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President Gerhard Casper to speak on motto Oct. 5
STANFORD -- President Gerhard Casper will discuss his continued research into the university's motto - Die Luft der Freiheit weht ("the wind of freedom blows") - at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, in Oak West Lounge, Tresidder Union. The free public lecture is sponsored by the Stanford Historical Society.
In his talk, "Die Luft der Freiheit: On and Off," Casper will discuss different uses of the motto and how its relative importance has changed during the university's first century.
A native of Germany, Casper's interest in the motto was sparked when he was appointed ninth president in 1992 and learned that the university's motto was in German. He has since spent many spare-time hours researching various aspects of it.
At his first press conference in 1992, he joked that trustees chose him "because they wanted a president who could pronounce the original properly."
In his inaugural speech, Casper reported his discovery that the German actually is a translation from Latin. The original was written by Ulrich von Hutten in 1521 as part of an essay directed at enemies of church reformer Martin Luther. Casper used this historical background as perspective for a discussion of freedoms and responsibilities that should guide today's universities.
He further expanded on Hutten during a Founders' Day speech in 1993, pointing out that Hutten also had his faults - that he was an "impatient" man and that "he tended to classify people into friends and enemies, angels and devils." Casper critically noted that "judgment . . . that is not based on making every effort at understanding, including understanding the context, is no more than an exercise in arrogance."
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