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Cover of the 1985 Griffin

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Debra Ginsberg ’85 is author of the memoirs Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World, and About My Sisters. Her first novel, Blind Submission, was published last year. She lives in San Diego, California.

Debra Ginsberg ’85

Preface to the Introduction
of the 1981 Edition of Plato’s Republic


As you read this, a familiar grey dawn is breaking over Portland and you’ve just pulled another all-nighter in Eliot Hall. Obviously, since you are only just opening this book now, you haven’t accomplished much in terms of studying. However, you are so tired that you probably think you are either dreaming or hallucinating and therefore you may actually take this note seriously. With that in mind, here is some simple advice that I think you will find very useful.

  1. Read this book. In fact, read all the Greeks (I mean really read them) now while you have the time.
  2. Ask questions. Out loud, not in your head.
  3. Try to stop being embarrassed about being young. It’s okay to be sophomoric when you’re actually a sophomore.
  4. Do not confuse insecurity with humility or confidence with intelligence. You think you’re in the minority when you feel ignorant, inept and, worst of all, naïve. But most of your peers feel the same way. The difference is that most of them have a great deal more confidence in their own abilities than you do. You know what you want and who you want to become. In 25 years, your fundamental values are going to be the same as they are today. But your lack of self-confidence is going to cripple you; it will make the road longer and more difficult. It will make you settle for less. So have faith in yourself now. It will be harder to come by later.
  5. Write in your own voice.
  6. Finally, you will never need to use the following words so you can stop trying to make sense of them: anomie, a priori, dichotomy, dialectic, persiflage, and shibboleth.

Carry on,
Your Future Self