Lawrence addresses Indian university audience

Calls on scholars to 'challenge ourselves to imagine a world as it should be'

President Lawrence with C. Raj Kumar, vice chancellor and dean of the law school at O.P. Jindal Global University.

President Fred Lawrence explained Brandeis’ interest in expanding its engagement in India on Feb. 3 as a necessary step to educate students about their own societies as well as the societies of others.

Speaking to a full house at O.P. Jindal Global University outside Delhi, Lawrence declared that “we are able to understand our own societies with greater richness and subtlety by viewing them not in isolation but in comparison to other systems…that are fairly close.”

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He then compared the way the courts of the United States, the United Kingdom and India deal with issues of judicial review of legislation, explaining why the power of the highest court is least in the United Kingdom and greatest in India.

The United States and India, he said, are well paired for comparative study, as they are the world’s largest democracies, have a common language and share commitments to independent courts, free markets and democracy as the source of legitimacy.

“We should not expect the world’s two largest democracies to travel identical paths or reach identical results,” Lawrence said, but they will “have a great deal to teach each other and to learn from each other in the quest to build tolerant and diverse societies…”

He concluded by quoting and discussing author Salman Rushdie’s advice to his fellow fiction writers: “Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world.”

Lawrence said he understood Rushdie to mean that people everywhere should challenge their established wisdom.

“As we aim for the stars, and as we try to do too much, we are keenly aware and deeply grateful that we are not in this alone,” he said. “Together we will indeed keep grinning…Together we can continue to argue with the world, and to challenge ourselves to imagine as world as it should be, as it might yet be.”

The talk, part of the university’s distinguished lecture series, was preceded by two hours of talks with university leaders about their ideas for programming and exchanges on which Brandeis and Jindal might collaborate. Lawrence said several of the suggestions would be conveyed to Brandeis deans for consideration when he returns from India next week.

The sessions were especially informal and free-wheeling because of Lawrence’s friendship with C. Raj Kumar, the university’s vice chancellor and law school dean, whom Lawrence met during his trips to India as dean of George Washington University Law School.

Also on Friday, Lawrence held a breakfast meeting with Israeli Ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz about opportunities for Brandeis to play a role in the rapidly expanding academic cooperation between the countries.

Categories: International Affairs

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