with Ohio State’s Project Narrative podcast, a leading academic think tank for the study of how stories work. The address will be followed by light evening refreshments for all attendees.
The second annual Education for Citizenship Address continues to inspire Buckeyes to reflect on our Shared Values and the importance of civil discourse as a hallmark of an Ohio State education.