Fiat Lux: Conversation with the President

Rollins’ 14th President Lewis Duncan Interviews Former CIA Director Porter Goss

In February, Rollins’ Winter Park Institute hosted former CIA Director Porter Goss. His visit offered an opportunity for President Lewis Duncan to engage Goss (who isn’t a newcomer to Rollins—his sons Chauncey ’88, Mason ’89, and Gerrit ’92 graduated from the College) in a conversation about education and global citizenship. Rollins Magazine is pleased to share a taste of their dialogue.

LD: From the uniqueness of your perspective and experiences, what do you think are the principal elements of a very good, 21st-century liberal education?

PG: We’re in an extraordinary time of change in the globe. It isn’t just the technology; it’s the amount of information flow that that technology has provided us. Having the judgment of how to deal with that is really an important part of the educational process.

LD: I love the quote from Jefferson that there’s no more democratizing force than knowledge. Information is becoming freely available to much more of the world, and it’s much more difficult to control. Do you think the technology that makes it difficult to control information may signal the future end of despots and tyranny?

PG: Knowledge is enabling people to make decisions and see things they haven’t seen before, and that’s a little bit of a double-edged sword. The problem of how to go forward with that knowledge and make the right judgment seems to me today to be increasingly difficult. Who do you believe? How do you know which knowledge that is coming across your desk or in front of your eyes is the believable knowledge? Is it really true that this is the right solution? It’s a crisis of confidence.

LD: How do we educate young people for a world in which government service, community service, civic engagement, and democratic values become a defining, positive part of their lives, and help them move away from a kind of cynical rejection of all that we’re trying to accomplish?

PG: Create an understanding of what’s at stake, not just for the United States of America, but humanity. I truly believe there is a mighty contest going on between good and evil, and I’m not being particularly religious here. There is good and there is evil, and I believe good will triumph if people will get involved, and that’s part of education.

LD: Rollins’ mission statement says it “educates for global citizenship and responsible leadership.” When we talk about global citizenship, do you think there is a rising generation of young people who may actually be global citizens?

PG: I think there will be. I think this is an evolutionary process. I’m not sure we will ever overcome the familial instincts we have—and I’m not sure we should—or the tribal instincts. In the old days, it was very, very simple. You never went out of your valley because you couldn’t look over the mountain, you couldn’t go over the mountain. Now you can; all you do is look up at the satellite and see everything. Now what are the rules?

People overseas don’t want to be seen through the lens of an American thinking everything is just like America. They need to be seen through the lens of who they are, and the only way you learn about who they are is if you live there, speak their language, use their gestures, understand their culture. The better we craft global understanding, the better we’re able to operate as a globe that is working positively and peacefully in coordination.