Duke University Alumni Magazine

Is the Northern Ireland settlement reached on Good Friday likely to hold?

Not to be overly cautious, it depends to some degree on what is meant by "hold." One point that needs to be remembered is what, after all, is the comparatively low level of actual deaths. The 3,200 deaths that occurred since the onset of the "Troubles" in 1967 would fit very comfortably into the annual homicide rate of any sizable American city. Since about the mid-1970s, the violence has been largely contained within a few blocks of Belfast and other Northern Ireland cities; apart from the immediate border areas, the rural areas have hardly been involved. Moreover, since the IRA's resumption of violence in 1996, the violence has been largely restricted to the bombing of Center City Manchester and a couple of other spectacular examples of "propaganda by deed" on the British mainland. In Northern Ireland itself, a few individual killings--but not much else.

I do not expect the settlement to "hold" in the sense of a total cessation of violence. There are too many loose cannons about, IRA and Protestant factions out of control, such as the rebellious elements portrayed in the excellent, recent Irish film The Boxer. On the other hand, I don't think either side will lightly abandon the settlement.

The long-term trends do seem to me to favor "peace" (i.e., a greatly reduced level of violence). These include the obviously growing weariness of ordinary people on both sides of this appalling conflict; the growing willingness of the Irish Republic to assert itself, especially the pledge to remove from its constitution its claim to represent the whole of Ireland; the willingness of the U.S. government to act to deprive the IRA of the financial support that Irish-Americans have historically provided; and the willingness of Tony Blair's Labor government to put more pressure on the Protestants than the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher or John Major were willing to do.

These trends have been evident for a long time. The prospects for "peace" seem substantially more favorable than they did before the agreement. But I also doubt that we have heard the last of the Irish Question.

--John Cell '57, Ph.D. '65, a specialist in modern British and British imperial history, has taught at Duke since 1962

"Terry has always believed that the students are the most important purpose of the university. When I had breakfast with him early in my tenure, that was the first thing that he said to me. And when I went to himÉto ask him about the great bonfire incident this spring, that was what he reminded me again."
--President Nannerl O. Keohane, speaking at a dinner in April that celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Institute of Public Policy and honored Terry Sanford, a week before he died
"It's a tragic loss for the nation, and an especially great loss for Duke University. He really was the person responsible for moving us from a regional, Southern college into this respected, international structure."
--H. Keith H. Brodie, Duke president emeritus, in The Chronicle "One of my best memories of college will always be a university president we were glad to call Uncle."
--Geoff Simmons '85, in a letter to the editor published in The Chronicle "He stood for civil rights, education for all, and progressive economic development. His work and his influence literally changed the face and future of the South, making him one of the most influential Americans of the last fifty years."
--President Bill Clinton, in comments made April 18 at the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile

We asked a dozen first-year students:
What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?

Many current high school seniors --admissions letters proudly in hand--may be wondering what to expect of college life. With two semesters under their collective belt, rising sophomores are more than willing to dole out some advice.

For incoming frosh contemplating the FOCUS program, which allows students to spend their first semester in classes that concentrate on one area of study, some recommend careful consideration. After her first semester in the Twentieth Century America program, Kristen Stenvall warns, "It's too much of one subject. It's limiting in both friendships and the subjects you can take."

Others, however, say the FOCUS program opens many doors that first semester. "Regardless of the subject matter, the opportunity to live and think together about one central issue is invaluable," says Andrea Wong, who participated in the Changing Faces of Russia program. "FOCUS allows freshmen to be a part of Duke's intellectual community and to contribute from the get-go."

How does a lowly first-year adjust outside the classroom? "Get involved right away," Nicole Hess says. "Look into joining groups really early. Jump into community service, or The Chronicle, or the Union, because that helps you meet people. You feel like Duke is home when you're involved."

With all these activities, however, narrowing your choices becomes important, says Kieran McMillen. "Try to adjust as smoothly as possible. Then try to keep your priorities straight. Keep in the back of your mind that you'll never have these four years back, so try to have fun."

Sarah Bell emphasizes that students need to personalize their lifestyles. "You have to learn how to budget time and take care of yourself. Find out when to study and when to party. Make sure you eat and sleep. A lot of people will do things differently than you, but you have to remember to keep your own best interests in mind, and have fun at the same time."

For Colin Kimbrell, the freshman experience defies all forms of advice. "Find it out for yourselves," he advises. "Just be ready for anything."

--compiled by Jaime Levy '01

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