Stanford Emeriti Council Autobiographical Reflections

David Abernethy: A Fortunate Life

Episode Summary

In a lecture on Nov. 20, 2019, entitled “A Fortunate Life,” David Abernethy, Stanford Professor of Political Science, Emeritus reflects on the advantages of being born into an American, white, middle class, Protestant family. His youthful commitment to doing something about sub-Saharan Africa led to summer experiences in Nigeria and Guinea with Operation Crossroads Africa and eventually to filling a new faculty billet at Stanford in African politics. He discusses changes at Stanford since he arrived in 1965, including the increased diversity of the student body and trends in student activism; his support for replacing the freshman Western Culture requirement with more globally oriented courses; involvement in campus anti-apartheid and disinvestment issues; and his role in the controversy over the location in the campus foothills of the proposed Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. He describes his post-retirement desire to balance activities that are familiar vs. unfamiliar and benefitting himself vs. others. New activities include singing in the Stanford Symphonic Chorus and chairing the Emeriti Council. He advises that it is okay in retirement to step back from our hectic lives. He also answers audience questions about his book, “The Dynamics of Global Dominance: European Overseas Empires, 1415-1980,” published in 2000.

Episode Notes

In a lecture on Nov. 20, 2019, entitled “A Fortunate Life,” David Abernethy, Stanford Professor of Political Science, Emeritus reflects on the advantages of being born into an American, white, middle class, Protestant family. His youthful commitment to doing something about sub-Saharan Africa led to summer experiences in Nigeria and Guinea with Operation Crossroads Africa and eventually to filling a new faculty billet at Stanford in African politics. He discusses changes at Stanford since he arrived in 1965, including the increased diversity of the student body and trends in student activism; his support for replacing the freshman Western Culture requirement with more globally oriented courses; involvement in campus anti-apartheid and disinvestment issues; and his role in the controversy over the location in the campus foothills of the proposed Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. He describes his post-retirement desire to balance activities that are familiar vs. unfamiliar and benefitting himself vs. others. New activities include singing in the Stanford Symphonic Chorus and chairing the Emeriti Council. He advises that it is okay in retirement to step back from our hectic lives. He also answers audience questions about his book, “The Dynamics of Global Dominance: European Overseas Empires, 1415-1980,” published in 2000.