Symposium on American Values
I have been an avid supporter and patron of the University Symposium on American Values since its inception in the Fall of 1984. The University Symposium is a special academic forum; one in which students, faculty, and interested members of the community come together once a year to discuss some of the important issues of our times. Through its consistent commitment to the University Symposium and similar special lectureship programs, Angelo State University has shown its steadfast priority in providing excellent higher educational opportunities for the students and community it serves. One thing I have learned in the course of editing this archive is that the distinguished scholars who have given lectures and provided leadership for the Symposium consider it a high honor to have been included in such a unique educational venture. It is my distinct privilege to have the opportunity to edit their lectures and remarks, and to preserve some of the discourse on America that is the University Symposium.
The themes, the topics, and the discussions of the University Symposium have been far-flung. The proceedings began in 1984 with an effort to define the overall domain of "American values." This, not surprisingly, proved to be an immense subject that has served as a unifying thread running through the Symposium since its origin. Over the years, speakers have focused on diverse topics such as corporate and managerial ethics, art and creativity, the challenges facing American education, the role of the U.S. in the world of nations, global economics, the environment, and the importance of sport, and of youth, in America. Always, the discussions sought to highlight the connections of these topics to "American values."
Of course, the original task of defining "American values" has not been achieved, and in fact, it would folly to expect this result. Something that is clear from the Symposium papers, however, is that "American values" are rich with multiple traditions, evolving in their expressions, and dramatically flexible and various in their meanings. They are much like the character of a developing individual -- hard to pin down, continually changing and reshaping, yet unmistakable when seen. If a purpose of the University Symposium is to encourage students and patrons like me to look into the prism of America's character, then this collection of the University Symposium papers will aid the purpose. As a collection, the papers from 14 years of the Symposium give a telling peek into the marvelous kaleidoscope that is fashioned by "American values."
The task of editing the papers has involved some nuances that need clarification. To begin, individuals who have vivid memories of one or another lecture that was delivered at the Symposium will detect certain differences between what was said in the lecture and what is printed here in the paper. These differences arise for a number of reasons. In some instances, variations between the actual lectures and the printed articles are the result of the individual styles of the lecturers themselves. Some lecturers over the years have delivered comments that corresponded closely to the written articles they prepared, while others spoke more extemporaneously based on their prepared materials. Readers who recall lectures of the more spontaneous speakers, in particular, will see differences in the printed text, but often these differences will offer additional elaboration or supporting materials for points mentioned in the lecture context.
Some differences between the printed papers and the actual lectures also arise from certain considerations in the editing process. Several of the original papers were written expressly for verbal presentation, incorporating frequent use of personal pronouns, colloquialisms, and other features that add appeal to speech, but distract and disturb the line of thought in reading. In these cases, with the assistance and consent of the authors, papers were converted into more formal style to remove incidental and distracting passages and to give added emphasis to the successive points in the author's argument. Also, in some cases, the author's original writing was abridged to remove minor points that may have fueled interest in verbal presentation, but were tangential passages to the main line of thought in the article.
Overall, I have worked to achieve two central objectives in the process of editing. First, I sought to maintain the integrity of each author's central message. Since all editorial changes have been made with the assistance and approval of the authors, I am confident that this objective has been met. Secondly, within the boundaries of the editorial considerations, I wanted to preserve each lecturer's individual style and character as much as possible. Consequently, readers will notice considerable idiomatic variation in the writing styles and methods of the different authors. The University Symposium is fortunate to have hosted many very distinguished guests who have visited the campus to share their thoughts on important aspects of the American people and culture. Hopefully, this archive will convey the breadth and insight they have given us, and perhaps rekindle a memory or two.
Kenneth L. Stewart, Editor