Last year, the inaugural class of NYU Abu Dhabi was invited to read the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah’s book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers as part of a virtual summer colloquium called “Cosmopolitan Ideas for Global Citizens.” After reading the book, students participated in online discussions led by NYUAD philosophy professor Matthew Silverstein, and I recorded a 30-minute video lecture that responded to questions generated by those discussions. Then, during Marhaba Week, I gave a little talk after our first Iftar dinner extending the discussion to the idea of fallibilism and its applicability to a college career.
This year’s colloquium, “Leadership and the Golden Mean,” looks at the idea of cultural change from a different vantage point. It poses questions about how an effective leader should seek to bring about cultural, political, or social change. As a way into the subject, we chose four texts — two ancient and two modern — that address, either explicitly or implicitly — the idea of finding a “golden mean” — either between deficiency and excess, or between opposing points of view. How should a leader — no matter what his or her field of endeavor — make use of the ideas of moderation or compromise? How does a leader know whether change be promoted gradually or through a sudden revolution of thought or action?
To prime the pump for discussion that will be taking place this week, I posted a set of prompts to the NYUAD students’ “academic portal” website during the past month.