Hello fellow bloggers and readers:
Well, I am in the very thick of writing my senior thesis. Two chapters are done, with another three to go. The finish line is in sight, and it looks glorious!
But I have not forgotten to update you on how the Anscombe Society conference went.
Last month, we held an intercollegiate conference at Princeton University, “Making Love Last: Finding Meaning in Sex and Romantic Relationships.” Among the students there were representatives from the University of Virginia, Catholic University, Loyola University of Chicago, Penn State University, University of Pennsylvania, and Seton Hall University. High school seniors from four different schools were also present, in addition to adults who work with young people on issues of marriage and sexuality. Some attendees even flew in from Colorado, Texas, and Alabama.
Questionnaires were passed around at the end of the conference, and the participants indicated that Professor Tollefsen’s philosophy on chastity and integrity was “poignant” and “enlightening”; Patrick Fagan’s sociological data and powerpoint slides were clear and informative; Maggie Gallagher’s exposition of the health and financial benefits of marriage was “charismatic” and intriguing; and Professor Rhoad’s lecture was illuminating and quite humorous. Overall, I would definitely say the lectures were enjoyable, and the Q/A sessions provocative and helpful.
The keynote address that started off the conference was planned as a conversation between Princeton’s own Professor Robert P. George and Princeton alumna Christine Whelan. Due to a shoulder injury the day before the conference, Ms. Whelan was not able to participate, so at the last minute, Professor W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia and a post-doc member of the Princeton faculty generously agreed to join Professor George for the keynote conversation, which was moderated by Princeton alumnus and friend Ryan Anderson. The panel discussion, which followed a catered dinner, was a great kick-off to the conference, answering many of the most pertinent questions as to why issues of marriage, family, and sex are so important to consider in today’s culture.
In addition to the lectures, the other officers and I put on a “workshop” to coach the attending students on the more practical matters of starting an Anscombe-like group. We noted, in particular, the need to be clear and positive in the mission statement, inclusive in audience, and always civil in conversation and debate. We explained how important it has been to work with groups and individuals who do not hold our values, so as to encourage mutual understanding and respect.
One high school senior came up to me after the workshop to say how encouraged she was by my own presentation. During the Q/A, I had explained how I am more quiet by nature. I noted that while others enjoy the limelight, all the interviews and press I and the other officers received took quite a bit of courage and practice on my part. It was a worthy and rewarding challenge, however, and my experience leading Anscombe has increased my confidence and ability to articulate and defend my commitments. This high school girl said my words spoke directly to her own experience, and that she was deeply encouraged that if I could develop the skills to confidently defend my values, she could too. This was the highlight of the conference for me!
All in all, the conference participants praised the variety of the presentations, the food, and the free copies of “The Meaning of Marriage” which everyone received. And let's not leave out the commemorative mugs our speakers received as a token of Anscombe’s appreciation.
From both talking to the conference participants and reading their questionnaire comments, I would say that our conference was a success. It was also a testament to the thirst there is in today’s culture, especially on college campuses, to consider a sexual ethic that includes marriage and family, and explains why that is healthy, stable, and fulfilling.
Let us hope this is only the first of many such conferences to come!