Voices and Ideas

From the Secretary: The Relevance of Our Mission

As we enter another season of Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremonies at our 286 chapters across the country, I am struck by the relevance of our mission. This was powerfully brought home to me during visits with our members in California in February.

I attended the Southern California Association luncheon, where Emily Lakdawalla (ΦΒΚ, Amherst, 1996) of The Planetary Society made an impassioned case for inter-planetary exploration and discovery. At USC’s Epsilon chapter the next day, we held an extraordinary program on free expression and film, Free Speech through a New Lens, described in the spring print edition of The Key ReporterWashington Post editor Martin Baron (ΦΒΚ, Lehigh, 1975); Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Spotlight and The Post, Josh Singer (ΦΒΚ, Yale, 1993); their fellow panelists David Linde and Shabnam Mogharabi, CEOs of Participant Media and SoulPancake respectively; and the three undergraduate ΦBK members who engaged the speakers in discussion, all demonstrated the essence of the liberal arts in action, enhancing our understanding of one of the most challenging issues of our time. Singer was pleased to take part in his first ΦΒΚ program, but told me that he was not sure where he had put his key!

In northern California, I once again joined the annual conference at Asilomar Conference Center with the Northern California ΦBK Association. George Anders (ΦΒΚ, Stanford, 1977), author most recently of You Can Do Anything, addressed the evolving job market in America and the myriad ways in which a liberal arts education furthers lifelong career opportunities.

Within just one week, spending time with undergraduate ΦΒΚ members and those decades into careers, working with chapters and associations, I was struck by our role in critically important issues — from exploring outer space to balancing free expression and civility here on earth, and from pursuing the arts and sciences to building a career.

Shortly after Through a New Lens, Josh Singer wrote to thank us, and to ask if I could help him order a new key — it’s in the mail.

Frederick M. Lawrence

Secretary and CEO


(Posted on 3/23/2018 )