Important Conversations

Literary icon Maya Angelou address Randolph College students.

Literary icon Maya Angelou address Randolph College students.

After Maya Angelou’s paralyzed son underwent several surgical operations, he called and asked her to recite a poem they both loved. Telling this story to more than 1,000 people at Randolph College in January, the internationally acclaimed poet recited Invictus again:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Candy Alt Crowley ’70, chief political correspondent at CNN

Candy Alt Crowley ’70, chief political correspondent at CNN

The standing-room-only audience listened with rapt attention as Angelou told them that poetry “has kept us alive.”

“I urge you to find the poetry and realize that whatever it says, and however it says it, it was written for you,” she said.

Angelou was one of the most recent high-profile speakers Randolph has hosted. Since 2008, students have met and mingled with CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Alt Crowley ’70, former DNC chair and New Hampshire Governor Howard Dean, civil rights leader and poet Nikki Giovanni, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, Republican strategist Karl Rove, Skeptics Society founder Michael Shermer, Under the Tuscan Sun author Frances Mayes ’62, and more.

Keeley Cordingley Tuggle, assistant director of special events, said there has been a concerted effort to build on the College’s rich history of introducing students and community members to important thought leaders in different fields. This both expands a student’s educational experience and attracts the attention of prospective students. “It shows the community that we are a College where important conversations take place, and that we are thirsty in our quest for learning from all points of view,” Tuggle said.

Howard Dean, former DNC chair and governor of New Hampshire

Howard Dean, former DNC chair and governor of New Hampshire, speaks to a Randolph class.

Kira Chhatwal ’12 said it was important to students to have speakers from across the spectrum, including secularists, atheists, liberals, conservatives, artists, and more. “I remember panels where students were asked to brainstorm speakers they wanted to hear,” she said. “That’s pretty big. Our opinions mattered.”

It was equally important to hear from impressive women like Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou, she added. “In keeping with our roots of being a woman’s college, the female speakers are especially important to our community,” Chhatwal said. “Having worked their events, I could see the excitement of the people coming to watch—not only our students, but community people of all ages who might not have had the chance to see them otherwise.”