I write this email at a difficult time in the modern history of our republic. We are faced with four hundred thousand deaths from COVID-19; civil unrest; concerns about racial injustice; economic uncertainty; and riots and death at our nation’s capital as we experience a transfer of presidential authority. Sadness, confusion, anger, and anxiety are just a few of the emotions I have experienced over the last ten months. Our current students are not old enough to have experienced a different type of civil discourse in our politics, which makes me particularly anxious about our current discourse. I am concerned that they may grow to believe that our current state is the norm rather than the exception.
Like many others, I constantly ask what can or should I be doing? How can I lessen the burdens of others? How can I help build bonds of community so that we may civilly work through policy issues that will perpetuate our republic? I know I have failed more than I have succeeded.
I also know that Hampden-Sydney and the Wilson Center are perfectly positioned to be a part of our solution. In so doing, we will be fulfilling the College’s mission of forming “good men and good citizens” with the purpose of educating the future leaders of our republic. We do so that we perpetuate not just a republic, but a good republic; one that “protects human faculties,” according to Madison in Federalist 10. More specifically, we endeavor to perpetuate a good republic that protects human dignity and rights and makes clear our responsibilities to one another so that we may all pursue a meaningful existence.
There is a direct connection between our educational system and the health of our republic. Nelson Mandela reminds us that “an educated, enlightened, and informed population is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.” We are proud to be countercultural at the Wilson Center in hopes that our current discourse may be improved. Where there is dishonesty we teach ethical leadership. Where there is hatred we teach compassion. Where there is power we teach moderation, compromise, and an appreciation for institutions. Where there is division we teach the responsibilities of citizenship. Where there is exclusion we teach empathy and community. Where there is anger we teach civility. We have faith that these timeless and transcendent Hampden-Sydney values will make our republic stronger.
Those of us who work at the Wilson Center are blessed to work with outstanding young men. They are honest, smart, decent, hardworking, earnest, and capable. It is because of them that I remain confident in the future of our republic. Never have our four foundational pillars—active citizenship, ethical leadership, leadership in diverse contexts, and civil discourse—been more important. Now more than ever, the world needs Hampden-Sydney College and a Center that teaches our future leaders about leading in the public interest. Now more than ever the world needs “men of character who will lead lives of consequence.”
Please read about the Samuel V. Wilson archival effort and our memories of legendary History Professor Ron Heinemann. Those two giants serve as models for our young men. Their lives of service give me great confidence that our students will learn to be “good men and good citizens” who strengthen our republic. Please also learn more about our outstanding students, upcoming events, the new work from our faculty, and our four-year Wilson Leadership Fellows Program.
Thank you for your interest, engagement, and support! Your efforts are appreciated. Please reach out anytime and join us this spring for a great virtual program series.
Dr. Ryan Pemberton ’00
Director of the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest
When he was selected as president of Hampden-Sydney College in the summer of 1992, General Wilson noted: “The single most important person walking this campus is the student, followed closely thereafter by the faculty and staff who serve as his mentor. The single most important thing that happens on this campus is that colloquy between the student and his mentor. All else is secondary and supporting.”
Faculty and staff are called to help these superior young men become the very best versions of themselves. These “men of character who will lead lives of consequence” are worthy of our support and guidance.
Remembering Ronald Lynton Heinemann,
Squires Professor Emeritus of History
The Hampden-Sydney community lost a legend this November. Dr. Ronald Heinemann will be remembered for his charismatic lectures, strong opinions, humor, outstanding scholarship, humility, and service to this community, our commonwealth, and our republic. Read more…
Spring Virtual Events Series
You are invited! Our spring virtual event schedule is announced. Sign up today! See full listing…
Wilson Center in the News
Wilson Center faculty and alumni continue to lead important civic conversations. For thoughts from Col. William Anderson ’67, Dr. John Hillen, and Dr. David Marion, read more here…
Wilson Archival Update
The Lt. General Samuel V. Wilson Archival Project continues to take shape. To learn about the College’s efforts to digitize and catalogue General Sam’s papers, read more here…
Wilson Leadership Fellows Program Updates
To find out more about this four-year program, read here…
Support the Wilson Center
Wilson Center students are worthy of your support! Now more than ever, the world needs leaders who the display the traits and bedrock values evidenced in the life of Lt. General Samuel Wilson and embedded in the ethos of Hampden-Sydney College and the Wilson Center. Support our outstanding young men and this worthy endeavor of preparing “men of character for lives of consequene.”