Young people can agitate against injustice better than the leader of the United Nations can, or so he says. “I as secretary-general have constraints sometimes, political constraints,” Ban Ki-moon tells his audience at Lehman College, which was the U.N.’s home for five months in 1946. “But young people, you don’t have a limit,” Ban says. “You just raise your voice. We need you rise up for civil rights, for social justice, for equal opportunity and fair play here in the United States and beyond.”
Don’t let others define you. At the Lehman College 2015 commencement, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. recalled his first day in the New York State Assembly seated beside a new colleague who boasted of his Harvard degree. Diaz, up from the hardscrabble Bronx streets, didn’t miss a beat. “You got a degree from the Ivy League. I’m a CUNY-twofer. And here we are….sitting next to each other. So, either I’m a great success or you are just a terrible failure.”
New York City’s Mexican population has exploded in the past three decades, and while a large majority has found work in the food and construction industries, as an immigrant group there’s been less success in the classroom. “On average, the educational attainment for someone from Mexico is the 6th grade,” says Alyshia Gálvez, acting director of the new CUNY Institute for Mexican Studies, based at Lehman College. “There is a very important need, especially when you look at the second generation.” An associate professor of Latin American and Puerto Rican studies at Lehman, Gálvez discusses the key objectives of the institute, including increasing college enrollment. “CUNY has its door open to them.”
Eavesdropping is a vital part of human communication, says John Locke, professor of linguistics at Lehman College and language sciences at the Graduate Center. “It’s essential,” Locke says, it’s one of the ways humans gather needed information. “You can tell people not to — but they’ll do it anyway.” In his new book, “Eavesdropping: An Intimate History,” Locke draws on documentation of the practice from centuries ago right up to today’s world of Facebook and YouTube. But Locke does have some fears about the ocean of personal postings in cyberspace. “I worry about those who could be seriously damaged in the future. All of us need to be on guard if we donate information about ourselves in the form of words or visual images that the recipient will respect that material.”
Intelligent design, global warming, and UFOs–what distinguishes science from pseudoscience? Massimo Pigliucci, chair of the philosophy department at Lehman College, tackles that question and raises some more in his recently published book, “Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk.” There’s no problem “if you open your horoscope and just read it for fun,” explains Pigliucci, “on the other hand, if you plan your financial investments based on what your horoscope tells you, you’re likely to run into trouble.” In an interview, Pigliucci, who previously taught evolutionary biology at SUNY at Stony Brook, also discusses the difference between “hard” sciences, like physics and chemistry, and “soft,” including sociology and anthropology, and how they both shape our world.
Listen Now >>
When Essie Shor was 16, Nazis slaughtered 4,000 people — including her mother and two sisters — in her hometown of Novogrudek, then Poland. Sixty years later, Shor has told her story of survival in “Essie: The True Story of a Teenage Fighter in the Bielski Partisans,” co-authored by Andrea Zakin, an assistant professor of early childhood education at Lehman College who previously taught Shor and urged her to write a book for young adults. After escaping the Nazis, Shor fought for two years alongside her cousins, the Bielski brothers, who helped save hundreds of Jews in the forests of Nazi-occupied Poland. “It was a very difficult to write the book,” said Shor, 83, in a talk at Lehman College, “but I felt that this has to be done because of the perception that Jews went like sheep…We were fighting, but we couldn’t win against the regular German army.”
Before its headquarters was built on the banks of the East River in midtown, the Security Council of the United Nations held its first formal meetings on American soil in a gymnasium at Hunter College’s Bronx campus, now Lehman College. The college’s namesake, New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman, who had worked for the U.N. as Director General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, selected the site as for the council’s first gathering in March 1946. As part of the college’s 40th anniversary, President Ricardo R. Fernandez welcomes Sir Brian Urquhart, former U.N. Undersecretary-General for Special Political Affairs, and Margaret K. Bruce, founding member of the U.N. Secretariat, in a celebration entitled, “The United Nations at Lehman College: A Homecoming,â€ in a talk about those early days, its present and future.
As a young person growing up in the Bronx, Robert T. Johnson was inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in particular the iconic “I Have a Dream,” speech which, he says, accelerated the civil rights movement like never before. “The (civil rights) movement would not have progressed if Dr. King did not get people’s attention the way he did on that day in 1963.” Today, Bronx District Attorney Johnson is not only the first African American in New York State to be elected to that office, he is the longest-serving (since 1989) in Bronx history. As the keynote speaker at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lecture at Lehman College, D.A. Johnson reflects on Dr. King’s legacy.
New York City Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott has a message for all high school student dropouts: “We Want You Back.” Delivering the keynote address at “Dropout Summit IIâ€ at Lehman College, Deputy Mayor Walcott urged the students, parents, educators and elected officials who attended the day-long conference to focus on furthering research for dropout prevention and developing alternative plans. Speaking of high school students who leave the school system before graduation, Walcott reiterated his simple solution of welcoming back these students, as well creating as many options as possible for them to succeed.
For the Pulitzer Prize-winning classical composer John Corigliano, scoring music for the film “The Red Violinâ€ — a story that spans four centuries in five countries — presented a unique challenge. Before a screening of the movie that was held at New York City College of Technology as a part of the Brooklyn Philharmonic 2008 John Corigliano Festival, Corigliano discusses his use of seven simple chords as the foundation that connects the film’s various themes. A Distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College, Corigliano, was presented with an Academy Award for best original score for “The Red Violin” and has also been the recipient of multiple Grammy Awards.