Emory's Response

From the President

For more than two centuries, the notion that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” has been repeated often—most succinctly by the abolitionist Wendell Phillips. The vigilance of some sparked a vigorous response to my message in the winter issue of Emory Magazine. Many wrote to me in disappointment and anger. I am sorry for the pain caused by my not communicating more clearly my own beliefs, and I have asked forgiveness from those hurt or confused by my clumsiness and insensitivity.

Those who admonished me were right. For one thing, my ill-chosen example of compromise violated one of my own principles in communication—it used language that pushed readers away, rather than, as I intended, inviting them into conversation. Certainly, I do not consider slavery anything but heinous, repulsive, repugnant, and inhuman. I should have stated that fact clearly in my essay. Better still, I should have used another example.

Those who took exception to my reference to the three-fifths compromise were right to do so also for the sake of a larger discourse. Our national progress on issues of fundamental freedoms for all is far from complete. The three-fifths compromise cannot be spoken of as an inert artifact from our past; its place in our nation’s founding document, though superseded by amendment, reminds us that stewards of power and authority often neglect the voiceless among us. The vigilant were right to sound their alarms, recalling for all of us our responsibilities on behalf of a better society. I, for one, am grateful.

James Wagner, president

From the Editors

On behalf of the editorial staff of Emory Magazine, I add my personal regret to the apology that President Wagner has already extended for citing the “three-fifths compromise” in our winter 2013 issue. I say personal because the work of producing the university’s alumni magazine is a personal joy, as well as a professional privilege, for me and for the others on its staff. I believe that readers familiar with President Wagner’s columns from issue to issue would agree that they are particularly thoughtful and represent a genuine effort to engage our audience of alumni and friends. In this case, the editors failed to adequately consider the offense that the example would cause many valued readers. We offer our renewed commitment to editorial sensitivity as well as journalistic quality.

Paige Parvin, editor