Think. See. Feel. with Council Chair Cindy Brodhead

Brodhead with Council vice-chair Richard Schramm

Think. See. Feel.

The North Carolina Humanities Council marks its 40th anniversary in 2012. To celebrate that milestone, every month we will ask friends and partners to respond, within the context of the humanities, to these three single-word prompts:           THINK. SEE. FEEL.

Cynthia Brodhead

As the spouse of the President of Duke University, Cindy Brodhead enjoys volunteering with university and community groups.  She is a member of the advisory boards of Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art and Sarah P. Duke Gardens, where she also volunteers as a horticulture assistant. In addition to the North Carolina Humanities Council, she serves on the boards of directors of the East Durham Children’s Initiative, Self-Help Credit Union, Carolina Ballet and Preservation North Carolina. A passionate student of literature and history, she is a magna cum laude graduate of Syracuse University and has a master’s degree in English literature from Yale University as well as a J.D. from the University of Connecticut. Before moving to North Carolina in 2004, she practiced corporate and regulatory law in Connecticut for many years.
Think. See. Feel. with Cindy Brodhead

My term as chair of the North Carolina Humanities Council began October 1, and my opening act was at the Caldwell Award Ceremony at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina on October 5.  Betty Ray McCain, a long-time advocate for the humanities and the arts in North Carolina, received the award, and Governor Jim Hunt, our “education governor” and one of my personal culture heroes, gave the Caldwell Lecture.  Both Mrs. McCain and Governor Hunt spoke eloquently of the experiences and values that motivate them to work to make the humanities, and good education generally, more accessible to all North Carolinians. 

These performances caused me to reflect on what a strong tradition we have in this state of people standing up for thinking, seeing, and feeling. Surely that is one of the jobs of the North Carolina Humanities Council—to create and to perpetuate occasions for seeing, thinking, and feeling, and to support those who can help all of us see, think, and feel with greater clarity, comprehension, and generosity.

Some of those who have preceded me in this space have written movingly about what seeing, thinking, and feeling have meant in their own personal lives.  We all have such stories, and they’re always fascinating. But I have a different purpose in mind.  I’d like to climb up on my soapbox and speak about support for the humanities.  It is absolutely clear to me that, highly educated or not, if we cultivate our ability to see, to think and to feel, we will lead richer, more meaningful lives. And yet, as the lives of Betty Ray McCain and Governor Jim Hunt show us, something else is needed.  Seeing, thinking, and feeling are incomplete—I might even say they are wasted—unless they are accompanied by a few more “other-directed” activities: speaking, listening, and sharing, to list a few.  These activities enable othersto see, think, and feel.  The humanities—and perhaps especially my personal favorites—literature and history—enable us to relate our personal experiences to the shared experience that constitutes community.  Without support for that work, our communities are impoverished in more than the economic sense of the word.


But that won’t happen as long as we have Betty McCain, and Jim Hunt, and whoever leads the next generation of advocates for the humanities in North Carolina.  If you’re reading this, I hope you will join me in speaking, writing, and supporting the humanities in our state. Let’s make sure that all of the people of North Carolina have access to the resources for thinking, seeing, and feeling that have made our own lives satisfying. 

(Pictured Above: Brodhead with Betty Ray McCain and former Governor Jim Hunt at the 2012 Caldwell Award Ceremony on October 5th.)