Russell helps audience create a vocabulary of peace at Luchinsky Lecture

Jeff Rice
January 31, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Creating peace, according to Susan Russell, means first looking inward, finding what you want more than anything, and then giving whatever that is to the people around you.

But first, the 2014-15 Penn State laureate and theatre professor said, you have to reach out to those people.

“We are a collection of such experience and a collective of such a lack of knowledge of each other,” Russell said Monday (Jan. 30) at the 22nd Annual Mark Luchinsky Memorial Lecture, held in the Palmer Lipcon Auditorium on the University Park campus. “We are so connected — and we don’t know each other.”

During an 80-minute presentation — “ABCs of Peace: The Power of ‘U’” — that explored themes of bravery, self-assuredness and what she called the “hard-fought” nature of peace, Russell did her best to remedy that, going into the audience several times to interact with individuals she had yet to meet. 

"Susan's ability to inspire an audience is extraordinary," said Schreyer Honors College Interim Dean Kathleen Bieschke. "She reminded us that peace begins within each of us. We can each create spaces and opportunities where by truly seeing one another, meaningful engagement can occur."

Acknowledging that the “world was a different place” Monday than it was when she agreed to speak at the annual event, presented by the Schreyer Honors College, Russell spoke about the importance of taking a breath and of finding peaceful spaces in everyday life.

“What if peace begins with every single decision you make about yourself at every single moment?” Russell asked the audience. “It does not mean that you do not carry your righteous anger. That does not mean that you are disengaged with what is going on in your country.”

Russell said the ancient Greeks talked about the term “space” in three different ways. The first space is what the physical space represented, or what was done there; an arena or museum, for example. The second space was the “space behind the eyes,” a space of reflection. The third space was one of symbolic meaning — what did the space or place mean to the person there. Russell encouraged her audience to see and hear people using their eyes, their minds and their hearts.

“When you’re trying to put together an equation for peace that lasts, those are some good spaces to negotiate,” she said.

Russell also asked for help from the attendees in constructing an alphabet of peace, having them call out words that meant peace to them and began with the letters A, B, C and so on, then using those words to create sentences.

“What if it all comes down to choosing words that define the world you want to live in?” she asked.

As she was speaking, Russell had students writing down key phrases and words that meant peace to her or others in the room, and near the lecture’s end asked students to form mantras using those words.

“Breathe. The sun will rise tomorrow. The world wants you to succeed. Just keep asking questions. I am alive,” was the submission of one student.

“You carry five different people with you in that sentence,” Russell said.

In 2012, Russell won the Penn State Commission for Women’s Achieving Woman Award, and in 2013 she won the Centre County Youth Service Bureau’s Dr. Edward Vogelsong Professional Excellence Award. She was selected as one of the “Faces of Penn State” in 2013.

The Luchinsky Memorial Lecture Series was endowed by family and friends to honor the memory of Mark Luchinsky through the support of a speaker who exemplifies intellectual honesty, personal integrity and joy in learning. Luchinsky was a Schreyer Scholar and biochemistry major who died in 1995 at the age of 20. A native of Pittsburgh who graduated first in his class in 1992 from Thomas Jefferson High School, he was a member of the Penn State Golden Key Society and the Alpha Epsilon Delta Premedical Honor Society. Known for his intellectual honesty and integrity, Luchinsky enjoyed the study of all subjects and loved the classics, sports, poetry, history and geography.

The 2017 Mark Luchinsky Memorial Lecture was co-sponsored by the Presidential Leadership Academy, Hillel, the Multicultural Resource Center and the Schreyer Honors College Student Council, and was an “All In at Penn State” event.

  • Penn State professor Susan Russell

    Susan Russell, Penn State professor of theatre.

    IMAGE: Steve Tressler
Last Updated April 19, 2017