Voices and Ideas

To the Three Friends of Winter in the Arts & Sciences

Pine, bamboo, and plum thrive even in the harshness of winter. During the Tang Dynasty, they came together to symbolize steadfastness, perseverance, and resilience in Chinese art, poetry, and calligraphy. Over time, the three friends of winter also began to represent the ideal Confucian scholar based on the idea that true character is shaped through the time of cold or a severe ordeal.

It may well be sheer coincidence that five students founded Phi Beta Kappa just before the start of winter on December 5, 1776. But in their time of cold, nevertheless, our founders believed that the nation required new cultural institutions shaped by the values of personal freedom, scientific inquiry, liberty of conscience, and creative endeavor in literature. 

How can those who champion liberal arts and sciences education remain steadfast, persevere, and become more resilient as we approach a new year of advocacy in uncertain times? First, imagine the potential of a Phi Beta Kappa network with over half a million members in the new year. Your voice matters. As Edward Hale (ΦBK, Harvard) noted, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” 

Second, reach out to opinion makers and shapers who can change the equation on and off campus. If you donate to your alma mater, take a few extra minutes to let your college or university know why you support the arts and sciences on campus in the comments box as you complete your donation. If you are a member of the faculty, share stories of student success with your government relations teams to make sure examples from the arts, humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and mathematics are heard by policymakers. If you are an employer, encourage your human resources staff to avoid narrow pre-professional educational requirements when filling positions that require “strong soft skills.” In other words, persevere by taking positive and proactive actions where and when you can.

Third, help grow the circle of support for the arts and sciences in your community. Volunteer or attend events at local cultural organizations that provide meaningful access to the arts, humanities, sciences, and mathematics. Mentor recent arts and sciences graduates who need help transitioning from campus to careers. Ultimately, we can build more resilient communities through the power of the arts and sciences.

We greatly appreciate the steadfast donations to ΦBK from our sustaining members, making the Society’s efforts to champion the arts and sciences possible this winter and beyond.

You can also find plenty of other ways to take action in our monthly State of the Arts & Sciences e-alerts. Receive inspiration all year long at PBK.org/advocacy news.


(Posted on 12/2/2019 )