A Column From Our President

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Welcome to Fourth of July weekend at Chautauqua. Familes gather. The Community Band forms. The Children’s School marches. Picnics appear. The lake is festooned with colorful sails. The grounds of this beautiful Institution are awash in activity. Welcome to Week Two of the season, and happy birthday, America.

Last Sunday the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus performed in the Amphitheater. The audience was asked to rise if they had ever or do now serve in the Army. Fully 40 percent of the audience rose to its feet to the thunderous appreciation of those gathered. And the band went on to deliver a performance of unmatched brilliance.

We gather here to celebrate family in a specific context; an Institutional commitment to exploring the best in human values and the enrichment of life. Our program events across multiple platforms of lecture, worship, performance, visual and literary art are built to welcome scholars and enthusiasts. We look to startle and capture interest of those merely wandering by. We do this in space devoted to the interplay between presentation and nature’s own expression.

Every bit of these grounds have been designed and cultivated to convey a unifying idea of what people experience as an assembly — one that is welcoming, safe, beautiful, efficient. This place is capable of holding the intensity of program depth and volume in balance with the offer of an aesthetically pleasing space that welcomes reflection and the quiet internal meditation of the mind, heart and soul.

Kay Logan, who died just before we began this season, built her life around the principles of this place. She came here as a very talented young flutist and scholarship student in the School of Music program. She would gush about the importance of the sense of recognition she had when she arrived. “Life begins here!” she would say. She went on to be a celebrated musician and a brilliant teacher, later a smart and generous benefactor. She gave and she gave back. Her commitment in life had more to do with teaching that it did art. She was completely passionate about opening minds and talent and art simply as her delivery agent. In other words, she believed in lifelong learning as essential to an expressive life and an expressive life as essential to a life worth living.

This Institution welcomes you to Week Two of the season. We welcome you to the most recent expression of a unifying idea. I hope it touches you and informs your life the way it did Kay’s. And I hope you carry the gifts of that engagement with you into the rest of your life.


Thomas Becker

The author Thomas Becker