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President Crossman Honors Alfred Adler’s Life and Legacy

University News | 02.10.20

Adler University President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D., reflects on the teachings of Alfred Adler, the first community psychologist, in celebration of what would have been his 150th birthday. Read Dr. Crossman’s message to Adler University students, faculty, and staff.

February 7 was Alfred Adler’s 150th birthday. I encourage all of us to take the opportunity of this occasion to reflect on his legacy. More than our university’s namesake, Adler informs everything we do, from our mission and core values to our curriculum and community engagement work.

As members of the Adler community, you understand his revolutionary idea of gemeinschaftsgefühl—which serves as the cornerstone of our University—as well as Adler’s view of humanity. One is only as healthy as one’s community, and indeed only as healthy as the least healthy person within one’s community. People only become healthy by, as he said, having the “courage to face life” and “contribute.”

In 1870, Adler was born into a vastly different world than the one in which we live in today. But so many of his teachings are truer today than the day he shared them. For example, in an interview we recently discovered in an archive, Adler endorsed in 1936 the then unpopular idea that a woman would serve well as a nation’s Chief Executive—a glass ceiling that Canada did not break until 1993 and one that the Unites States still has not broken.

We live in a time of great uncertainty. Strongman leaders are grabbing power around the world, reversing decades of movement toward greater democracy. Xenophobia and racism often divides us, and we often turn away from the challenges of inclusion and equity.

Adler wrote in 1935 that we must “work against nationalism when it is so poorly understood that it harms mankind as a whole; against wars of conquest, revenge, and prestige; against unemployment which plunges people into hopelessness; and against all other obstacles which interfere with the spreading of social interest in the family, the school, and society at large.”

Despite the global challenges we face today, I have hope for the future. In 1933, Adler stated, “Periodically, in the past, the world has experienced slumps, spiritual slumps. But out of every one of these slumps have risen thinking teachers, who showed the lesson of the disaster. We are right now in the midst of another of those spiritual slumps.” Those words could have been written today—by any of you—and have been just as true. At Adler we are stepping up to serve as these thinking teachers—to move toward justice and to unite, rather than divide, communities.

Adler University students, alumni, faculty, and staff are bringing Adler’s ideas to life every day. I’m proud to work alongside you to carry on Adler’s legacy and advance social justice around the world.

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