Letters & Speeches

Congratulations! To all of us! It was a wonderful experience but it was a real challenge as well, wasn't it? Several weeks into the program, when a few folks dropped out, I realized how valuable my fellow students were to me. It wasn't just words and ideas. It was the human voices expressing those ideas. There was a psychological, emotional, and spiritual energy circulating in that room and most of that energy came from you. Thank you for sharing this year with me. What a magnificent program you folks have created! Every week, not just a new subject but a new professor, a new face, a new voice, a new tone - a new atmosphere. Three quarters of the way through the year and I'm on my way to a class that is just as fresh and unpredictable as the very first day! I never got used to this. I never got tired of it. It seems to me that we all have a little door in our mind that we can close off and allow the words and ideas we don't like to just pass by without touching us. In order to open that door and invite those ideas in, in order to engage those ideas, we need two things - a safe environment, and an idea worth engaging. Week after week after week this program provided both. Several times during this course I've heard discussions about the value of a humanities course as opposed to a more practical, pragmatic program. The problem with practical instruction is that the role of giver and receiver never changes. If you are teaching someone math, it is highly unlikely that you will learn something new about math from your student. In the humanities however, the role of giver and receiver is constantly shifting. Whoever is speaking at the time becomes the giver. This can be a very empowering and validating experience for people in low income situations like us. We are used to being seen as the receiver and are rarely valued for our life experience or our opinions. Being able to share something of ourselves and being validated for this can change our minds about who we are and this change will manifest throughout our lives. Part way through the course, our director left to visit a university in Ontario that is thinking about starting up a free Humanities program, and I remember thinking to myself at the time - "Even if they obtain the funding, recruit the professors, and have detailed instructions on how the program runs, they are still going to need a Mary Lu to make it work." Mary Lu, you have been a bridge between some of the finest minds and biggest hearts in Halifax and ourselves, and the way our society is structured, we really need that bridge because these people would not normally be a part of our lives. Day after day, you created an atmosphere of academic excellence and warm welcome. I could never figure out how you did it, I could just observe the results in every class. I know I speak for the entire class when I say "Thank you so very much. Thank you."

L.D. Halifax Humanities 101, Class of 2011

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