In describing the year-long adventure of the Foundation Year Program, I have sometimes appealed to T.S. Eliot’s marvelous lines from ‘Little Gidding’:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
These lines capture beautifully the distinctive journey that we begin anew every year in FYP. In search of understanding, we cast our eyes back into the distant past, to the ancient cultures of Israel, Greece, and Rome; and we trace, over the course of centuries, the emergence, flourishing, and decline of the great empires of Europe and the Americas; but the aim of these far-reaching wanderings in time and space, the true “end of all our exploring,” is not to arrive at the knowledge of something new and strange and mysterious. On the contrary, as Eliot teaches us, our journey will return us to our starting place—to this world, here and now, and to the questions, concepts, and commitments with which we began. In short, we will return to ourselves. But we will have acquired a much richer understanding of who we are by becoming acquainted with the traditions of thought that have helped to set our present horizons.
The program is marked by a robust and abiding confidence in the power of books. This power is both theoretical and practical. Not only do these seminal works expose students to the conceptual horizons which will both enable and constrain their efforts to find meaning in the world around them; they also provide students with a fund of shared experiences and thoughts on which to ground their friendships with one another. And these are no ordinary friendships! They are marked by early-morning and late-night conversations about Homer and Shakespeare and Dubois and De Beauvoir, and by the passionate debate and reflection inspired by them. The pleasures to be found in this kind of friendly debate are unique—and, alas, vanishingly rare. To have the freedom and the time to articulate, and then to challenge, one’s core convictions (about love, truth, beauty, power, justice) in the company of thoughtful peers and in the spirit of shared inquiry and adventure, is a precious opportunity. It is our pleasure and our privilege to share it with you.
Dr. Daniel Brandes
Director, Foundation Year Program