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The “P” Word

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said “a full pocketbook groans louder than an empty stomach.”

Professor of Psychology Dr. Drew Arnold contends that FDR’s statement rings truer today than it did in post-Great Depression America.

“It seems that poverty hardly enters our national discourse,” said Arnold, who delivered the keynote address at the annual academic convocation today (Aug. 28). “The word poverty is seldom used by politicians. President Obama has been using the term ‘vulnerable’ instead of ‘poor.’ It’s become the ‘p’ word.”

Nonetheless, the ranks of the poor are growing—another nine million people fell into poverty between 2007 and 2010, said Arnold.

“This is not an issue that we can continue to minimize and ignore,” said Arnold, Keuka’s 2012 Professor of the Year. “Those who are poor are not just statistics and stereotypes, but people who are also citizens. We are the wealthiest country in the world and it is shameful that we have poverty at all. We have the highest child poverty rate in the industrialized world, which is disgraceful.”

Arnold said it is easy to tell someone who is poor to “get a job, pull yourself up by the bootstraps. However, if you are trying to hold a family together and are making minimum wage, you don’t have bootstraps to pull up.”

Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer.

“What the financial crisis made clear was that it was not contribution to society that determined relative pay but something else,” said Arnold. “Bankers received larger rewards even though their contributions to society had been negative. In this case, the system worked for the self-interest of a few and actively against the common good.”

While “we claim to have a national commitment to opportunity for all, shoving one child in five under the rug in our national discourse makes a mockery of that belief,” said Arnold.

“Achieving a world that maximizes the opportunity and quality of life for all people in society—not just a selected few—requires that society be fair and just for all,” he stated. “We should hold ourselves and others to higher standards. We should guide ourselves not by our narrow self-interest but with a broad appreciation of the personal value of supporting the common good. The most important thing in life is to live our lives with integrity and justice.”

College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera (l) and Robert Schick, chair of the Board of Trustees

Academic convocation marked the official opening of the 2012-13 academic year and College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera and Robert Schick, chair of the Board of Trustees, welcomed new students to campus.

Díaz-Herrera delivered a list of things that the students could expect during their years on campus.

“You can expect to learn from some of the top educators in our country,” said the president. “Our world class faculty members are leaders in their fields, authors, sought-after speakers, and respected commentators on important issues of the day. They are also superb advisers, who are equally adroit at helping you make the adjustment to college life as they are explaining a complicated academic topic.”

Students can expect “an equally caring staff, who always put your needs first” said Díaz-Herrera, “a College administration who will attend your games, plays, concerts, and club meetings; and a president who will join you for lunch in the Geyser and even pop into a classroom now and then.”

The president told the students they can expect to look back and “realize that deciding to come to Keuka College was one of the best decisions you ever made.”

Diaz-Herrera is in his second year as CEO while Schick recently began his first year as chair of the College’s governing board.

“I’m sure you have been told that these next few years will be the best years of your life,” said Schick, who joined the Board in 2005 and is president and CEO of The Lyons National Bank. “Don’t dismiss that statement outright for in many ways they will be. At no other time in your life will you have so many professionally trained and skilled individuals dedicating and focusing their full attention on you, helping you prepare for your future, and to succeed in life. Take full advantage of this offer.

“Push and challenge yourself every day to be the best student you can be,” stressed Schick. “Develop an insatiable appetite for knowledge. Resist the path of mediocrity and resist the role of an ‘average student.’”

A longtime Keuka College tradition was renewed at the ceremony when freshmen Stephanie Albanese and Preston Vick presented President Díaz-Herrera with an oar signed by members of the Class of 2016.

View more Academic Convocation photos.

One Response to The “P” Word

  1. Regi Teasley says:

    Thank you, Drew, for your thoughtful and relevant talk. We will discuss it in the Power and Inequality class this week.

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