The following is a short speech delivered by senior Micaela MacDougall to an audience of tutors at one of the many end-of-year celebrations, reprinted with her permission:
I would like to use two quotes to illustrate the quality of the education provided by you as St. John’s tutors. The first is from my favorite childhood book, The Last Battle from “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. As the main characters are climbing higher into Aslan’s Country (a kind of heaven), the wise and learned Professor Kirke is trying to explain that this country is just like the Narnia they have left behind, only it is more real: it has more meaning, it is the original of which the old Narnia is just a copy. At the end of his speech, he adds under his breath, “It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at those schools!”
I am glad to say that all of you have provided a much higher quality of education than the schools that Professor Kirke finds so lacking. You have not only taught us what Plato (and Aristotle, and Homer, and Augustine, and Aquinas, and Dante, and Shakespeare, and so many others) have said, but you have also, through your love for these authors, communicated to us why they are so worth reading. You have guided us through their (sometimes rocky) terrain, always pointing us to the depth of meaning that we had difficulty seeing, always showing us how much these authors were worth thinking through. Thank you for introducing us to the world of reality presented in the Great Books.
The second quote is from one of the many humorous moments in my senior essay text, The Lord of the Rings. After one of Gandalf’s long and mysterious speeches, Aragorn says to him, “In one thing you have not changed, dear friend. You still speak in riddles.” “What? In riddles?” said Gandalf. “No! For I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to; the long explanations needed by the young are wearying.”
Though none of you are as old as Gandalf, you all still have a depth of wisdom that I find remarkable. And yet, you still choose daily to take upon yourselves the wearying task of talking to us who are young. And you do this not begrudgingly, but with grace and true concern for us poor young fools. You talk to us not as if every word out of your mouths is a pearl of knowledge, but as though you truly value what we have to say. You humble yourselves to become a learner alongside us, rather than a professor above us. And this humility and care for others has taught us so much more than any mere giving of information. You have shown us how to live in community and what it means to be human. So thank you for not speaking only to yourselves, but for sharing yourselves with us.
To the tutors of St. John’s College!