Havel at Columbia


The Core Contemporary Civilization Coursewide Lecture by President Havel

Photo: The Core Contemporary Civilization Coursewide Lecture by President Havel Presented by The Center for The Core Curriculum
Nov 10
Roone Arledge Auditorium, Alfred Lerner Hall

The Core Contemporary Civilization Coursewide Lecture by President Havel. Presented by The Center for The Core Curriculum.

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Structure could have been better. Intro did not really cover what would be in the lecture. He covered his own life; That's not the core. Then, the people asking the questions had infinitely more background than I myself did; is this fair? I didn't think so.

While I appreciate the opportunity to have heard this man speak, neither he nor the professor who introduced him worked very hard to tie the content of the lecture to material on the CC syllabus. As a result, I think the lecture could have been given for any occasion and was not explicitly relevant to CC. It was a little disappointing.

The lecture lacked a central theme to unite the events in his life with issues being addressed in CC. The potential for the event was great, but again, it lacked a focus and adequate mediation. Additionally, I think that the questions should have been prepared ahead of time by the students regarding a certain issue as to avoid lengthy, unnecessary and, at times, repetitive Q&A.

Also, the audience should have had a bit more respect for the speaker (i.e. people should not get up and leave during the lecture.) It is not a movie.

He is clearly an accomplished and impressive man. The material during the "lecture" should have been better tied into concepts we wrestle with in CC. The "Core" office clearly hit it out of the ball park getting the former Czech pres to speak to a group of mostly sophomores (though I had no idea so many class of '09 kids were in their 40s and spoke Czech. haha), but it was too bad he couldn't have discussed something we could bring back to discuss in our CC classes.
Also, the having such an extended and loose q & a portion didn't help to facilitate pertinent discussion either. As I didn't know what to expect from this lecture, maybe these critiques aren't so appropriate...who knows. Overall, after reading and hearing about Havel, I felt fortunate to hear him speak, but maybe our CC course-wide lecture wasn't the best venue.

I thought that hearing President Havel speak was an enriching experience, and one that was in fact relevant to CC. It was certainly obvious and to be expected that this wouldn't be a discussion about a work that we have read in class, but just because it's not the same structure as our regular CC classes doesn't make it categorically unrelated and unapplicable. One way to think of it is that hearing from Havel is like being exposed to a new text; he presented us with quite a few interesting ideas about what it means to be a morally good person in society that did get me thinking for a while after the fact. And if it did that, then I think that the event fulfilled its function as an addendum to the CC experience.

It was certainly a nice opportunity to hear him speak, but the lecture was not connected as well as it could have been to the CC curriculum. It was interesting, but I think President Havel and Professor Kitcher could have directed it more toward the course's core topics. In addition, while some things are always lost in translation, I think it would have been better if President Havel used his interpreter for the entire lecture. He was somewhat difficult to understand. I thought that the most illuminating part of the entire lecture was the question and answer session. The students asked very interesting questions and President Havel seemed very honest and straightforward; he didn't try to preach. I wish this portion of the presentation had not been cut short by the mass exodus of so many students.

I felt that President Havel was a perfect choice to give this "lecture" as the events from his life do, in fact, correspond to the motifs depicted in the CC texts. However, I do feel the connection between the two was the general fallacy with the lecture itself. Nevertheless, I am able to appreciate the opportunity to hear President Havel speak, especially given my limited knowledge of his life and accomplishments prior to the lecture. He truly is an incredible man and a genuine human being.

i am glad there is room to post a comment...i enjoyed the
opportunity to come see and listen to Havel...afterall when
i first visited prague in 1989...that decisive summer when
the wall came down...i photographed him on every corner...
his pictures were everywhere...i was amazed that the first
question came from a chech speaking student...i was delighted that he practically turned the q and a session into a theatrical performance...i espcially liked his loss
of 'english' when asked what he liked better to be an artist or politician...i loved his answer as i am a photo.
and last time i saw him at nyu (my alma mater) and the
audience moving to his vision like waves...i just wish one
of his plays could be performed at the PUBLIC theater, where i first heard of havel, the playwright...
so where are you going next, mr. president? all the best
ruth. (and if you want a tour in the village before you
go...email me...)

If anyone in the audience that day was unfamiliar with the circumstances of the cold war or the events of the velvet revolution - at least to the level of detail in which he explained them - then they are really not prepared for sophomore year at any university, much less one with as renouned a pedigree as this. Though I am still unclear as to how the lecture was intended to relate to the readings in CC, I must admit that it would have been very interesting to hear some first-hand, personal details of what life was like under the shadow of the iron curtain, the feeling of winning power from a draconian government in a bloodless coup, the sense of empowerment and hope which must have pervaded those first months.