January 26, 2015
Saturday, I had a very memorable experience.
Last summer, on a visit to Eastern Correctional Institution up in Napanoch, I was introduced to prisoners who were enrolled in college – – yes, real college ! – – and was very impressed with the program. These inmates invited me to be the commencement speaker at their graduation. I was moved and grateful, and happily accepted.
This remarkable college program, all taking place behind bars, is called the Bard Prison Initiative, and has been up and effectively running at six of New York States’ prisons, as well as in six other states. The radiant success of this college program is due to daring leadership by Bard College, Holy Cross College at Notre Dame, Indiana, and the New York Department of Corrections. Bravo to all of them!
Special congratulations to the class of 2015, my fifty-three “classmates,” since I was privileged to receive an honorary degree Saturday, who successfully completed this rigorous college education in an atmosphere many would consider depressive, degrading, and oppressive.
As was so brilliantly evident in the joy of the graduates, the pride of family and friends, the satisfaction of devoted faculty, the smiles of the correction administrators and officers, and, especially, in the splendid address by three of the students, this program is a real light in the darkness.