Highlights from May 14, day two.
Our opening keynote on Day Two was from Professor Margaret MacMillan, on “Learning from the past: history in the present”.
Professor MacMillan encouraged everyone, regardless of their background, to learn history, and not just the facts, but how it’s made as well. History changes over time; Professor MacMillan explained how genetics and archaeology have revised understandings of human migration over time. History cannot predict the future, but it can help formulate questions. For example, in the first age of globalisation, before World War I, radical politics emerged in response to large economic shifts. Perhaps most important, Professor MacMillan told the delegates that history helps us realize humility.
Next, GSS Executive member Amba Kak introduced Rhodes Scholar Seham Areff in conversation with Panashe Chigumadzi, titled “Sweet medicine, Coconuts and Kool-Aid”.
Panache shared a passage from her debut novel, Sweet Medicine, then spoke with Seham and delegates about the Rhodes Must Fall as well as Fees Must Fall movements in South Africa. Panache emphasized how the movement confronted issues of access and belonging in higher education at the intersection of race, gender, and economic status.
Isabel Hilton’s keynote broadened nomadic peoples, about the ‘low-intensity’ proxy wars fought in Central America and thought of as marginal by elites from hegemonic countries. She spoke about the consequences of siloed knowledge in disciplines, noting that ‘managing mangroves isn’t on any engineering syllabus,’ and the disastrous environmental consequences that has produced.
After lunch, GSS Executive member Anne introduced Sir Paul Collier. Sir Collier carefully explained a novel economic model he constructed to understand corruption among tax collectors. His advice for non-economist delegates: read outside your field. Sir Collier gleaned a key part of his theory from perusing the quantum mechanics literature.
Throughout the day, delegates met for breakout sessions.
After breakouts, GSS Executive member Michael Mackley introduced MIT President Professor Susan Hockfield, who delivered a rousing talk on “The 21st Century’s Technology Story: The Convergence of Biology with Engineering.” In her talk, Professor Hockfield highlighted the fascinating work happening at MIT to improve renewable energy and medicine. She implored delegates to remember the critical role of government Research and Development funding.
GSS Executive member Carlos Gonzalez then introduced Ambassador Michelle Gavin in conversation with Master of Public Policy Student Mastewal Terefe about International diplomacy in Africa.
Ambassador Gavin, who became pregnant while serving, explained that being a mother both limited her work and allowed her access to communities and topics that would have otherwise been closed. ‘A conversation about kids turns into a conversation about the future real quick,’ she opined.
In a separate interview with Media and Communications, Ambassador Gavin, a Rhodes Scholar, reflected on the Rhodes Must Fall movement. ‘Very few people…who end up with a Rhodes association haven’t wrestled with these responsibilities.’ She currently directs the Africa Center in New York, which aims to address negative misperceptions and stereotypes of Africa by supporting artistic and intellectual collaborations.
Delegates and speakers then headed out for an elegant formal Dinner at Wadham College, followed by a “Meet and Mingle” drinks reception at Rhodes House.