Speaking of Duke

Leading the Twenty-First-Century University

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: Published: April 2017

General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, Duke University, Pedagogy and Higher Education

Over the course of his thirteen years as president of Duke University, Richard H. Brodhead spoke at numerous university ceremonies, community forums, and faculty meetings, and even appeared on The Colbert Report. Speaking of Duke collects dozens of these speeches, in which Brodhead speaks both to the special character and history of Duke University and to the general state of higher education.

In these essays, Brodhead shows a university thinking its way forward through challenges all institutes of higher education have faced in the twenty-first century, including an expanding global horizon, an economic downturn that has left a diminished sense of opportunity and a shaken faith in the value of liberal arts education, and pressure to think more deeply about issues of equity and inclusion. His audiences range from newly arrived freshmen and new graduates—both facing uncertainty about how to build their future lives—to seasoned faculty members. On other occasions, he makes the case to the general public for the enduring importance of the humanities.

What results is a portrait of Duke University in its modern chapter and the social and political climate that it shapes and is shaped by. While these speeches were given on official occasions, they are not impersonal official pronouncements; they are often quite personal and written with grace, humor, and an unwavering belief in the power of education to shape a changing world for the better.

Brodhead notes that it is an underappreciated fact that a great deal of the exercise of power by a university leader is done through speaking: by articulating the aspirations of the school and the reasons for its choices, and by voicing the shared sense of mission that gives a learning community its reality. Speaking of Duke accomplishes each of those and demonstrates Brodhead's conviction that higher education is more valuable now than ever.


"President Brodhead's passion, commitment, and leadership have helped make Duke University a great place to learn and grow. The wisdom he shares in this book is valuable to all those dedicated to education, service, and leadership. It was an honor to be on his team!" — Coach Mike Krzyzewski

"Only someone who loves letters could write and speak as Richard H. Brodhead does. This is about his journey at Duke but it is no ordinary collection of lectures to young people or statements about the role of the university. He tackles some of the toughest questions facing American higher education, but in a way that connects the big idea to a real person. He writes for the reader. You'll want to read this curled up in front of a fire.” — Judy Woodruff

Speaking of Duke is a remarkable collection of speeches offering rare and valuable insight into the thinking of a university president. While addressing key issues and challenges facing American higher education and our society, Richard H. Brodhead also tells Duke’s story with eloquence and authenticity, offering inspiration for both current and future academic leaders.” — Freeman A. Hrabowski III, President of The University of Maryland, Baltimore County


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Richard H. Brodhead was the president of Duke University from 2004 to 2017 and served as the William Preston Few Professor of English. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He previously served as the dean of Yale College from 1993 to 2004 and as the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of English at Yale University. He is the recipient of several awards, including four honorary degrees. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004, he cochaired its national Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. A scholar of nineteenth-century American literature, Brodhead is the author of several books, including The Good of This Place: Values and Challenges in College Education and Cultures of Letters: Scenes of Reading and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America, and the editor of many others, including The Journals of Charles W. Chesnutt and The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  ix
Remarks on Being Named President of Duke University  1
Freshman Convocation: Authoring a Community  5
Graduate and Professional Convocation: The Virtues and Limits of Specialization  12
Inaugural Address: More Day to Dawn  19
Remarks at the Induction Ceremony of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: Literature as Life  29
Baccalaureate: On Education and Empowerment  32
Founders' Day Address: On Founding as a Continuous Labor  37
Faculty Address: Financial Aid, the Problem-centric University  44
Preface to the University Strategic Plan, Making A Difference: Duke and the Changing Landscape: A Planning Prologue  53
Commencement Address at Fisk University  60
Fresman Convocation: The Ethic of Engagement  64
Lessons of Lacrosse  71
Baccalaureate: Frolics and Detours  75
Baccalaureate: Advancing in a Recession  80
In Memoriam: John Hope Franklin  85
Faculty Address: The University and the Financial Downturn  88
Baccalaureate: Walk Ten Thousand Miles, Read Ten Thousand Books  98
Faculty Address: Budgets, International Opportunities, the Humanities  103
In Memoriam: Reynolds Price  113
Freshman Convocation: On the Use of New Freedoms  115
John Tyler Caldwell Lecture on the Humanities: The Fire That Never Goes Out  119
In Memoriam: Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans  127
Faculty Address: Duke and Race  130
Baccalaureate: Repairing the Broken World  139
Baccalaureate: Connecting and Disconnecting  144
Interview with Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report  148
Freshman Convocation: Receive, Connect, Engage  153
Remarks at the Opening of the Center on Sexual and Gender Diversity  157
Presidential Address, The College Board Forum: The Value Debate in Higher Education  161
Lecture at Tsinghua University, Beijing: Interconnected Knowledge and the Twenty-First-Century University  172
Faculty Address; Leadership Transitions, Rebuilding the Campus, the Role of Philanthropy  183
Commencement Address at Miami Dade College: Opportunity Changes Everything  194
Freshman Convocation: On Comfort True and False  201
Faculty Address: Chocies That Made Duke—Medicine, Athletics, Durham  205
Remarks at a Community Forum on a Racial Incident  216
Freshman Convocation: Constructing Duke  220
Keynote Address, Fiftieth Anniversary of the Founding of the National Endowment for the Humanties: On the Fate and Fortunes of Public Goods  225
Baccalaureate: I Learn by Going Where I Have to Go  237
Freshman Convocation: Citizens of Duke  242
Index  247
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