Winter 2024 Bulletin

From the President

A headshot of David W. Oxtoby, a man with short gray hair. Oxtoby wears a white dress shirt with a navy blue tie and gray suit.
Photo by Martha Stewart Photography.

In December I used my year-end message to highlight the outstanding speeches delivered by new members representing each of the Academy’s five classes at the September 2023 Induction Ceremony. The speakers addressed an extraordinary range of issues, speaking on themes related to artificial intelligence, climate action, creativity, inquiry, and identity. The text of their remarks is included in this issue of the Bulletin, and I hope you will enjoy reading them if you have not already viewed them online.

For me, revisiting these speeches reinforced my appreciation of the remarkable breadth and depth of our Academy community, which has made my term as president one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I had an opportunity to share some reflections on my presidency over the past five years at a November meeting of the Science Philanthropy Alliance hosted by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in Durham, North Carolina. The conference gathered a diverse group of science philanthropy leaders to share their experiences fostering collaboration among the arts and sciences.

In my remarks, I noted the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration to the Academy’s work. One of the primary roles of academies throughout time has been to define boundaries among disciplines, which serves an important purpose but can also impede creative collaboration. Serving as president of the Academy has provided me with a renewed appreciation for the value of connecting the arts and sciences to develop innovative solutions for the challenges of our time.

Closely related is the importance of diversity of thought and experience. Each Academy project includes a diverse array of leaders from across a wide range of disciplines, with varied ideological backgrounds. Such diversity not only yields better solutions, but also the act of bringing these leaders together can itself help to bridge divides.

Further, organizations like the Academy will not succeed unless we can display humility about our limitations as experts and listen to and communicate with people beyond the confines of elite institutions. At the Academy, we have always held sounding meetings with scholars, leaders, and other experts as we develop projects and recommendations. But with our Commission on Reimagining Our Economy, for example, we conducted listening sessions around the country with groups of Americans from different walks of life and from across the political spectrum, and their voices come through in the Commission’s final report and the companion photojournal, Faces of America.

In the pages that follow, you will find these principles exhibited across a wide range of Academy projects, publications, and events. None of these initiatives would be possible without the knowledge, experience, and perspective of our members from fields across the arts and sciences. Thank you for your membership in the Academy and for your unique contribution to our mission to “cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

David W. Oxtoby