Some readers of this blog may have attended one of the Young Rhetoricians’ Conferences sometime since 1984, when Gabielle Rico and Hans Guth founded the conference on writing and rhetoric for two-year and four-year college teachers. When I first attended the conference in the ‘80s it was held at San Jose State, where both Gabby and Hans taught, but in 1994 the conference moved to Monterey Peninsula College and met—often literally—on the beach in Monterey Bay. This year’s event was held, in fact, at a beach-front hotel and convened by President Kelly Harrison.
YRC has always been a small, intimate conference, with plenty of time to sit around a fireplace or walk along the beach sharing information and wisdom with colleagues, and this one certainly lived up to that reputation. I spent a fascinating two hours in one small group, where members spoke frankly about the challenges they face every day, of dwindling resources, of growing class sizes, of massive dependency on part-time faculty, of administrators who seem to do nothing but focus on some ever receding bottom line. In spite of these difficulties, every person in this circle was deeply committed to teaching, and every person spoke passionately about the students they were so very glad to be teaching. I soaked up the warmth of this conversation and came away filled with admiration for the teachers there.
I heard inspiring talks from the inimitable Sheridan Blau, from Cheryl Hogue Smith, Kimberly Russell, and Kim Flachmann; from Amanda Reyes, Sravani Banerjee, and Huma Saleem; and I clapped long and hard when long-time YRC leader Sterling Brown was given a special award for his decades of leadership in the organization. I was reminded, once again, of how fortunate I am to have been a part of this community of scholars and teachers for most of my career.
During the conference, I had the chance to deliver the plenary address, and I had been looking forward to it for months, not only because I was getting to speak about what’s most on my mind these days, but also because I was going to receive the group’s award for 2018. Now deep into my 70s, I was absolutely delighted that I was going to get what I thought would be The Young Rhetorician of the Year Award. But no. No matter how much I would have liked that label, the award I received was, more appropriately, just the plain old Rhetorician of the Year Award. Hope springs eternal, I suppose. . . Here I am (above) at the conference with the award. I am very grateful to everyone who made this possible!
I’ll write more about the address I gave, so stay tuned.