Reflections on Curiosity, Creativity and Hope

Upon my induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in October 2016 I posted the following reflections:

A couple of weeks ago I was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. At the ceremony there was a reading from letters between John Adams (the 2nd Academy president) and his wife Abigail. One could see how they both attached their hopes for our then very young country to the pursuit of knowledge and creativity.

It reminded me how deeply those ideas are part of me. In my family background there is a grandparent who started life as a Bavarian peasant and wound up an anthropology professor in the US, and on my mother's side the family hung fiercely to hope for the future despite having lost most of their loved ones in the Holocaust. Through the sacrifice and hard work of so many family members, it was finally possible for the youngest of the siblings (including my mom) to attend college.

I am grateful to reflect on how the passion for learning and creativity that is so intense within me is so deeply connected with the dreams of many generations to improve the world for themselves and others. I'm sure most of my fellow inductees have similar stories to tell, and I am glad I got to hear some of them at the induction event. Theaster Gates ( is doing this very visibly with his use of art to revitalize underinvested neighborhoods in Chicago. (As a young girl in an immigrant family my mom found joy and hope in the free art classes described at the end of this article.

I am grateful that I get to devote so much of my own life to the creative work that so many dream of doing, and also that I work at a place like UC Davis where I have the chance to support and inspire so many first generation college students.

In one of the Adams letters that were read Abigale makes the case to John for an equal position for women. Despite progress this is unfortunately a dream that has yet to be fully achieved.

In this moment of reflection I want to honor all the people around the world who are suffering hardship and who connect their hopes for a better life with their creative work and curiosity. And I certainly include my own loved ones who I have seen use their curiosity and creativity to transcend the impacts of terrible chronic illness.