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Reflections on the Eve of My Inauguration

Ron Jones

Tomorrow is my investiture as president of Memphis College of Art. I’ve been “on the job” for about 5 months, and now it’s inauguration time. Other than a lot of pomp and circumstance, visitors from out of town, and me making a speech, is there anything really that special associated with the day?

Well, maybe there is more to this day than I first thought because without this investiture, and without making a big deal of my stepping into the position, I would not have felt the need to step back, take a look at what I am discovering, planning, and doing and try to make some sense of it all.

The truth is that this entire process from the pomp to the ceremony itself may be nothing more than a devious means of getting the person entrusted with leading the institution to pause and contextualize what’s going on.

Maybe I am wrong about the intentions, but I can tell you that in this one case it has worked effectively. I have spent hours thinking about what I should say, only to remain frustrated for weeks regarding my challenge.

I read the new president of Harvard’s inaugural address, only to be humbled into the realization that nothing I could say would ever rise to the level of significance that her words have so effectively done.

And yet, tomorrow is coming and I will proceed, decked out with all the academic trimmings, and then I will step to the microphone and say what?

Yes, I do know, and I want to share it with you now for it has meaning for all who commit themselves to education, particularly arts education.

Over the course of the past few weeks I have realized why I really took this position…it wasn’t because I dreamed of being a president, although I have on many occasions; it wasn’t because of the benefits, the salary, the prestige of the position, although all of those attributes accompany the position; and it wasn’t because I am in need of an ego boost, although feeling good about one’s self isn’t a bad thing.

It’s really quite simple, quite truthful, and quite a wonderful discovery that I have made about myself and for that I am so thankful that tomorrow had to be!

I have realized that teachers always dream of what can be, what can come from their teaching; they are always planning, strategizing, trying new things, new techniques, looking hopefully to the future and believing that what they do can truly make a lifelong difference in each of their students.

I see in a presidency the opportunity for me to dream even more, and so I welcome tomorrow and all the tomorrows I dream of coming.

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