Humanities Moments

Humanities Moments

We’ve all had “humanities moments” — when our lives were made richer, more poignant, and meaningful because of the insights the humanities provide.

Browse Items (17 total)

by Kathryn Hill, President, The Levine Museum of the New South
Harriet Beecher Stowe, c. 1852
In elementary school, Kathryn Hill itched to move beyond the first shelf of the library books. When she finally reached the second shelf, a new world awaited her: biographies of historical figures. The lives of women such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, and Dorothea Dix led her to understand that history was all about stories. She realized that her own life “needed to be about something”—and that it could be.

by Edward J. Balleisen
"Betting on Zero" by Ted Braun
Several weeks ago I had occasion to watch the new documentary, Betting on Zero. This fascinating film presents several interlinked stories, all related to the founding and growth of Herbalife, a multi-level-marketing company that sells nutritional supplements, weight loss concoctions, and the “business opportunity” to distribute these products. Among the narrative threads: the basic business model of this enterprise, which depends on the perpetual recruitment of new salespeople (this task is facilitated by revival-style meetings…

by Roddy Doyle, author
"Amarcord" by Federico Fellini
In this video, author Roddy Doyle describes the experience of seeing Fellini’s Amarcord for the first time as a boy in Dublin. Growing up in Ireland, at that time a strict Catholic country, it was revelatory for him to see the religion ridiculed in the subversive comedy-drama. The combination of the beautiful and the grotesque mesmerized the young Doyle, who found the film “a great antidote” to the strict environment of his own religious high school.

by Omar H. Ali, 46, Historian
298d45c12d154180a8bea1243f1e48d7--india-style-vintage-stamps.jpg
My Abu (‘father’ in Urdu) is my favorite storyteller ... I grew up with stories of his childhood in India and later in his life: he and his best friend, Shafi, climbing neem trees in Puna; them trying to get back at a bully, but having their elaborate plan—with one of them crouching behind the bully while the other pushed him over—completely backfire (getting beat-up for a second time!); them tapping people’s heads from atop a wall as the clueless souls walked by not knowing what just happened; traveling by boat from India to…

by Esther Mackintosh, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils
Dairy farm in winter
Esther Mackintosh, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, explains how a single letter from her father offered solace during an especially trying period of her life. As a graduate student facing an uncertain future, Mackintosh took refuge in her father’s written words, which described his own challenges as a newly married farmer during the Great Depression. His letter concluded with a question posed to his daughter: “Would it help you to know that things usually turn out alright?” Thanks to her father’s words,…

BurlsPhoto.jpg
I feel robbed that I did not get the opportunity to ask my Great Uncle Burl what it was like to train in North Africa or share stories of being at the Duomo in Florence. I was a young teen when he passed, and he did not share the horrors he saw as part of the 316th Medical Battalion in the liberation of Italy. Then as an adult, I received the precious gift of his scrapbooks, which have given me a little insight. One particular annotation on the back of a photo caught my eye. Among images of young men in uniform going from the desert to…

by Juan Felipe Herrera, performance artist, activist, and U.S. Poet Laureate in 2015
Three Blind Mice
Juan Felipe Herrera, a performance artist, activist, and U.S. poet laureate in 2015, recalls how his third-grade teacher’s compliment on his singing voice led to his lifelong belief in using his voice to encourage the beauty in the voices, stories, and, experiences of others. He goes on to speak about the power of the humanities to warm communities, create peace, and, move hearts.To celebrate its 40th year anniversary of grant making, programming, and partnerships that connect Californians to each other, California Humanities invited a group…

by Luis Rodriguez, poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014
Los Angeles public library
Luis Rodriguez, poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014, explains how his love for books and libraries rescued him from a life of trouble. He notes that through books, he discovered more about people and their lives, which encouraged his interest in writing about injustice and activism.To celebrate its 40th year anniversary of grant making, programming, and partnerships that connect Californians to each other, California Humanities invited a group of 40 prominent Californians to explore what the humanities mean to them. For more information visit…

by Malcolm Margolin, author, publisher, and founder of Heyday Books
Ohlone Indians in a Tule Boat in the San Francisco Bay 1822, by Louis Choris
Author and publisher Malcolm Margolin shares how the telling of stories helps shape and give meaning to the world. He also reflects on his time documenting American Indian life in the Bay Area and becoming captivated by the stories and histories from this experience. To celebrate its 40th year anniversary of grant making, programming, and partnerships that connect Californians to each other, California Humanities invited a group of 40 prominent Californians to explore what the humanities mean to them. For more information visit…

by Craig Watson, former director of the California Arts Council
Diego Rivera Mural.jpg
Craig Watson, former director of the California Arts Council, reflects on the storytelling aspect of the humanities and the time he spent as a teenager in Guadalajara exploring public spaces painted with murals. He notes how people in the humanities help translate and open our eyes to what’s magical and unique about a place.To celebrate its 40th year anniversary of grant making, programming, and partnerships that connect Californians to each other, California Humanities invited a group of 40 prominent Californians to explore what the…

by Theresa Pierce, Rowan County Early College
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Teacher Theresa Pierce discusses how the accumulation and sharing of personal narratives help generate individual moments of realization among students as they also help build a sense of community.

by Kamille Bostick, Vice President, Education Programs, Levine Museum of the New South
Civil Rights leaders marching in Washington D.C..jpeg
Kamille Bostick shares the moment when she first saw the PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize and discusses how the revelations of that film history have contributed to her career and her long interest in history, especially the lives and accomplishments of African Americans.

by Scott Gartlan, Executive Director, Charlotte Teachers Institute
Arthur Miller
In this video, Scott Gartlan discusses his reaction to seeing Arthur Miller’s 1947 play All My Sons and seeing deep connections between the play’s narrative and his own life story. He goes on to reflect on the power of storytelling to bridge generations and personal circumstances.Witnessing the performance of Miller’s play was a “flashbulb moment” that deepened Gartlan’s appreciation of “what art can do in representing life.”

by Carter Thompson
New York, NY
In this video submission, artist Carter Thompson discusses how a recent exhibit on the Harlem Renaissance revealed some of the fascinating history of the century-old building in which he lives and helped him feel a connection across the decades with those who lived in the neighborhood before him.

by Thomas Scherer, Consultant, Spencer Capital Holdings
Hamilton, an American Musical
Thomas Scherer describes two related encounters which speak to the power of hearing poetry performed aloud. The first is an explanatory talk and poetry reading by the great literary scholar M. H. Abrams at the National Humanities Center; the second is hearing Lin-Manuel Miranda discuss his award-winning rap musical, Hamilton.Across generations, cultural divides, venues, and artistic voices, the power of lyric poetry to capture and convey powerful feeling is undeniable. And when poetry is performed and embodied, “brought to life” if…

by C. Allen Parker, General Counsel, Wells Fargo & Company
Vincent van Gogh, "Wheatfield with Crows"
In what I believe was the latter part of the 1980s, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to a van Gogh exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. And for the first time in my life, I wore one of those machines around my neck, where you listen to headphones and you hear somebody describe what it is you’re going to see. It was a brand-new experience.

The narrator was the then-director of the Metropolitan Museum, Philippe de Montebello, and at the introductory part of the exhibit, I was really struck by the quality of what he was saying. It was…

Steve Jobs
Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks — including death itself — at the university’s 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005. Transcript of Steve Jobs’ address.
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