Senators, Alumni, and Guests,

Welcome to this first meeting of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies. I think I’ll give a short introduction since there are a lot of guests here.

You might be wondering why I’m wearing this hat. It doesn’t really fit me; in fact, if I wear it it slides to the back of my head. And the reason I’m wearing this is because it’s a tradition.

The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies have been existing now for two hundred and eighteen years. And, as a result, over the course of these two hundred and eighteen years, we’ve developed a number of traditions. Traditions that may seem strange, odd, and sometimes uncomfortable for us.

I’d like to explain a little bit about why we’re here. We’ve been here two hundred and eighteen years, and as a result, we’re really a part of this university’s history. In the past, we’ve debated whether slavery is something that’s morally right.

Now, though, we can’t accept these traditions mindlessly. In the South, especially, of all regions, history is something we can’t accept blindly. It’s something that we have to wear uncomfortably.

Who today aspires to be  the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, as Thomas Ruffin was, who decided that over twenty percent of North Carolina’s population was simply the property of another small percentage of the population? Who today would agree with the dean of the medical school who limited the percentage of Jewish students to 10% because he thought there were way too many Jewish applicants? There are a number of things about this history that we cannot accept blindly or we cannot agree with. And few today would agree with those things.

This is why I wear this hat; because it’s a tradition. But maybe it’s a good thing that this hat doesn’t fit. Because our history is something that doesn’t fit.

We do some things that are very strange.  We meet for long meetings every Monday, in order to debate and to think about things critically.  We remember this history–but we do so very critically, and I’d like you to remember that tonight.

So I welcome you to the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, and I hereby call to order the first regular meeting of the 219th year of the Societies.

(Address originally given by Joint Senate President Isaac Warshauer at the beginning of the first meeting of the 219th year of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies)