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John Maguire

      . . . President Emeritus, Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Maguire is Senior Fellow at the Institute for Democratic Renewal and Senior Consultant for Project Change, a joint anti-racism venture. A lifelong participant in America's struggle for justice, John Maguire was a "Freedom Rider" in the 1960s and close to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Maguire's distinguished academic career includes two Fulbright Scholarships, a host of publications, recognitions, grants and awards from major social, civic, service and professional organizations. With degrees from Washington & Lee and Yale Universities, he serves a wide variety of boards and foundations.

Excerpts3:25 secs

      America needs a new militancy because "You are what you do," according John Maguire, veteran both of a lifetime in academics and of the 1960's Freedom Rides. Dr. Maguire's youthful friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., continues to inspire Dr. Maguire, who, like Dr. King, has woven academics and activism into an unusually interesting life while also embracing the arts.

      Dr. John Maguire is President Emeritus of Claremont Graduate University, State University of New York, College of Old Westbury and others. He is currently the Senior Fellow at the Institute for Democratic Renewal and Senior Consultant for Project Change (IDR/PC), a joint anti-racism venture, and Senior Consultant to the annual Poetry in Idyllwild program

      Dr. Maguire clearly remembers the liberating moment many years ago when he realized how to bring action and talk together.  How? Constantly bring people who are not scholars -- society's agents, movers and actors -- into the university, while throwing open the doors of the university to its community much the same way a public library does. Dr. Maguire has put that philosophy into action, leading public and private colleges and universities and organizations in the U.S. and beyond.

      Now John Maguire has followed his own advise regularly to "break set." He is deeply involved in his twin passions -- social justice and the arts, especially poetry. What do they have in common? A path toward answering questions that have accompanied Dr. Maguire throughout his life: How does one give form to feeling, to conviction, to values, to one's vision?

      Currently Senior Fellow at The Institute for Democratic Renewal/Project Change (IDR/PC), this joint anti-racism venture brings together organizations incubated in a university (IDR at Claremont under his leadership in his final year there, 1998) and in a corporation (Levi-Strauss started Project Change in the early 1990s). Dr. Maguire wants to put legs to his hero, the legendary "Tip"O'Neal's keen and oft-quoted observation, "All politics is local." IDR/PC's growing successes range from swelling the ranks of alumni of the venerable anti-racism People's Institute in New Orleans to an anti-predatory lending law in the State of New Mexico.

      Meanwhile, Dr. Maguire delights in championing poetry, which he sees as an alternative form of discourse, another way to give voice to those same deep feelings and convictions expressed in the vocabulary of true spirituality. He's quick to acknowledge that not all the products of people who try poetry are memorable -- hardly -- but the connection to deeper meaning remains, he says, when people acknowledge feelings, form them and express them. He thinks that's more than enough to account for the large and growing phenomenon of Poetry in the United States.

      Where do his insights about poetry and his numbing schedule pursuing an end to racism take Dr. Maguire? Back to the lifetime tension between saying and doing. John Maguire answer: Do Both. Passionately.

[This Program was recorded April 22, 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

Conversation 1

John Maguire connects action and words and brings his friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., into this conversation with Paula Gordon and Bill Russell.

Conversation 2

Dr. Maguire remembers the liberating moment when his concluded that the university is the ideal forum for re-integrating the body politic and gives examples of how he put this idea into action. He describes bringing important societal movers who are non-scholars to campus while throwing open the doors of the university to the community. He describes the unusual nature of Claremont Graduate University and describes some of his actions as Claremont's President.

Conversation 3

Guided by the idea of the accessibility of a public library, Dr. Maguire remembers his l960's role, helping create the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury, the public experimental college of which he was president for a decade. He describes how it became a living laboratory for an Urban University, under the motto, "Where Duty and Pleasure are One" and the banner, "The Struggle Continues." He observes that the current era is bedeviled by specialization and expands with examples of how to overcome this glaring problem.

Conversation 4

The consideration of over-specialization continues with further examples of academics who have bridged the divides. Dr. Maguire points to the same problem of specialization in the political arena, in the shape of special interest politics. Concerned about bringing alienated communities together, Dr. Maguire quotes his great political hero, "Tip" O'Neal, that all politics is local. Dr. Maguire describes his and his colleagues' "bottom-up" efforts for justice in regions across America. He describes The Institute for Democratic Renewal and Project Change individually and as they have now join forces, and describes a series of successful efforts grounded in local communities.

Conversation 5

Dr. Maguire says he is living proof that higher education can make a difference in an individual's life and uses his own experiences as evidence. He poses the questions: how do you give form to feeling, to conviction, to values, to a vision? He summarizes his own passion for the arts. Poetry, he says, is his preeminent passion and remembers the series of events which led to the creation of the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He celebrates his current involvement with and applauds the Idyllwild (CA) Summer Poetry Festival. Dr. Maguire expresses his conclusion that poetry gives secular voice to the same deep feelings and convictions revealed by those choosing spiritual expression. He returns to the dilemma of "saying" and "doing."

Conversation 6

Dr. Maguire asserts that one must work simultaneously on self-discovery while using public events in which one is a player to reflect on one's future. He counsels people regularly to "break set" and urgently calls for a new militancy.


We are delighted that Dr. Maguire could make time in his packed spring schedule to join us in conversation. And we are indebted to poets and friends Cecilia Woloch and Thomas Lux for sharing Dr. Maguire with us during his whirlwind visit.

Related Links:
There's more about the joint anti-racism venture undertaken by CGU's Institute for Democratic Renewal and Project Change (IDR/PC) at their respective websites.
You'll find more information about Claremont Graduate University and the rest of this unusual institution at their website.

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