Euclid, Lincoln, and SVC

Posted December 11th, 2012 by Albert DeCiccio Ph.D., Provost, Southern Vermont College

Things which equal the same thing also equal one another.

This Euclidean principle undergirds our Constitution and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation; it is the reason why we fought a Civil War and the reason for Lincoln's steadfast pursuit of the 13th Amendment.

All men [and women] are created equal

There is a scene in the movie Lincoln during which the Lincoln character, portrayed excellently by Daniel Day-Lewis, discusses Euclid and the above.  It is a gripping scene and a gripping movie–well worth seeing, especially since Vermont read Bull Run and The Red Badge of Courage this past year and the Civil War, fought over slavery, is fresh in our minds.


I want to draw upon Lincoln a little more to make an analogy to our SVC current reality–the uncertainty cast upon us by the Vermont BON and NLNAC site visitors this past October. 

At the end of his second inaugural address, Lincoln brings all Americans under the tent, so to speak, and compels them to work together to honor the Civil War fallen by ensuring that the democratic project that is America will endure and thrive.  Here's how that concluding line starts:  "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in. . . ."

Now, as you know from the past four and a half years, I love words.  And, yes, Lincoln himself explains why I see words as the machinery which helps our ongoing human conversation to unfold.  Here's what he said in an address to the Springfield Illinois Association (February 22, 1860):  “Writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind through the eye, is the great invention of the world,  . . . enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space.”

So, I am going to try to compel all of you, my colleagues, to consider applying these words, spoken almost 150 years ago, to our current situation:

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in. . . .

  • to continue to enroll students at SVC at the rate our energetic and excellent Admissions team has accomplished the past several years;
  • to continue down the road toward offering progressive teaching and learning situations in an ambitious 4×4 curriculum with laboratory learning at its core;
  • to honor the work of all those in Nursing who have essayed long and hard to redesign and renew our Nursing programs for which, despite the dings they offered, those who visited in October extolled, commenting positively about our continuous improvement with respect to curriculum development, physical accommodations (e.g., the new Healthcare Education Center), student services (e.g., our healthcare tutor who is a professional in Nursing), the alignment of mission and philosophy for SVC and the Division of Nursing, faculty and staff, and the systematic plan to use data to drive decisions;
  • to empower our faculty and staff to make decisions that will advance the academic vision and the sense of community at SVC;
  • to support our acting president and returning president in their aligned mission to keep SVC in the larger discussion about innovation and success in higher education; and
  • above all, to prepare our students for productive and engaged participation in our democracy and in the global community.

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