Envisioning Good for All

What is the common good?

Of course, asking that question leads to a slew of others: what group of people does the common good encompass; how do we pursue the common good; and that timeless inquiry: what is goodness itself?

We ponder these questions and more as we embark on a year of discovering what the common good is and how to pursue it. As this theme overlaps with the public humanities, we acknowledge that the humanities as a field has not always had common good in mind, as Gregory Jay reminds us. It has, in past and present, fostered practices that exclude perspectives not only valuable but crucial to a holistic understanding of shared humanity.

Projects like “Spaces of Fear”  link us to a hostile reality for African-Americans as they attempted to find places that would accept them, specifically in the twentieth century.

In the present, we face the crisis of immigration as people who bear the label of immigrant are not included in the pursuit of the common good of the country.

As many voices are apt to say, current social and political conditions make it difficult to find commonality among us.

Last year, the Center for Public Humanities urged people to consider the concept of home, of a space, a time, and a feeling that defined belonging. That got us thinking about hospitality: about taking the space one occupies and opening it up to others. For us, making the humanities public is about opening up our home and welcoming others in.

So as we transition into a new year, we hold the thought of hospitality in tandem with the common good. We will work with young students in Harrisburg, encouraging them to use their voices in poetry.

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Students in a Poetry in Place workshop

We will make connections with local churches that carry with them rich histories and share those with the community.

Continuing in the vein of history, we will add to our knowledge of those who came before us through the Digital Harrisburg initiative and build upon a new education initiative to remember the educators who influenced the city in the past and connect with the ones who impact it today.

These are just some interpretations that emerge from the intersection between the common good and the public humanities. We invite you to add your own and join the conversation as we embark on a year of the Common Good.


This image by Stiller Beobachter, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

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