Photo by Sean Jeter/The Siskiyou
John Frohnmayer, former National Endowment for the Arts chair, spoke last Monday in the Rogue River room.
"A book is a loaded gun in the house next door."
The words of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" were the central focus of a lecture sponsored by "Jackson County Reads: One Book, One Community" at SOU last Monday.
"If our society chooses to revoke its personal freedoms, would this be a violation of the First Amendment?" John Frohnmayer asked the audience as he opened his lecture, "No Read, No Think, No Democracy." His response was short and direct, "No."
"We have a constitutional crisis," said Frohnmayer, the former National Endowment for the Arts chair. According to Frohnmayer, the crisis stems from irresponsible administration and a mystification of the American public. Much like Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," a lack of change may lead to serious consequences.
"In the words of Sophocles, 'are we screwed?'" Frohnmayer asked. He asserts, however, that positive change is possible.
In order to prevent restrictions on liberties, Frohnmayer argued for the necessity of liberal education and appreciation for literature in today's society.
"Liberal education is a discovery … a window to self- knowledge and a prerequisite to success," Frohnmayer said. He had compiled a list of fundamental principles that are integral to a progressive society. Some of the principles included the necessity for critical thinking, the definition of terms in public debate, the protection of scientific research and, most importantly, the preservation of liberal education.
Frohnmayer called all the audience members to action saying, "Fahrenheit 451" is about "individual and collective freedom … this is everyone's fight. It has been since our country's beginning."
Paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit.Purposefully, Bradbury's novel focuses on a fireman named Guy Montag whose job is to burn books. The novel chronicles his struggle against censorship and his fight for the importance of literature. Published in 1953, Bradbury's novel marked the merge of science fiction into mainstream culture. In recent years, novels such as Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" and George Orwell's "1984" have been used as insights into today's evolving culture.
According to the "Jackson County Reads: One Book, One Community" brochure, "Fahrenheit 451" was selected "because of its importance to an informed and well-read society."
"Jackson County Reads: One Book, One Community" is sponsored by Jackson County Library Services and the Jackson County Library Foundation. The purpose of the project is to encourage the community to engage in reading and discussing a work of fiction. The Jackson County Library foundation's newsletter, "Reaching for Excellence," asserts that when a community reads the same book, the group "celebrates reading and literacy."
The inspiration for the event originated from the closure of all Jackson County Libraries from April to Oct. of 2007. According to the "Reaching for Excellence" newsletter, after the reopening of the libraries, "many people commented that they had taken the library for granted. Like Guy Montag, the protagonist of 'Fahrenheit 451,' they never realize how important it was to have open access to books and information."
The event culminated from April 13 to April 19, with discussions and lectures similar to Frohnmayer's throughout Jackson County.
According to Frohnmayer, the job of collection and appreciation for knowledge derived from literature is essential to those invested in societal change.
Quoting a rebel who memorizes books in Bradbury's novel, Frohnmayer said, "'We are the dust jackets.' This is a message for liberal education."
For more information on Jackson County Library Services and the Jackson County Library Foundation, visit www.jcls.org.