Provost’s Forum: A Focus on the Benefits and Human Costs of Immigration

Nicholas Kristof
During Thursday’s keynote address, columnist Nicholas Kristof used the story of his father’s immigration to underscore the history and importance of immigration in the United States. Photo by Les Todd


Wednesday, Kenan Director Suzanne Shanahan moderated the opening discussion of this year’s Provost Forum: Immigration in a Divided World.  The conversation, entitled “Immigration Between Nationalism and Humanitarianism” was a discussion between Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review and author, My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search for Home, and Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize winner, Founder, Define American and author, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.

“One of the realizations I had in this conversation about the intransigence of the politics of all of this is we do not in fact share an identity. The question of who we chose to come and who gets to stay — we don’t have a common set of values that drives that.  We don’t share enough to proceed in a way that would be intelligible, which is how we end up with this incredibly fractured fate. The two memoirs are lovely and thought provoking, but if we don’t at some point in the two days here deal with the profound question that we as Americans have children in cages at the border, it is not ok.  So this question about identity has to lead there.”
— Suzanne Shanahan

from left: Suzanne Shanahan, Jose Antonio Vargas, Michael Brendan Dougherty.


from today.duke.edu

Provost’s forum brings different perspectives to an issue that challenges universities and the country


A two-day forum on immigration this week sought to put a face on a topic often overshadowed by policy debates and partisan hate-speech.

“I want to recognize clearly here that immigration is not some abstract topic or principle,” said Provost Sally Kornbluth in her opening remarks Thursday at the annual Provost’s Forum, “Immigration in a Divided World.”

“I know that many of our students, faculty and staff experience this issue on a very personal level — either for themselves or their families and friends,” she said.

“Immigration policy and practice has a very real impact on their lives and futures. And by discussing it at an intellectual, conceptual level, while we want to understand all aspects of the issues and options, at the same time, we do not want to lose sight of the real consequences of the topics we’ll be discussing on the individual lives of our friends and colleagues.”

Over the two-day event academics and journalists representing different views, perspectives and disciplines explored topics organized in consultation with Duke students.

“We don’t pretend to have exhausted the topic (through this forum), instead we have a more modest goal, which is just to frame the ways in which this conversation might be had in more and better and different and productive ways on this campus going forward,” said Noah Pickus, associate provost and senior adviser.

In the keynote address Thursday, New York Times columnist and author Nicholas Kristof spoke on the topic, “Immigration as a Test of Our Values.”

He compared U.S. practices on the Southern border, specifically putting people in cages and separating families, to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and America’s refusal to accept Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis.

“One lessons of that (history), I think, is that when people stoke fears today about caravans, about threats to American well-being and security, that we bare a special historical responsibility to look very, very closely at those claims,”
— Nicholas Kristof



Read the full story at today.duke.edu

Keith Lawrence, Geoffrey Mock, Scott Peters and Steve Hartsoe contributed to this story.