little tree



In 2012 I was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, one of the oldest and most illustrious honor societies in our nation. The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and other scholar-patriots, “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people.” Others elected to the Academy in the same year include Paul McCartney, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Neil Simon, and Melinda Gates. I am especially pleased that the new members include two colleagues of mine at Indiana University--President Michael A. McRobbie and political scientist Edward G. Carmines. Earlier members include a pantheon of writers whom I admire--Audubon, Emerson, Darwin, Willa Cather, Eudora Welty, Wallace Stegner, Jorge Luis Borges, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., among others. Current members include Toni Morrison, Seamus Heaney, Peter Matthiessen, Alice Munro, V. S. Naipaul, N. Scott Momaday, W. S. Merwin, and Gary Snyder. Whether I belong in that company, even on the margin, is an open question. But I can think of living American writers, not yet so honored, who would surely belong ahead of me—Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, and Barbara Kingsolver, for starters. 




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