I RECENTLY HAD the great pleasure of attending the St. Andrew's Society of Savannah annual banquet, the first time I'd ever gotten an invite to that event sponsored by the fine organization devoted to perpetuating local Scottish heritage.
That's a lot of heritage by the way -- the banquet just marked its 275th year. Yup, if you're keeping count, that's way older than the United States itself.
The Scots influence on Georgia history is indeed immense and goes back to the first years of the colony's founding. By contrast, the first meeting of the Hibernian Society of Savannah, the main Irish heritage organization here, wasn't held until 1812.
Anyway, to answer everyone's first two questions: Yes, I ate the haggis, and no it actually wasn't bad at all. Certainly the hot Scotch poured over the top helped.
More to the point, I had something vaguely close to an epiphany. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the whiskey talking -- though I will add tangentially that the Society's method of simply putting self-serve liters of Dewar's and Maker's Mark on each table is a brilliant and brutally elegant idea, and one that should be widely emulated.
The epiphany came during a speech by Dr. Harold Coulter Warlick Jr., professor of religion and philosophy at High Point University, N.C. (technically his talk was a "Response" to our toast to "The Pious and Immortal Memory of St. Andrew.")
Warlick said that during his entire teaching career he's opened every semester or quarter with the same question to his students: "Who can tell me the names of all your grandparent's parents?"
He said that in over 30 years of teaching, not a single student -- and Warlick has taught at Harvard and many other schools in addition to High Point -- has ever been able to do so.
Warlick was not trying to point out the cluelessness of modern youth; far from it. He was pointing out the importance of keeping the history of your family alive, and the exquisite fragility of that history. Keeping that history alive also means keeping your own memory alive.
He said -- and I paraphrase -- "it certainly puts things in perspective to realize that no matter how much you accomplish, no matter how much money you have or how good you are at what you do... your great-grandchildren probably won't have any idea who the hell you were."
Scottish culture being explicitly based on familial ties, Scots are already extraordinarily attuned to the importance of knowing one's genealogy and family history. So to a certain extent he was preaching to the choir. Indeed, minutes before Warlick's talk I had been chatting with a tablemate about the exact same subject.
But to hear the value of heritage put so succinctly had enormous impact, and I wasn't alone in thinking so. Personally I was motivated to renew some previous efforts, shared by other members of my family, to further research and chronicle our own past -- and more importantly, to pass that knowledge on to the next generations.
Another quick note: We want you to know that the great Charlie Ribbens took the awesome photographs of Alexandra Theodoropoulos in last week's issue (and on our Week at a Glance page this week.) She plays the title character in Collective Face's production of Oscar Wilde's Salome at Muse Arts Warehouse. Arts & Entertainment Editor Bill DeYoung is doing a magnificent job as King Herod in the production, which continues this weekend.