January 09, 2009

Some enjoyably wry reflections on Robert M. Hutchins and the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions by Ed Engberg, Sr. Fellow Emeritus of the Center. 
 The Center in Santa Barbara, assumed a mission that cannot be defined more concisely than the Advancement of Everything Good. At one time or another, depending upon its finances, the immediate audience, or the condition of the world and the night vapors troubling it, the Center proposed itself as an "early warning system" that will alert us to each rise in the tide of "critical issues," and the flotsam to be found thereon; and as the sole locus of thought generated independently of the pressure of this world; it is the protector and civilizer of great conversation....
...Hutchins struck [Lewis] Mumford as "tall, urbane, boyish looking: keen but supercilious , rational and outwardly reasonable, but shallow; an unawakened isolationist." "Aloof," the adjective often used by friendlier critics, fell short of capturing Hutchins look and bearing of pain, as if enduring some unheard noise, as if he were bearing his assigned mission nobly, but wished constantly that he might be released for less burdensome service.