PRINCIPLES VS. PREJUDICE: A Look at Mother Dammann’s Speech

PresidentDammann

By SAMANTHA BIEGEL

On Tuesday, September 16 Manhattanville held a discussion of “Principles versus Prejudices,” a speech delivered by former Manhattanville president Mother Grace Dammann. The event was part of Valiant Week.

In her speech, which dates back to 1938, Mother Dammann discussed the controversy over accepting our school’s first black student. During the event Mother Dammann’s speech was analytically broken down into a variety of perspectives brought forth by six professors, each of which commented according to academic interpretations for the classes they teach. Each of these viewpoints shows the universal application of Mother Dammann’s words: anyone and everyone can relate to prejudice. Therefore, anyone and everyone should know and be aware of it.

An overview of the context of the speech came first – the setting, then known as Harlem, New York, the riots and protests that gave way to the Civil Rights Movement, and the series of events that sparked Mother Dammann’s interest in speaking about the social revolution brewing. This was followed by five professors’ synopses on the speech in relation to their respective classes.

Heather Krannich ‘18, who attended the panel herself, said, “I really thought it was fascinating…I’ve only read the piece from the viewpoint of the “Power of Prejudice” seminar. My philosophy professor was [there]…what he said was fascinating in accordance with my majors and interests.”

Carissa Burgard ‘18 later commented on what the speech really boiled down to in connection with our prestigious school: “I like how they all touched on ‘doing the truth in charity’…they talked about applying these principles to the real world, and it’s very relevant to [our] college’s mission statement.”

As for me, I was left in awe that such a variety of topics – education, philosophy, psychology, and, yes, even math – found ties back to prejudice, more specifically, Mother Dammann’s exact words on the matter. The education perspective deemed that an individual, no matter the color of their skin, can have the full Manhattanville experience while getting involved in “all the spheres.” The philosophical approach told us that as a society we can hold to objective, moral norms and still be unique individuals. A mathematician said that statistics are proof enough for interracial schools to be approved, and a professor teaching a class called “To Be Human” stated that group prejudices have formed naturally since the age of the nomads. Each of these viewpoints shows the universal application of Mother Dammann’s words: anyone and everyone can relate to prejudice. Therefore, anyone and everyone should know and be aware of it. It is clear that no matter the subject, a link exists; the way I see it, this is where prejudice gets its power.

To this day, Dammann Hall is named in honor of the influence and change Mother Dammann brought to the Manhattanville community. With her powerful, impressionable legacy solidified in not just this building on campus, but the whole of the Manhattanville student body, let us preserve her memorable “truth in charity” as part of our values. “I’m very fortunate to be attending a college of such rich history,” said Burgard. “I’m proud to be a Valiant.”

 

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