Every year, one faculty member is chosen by Westmont's President, Dr. Beebe, to give what is known as the First Lecture during Orientation. The First Lecture was inaugurated in 2008 and serves as a transition between a high school and college learning environment. This year's distinguished faculty member is Dr. Richard Pointer, Professor of History and former Interim Provost of Westmont. Dr. Pointer has chosen John Hersey's Hiroshima to lecture on. All new students are expected to read this book prior to arriving for Orientation.
Hiroshima essentially profiles six survivors of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and describes their experiences in the first minutes, hours, days, and weeks after the bomb was dropped. Hersey went to Japan in 1946 and interviewed several dozen survivors. He decided to use these six experiences to tell the human story of the bomb's devastation. His work was originally published in the New Yorker in October 1946. The magazine devoted an entire issue to Hersey's work. It was subsequently published as a book.
Getting to know The Lecturer
What are your hobbies/favorite things to do in Santa Barbara?
I love to play tennis and take walks with my wife. Our 35th wedding anniversary is this summer, and I'll be celebrating my 20th year at Westmont. I enjoy reading and watching sports. My favorite places to eat are Trattoria Mollie, Montecito Café, and In n Out Burger for a quick bite to eat.
What were the best things about your first year in college?
What stands out in my mind are the friendships I built with guys my first year in college, not so much with girls yet, because in those days all Christian colleges had men and women in different buildings. It was also during my freshmen year that my love of history was confirmed.
What advice do you have for first-years?
Find a happy medium of involvement and commitments. Try something outside your comfort zone. Make a friend you wouldn’t normally, take a class you know nothing about, etc. And know this, it’s okay to try something out and decide it’s not for you.
John Hersey’s Hiroshima is a classic piece of journalism. About ten years ago a poll taken was taken at NYU and journalists voted Hersey’s work as the most important piece of journalism of the 20th century. So, this is clearly an important piece of writing and one that explores the human dimension of the nuclear bomb. I’m also going to be in Japan in August discussing themes pertaining to nuclear weapons and energy.
What themes should students keep in mind while reading?
Students should think about the use of nuclear energy (as well as weapons). Also begin to think about how we as humans remember and respond to historical events.