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I also think that what our students get out of the arts and humanities is critical for them to develop a sense that is much bigger than the quantitative aspects of a problem to understanding human complexity. So, I think every day we are preparing young people to tackle the troubles of the world. I don't think that John Sloan dickey ever meant that we were going directly fix the troubles of the world. I think what he meant and what I quote him as saying is ‘The worlds' trouble are your troubles.' But since the worst troubles of the world come from the hearts of men and at that time there were only men on campus, there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings can not fix.

1) I'm having trouble understanding the sentence in bold type. It doesn't make any sense to me at all. I understood each part of sentence separately, but I'm not sure how they combine together and make sense logically.

2) Does the word 'men' in the phrase 'at that time there were only men on campus' mean males?

  • If it doesn't mean male, what else would only men mean in this context? Schools don't enroll other species, so what could they have been contrasting with? The first defininition of man in the dictionary is an adult human male. – Barmar May 20 '15 at 15:50
  • @Barmar the word 'men' is used twice in the above sentence. It sounds weird to me that Jim Yong Kim(world bank president) argues the worst troubles of the world come from the hearts of male. – InfimumMaximum May 24 '15 at 10:29
  • Then what do you think he meant? It seems like he's suggesting that women are "better human beings". – Barmar May 24 '15 at 10:33
  • I suppose he could be saying that we won't solve our problems until we transcend beyond current mankind. – Barmar May 24 '15 at 10:34
  • @Barmar , have a look at the answers to see that it is not a case of comparing men & women. It is simply a case of using "men" to mean "humans". – Prem May 28 '15 at 16:35
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The quotation in the OP's question comes from the transcript of a WCAX radio interview with Jim Yong Kim, then president of Dartmouth College, on December 24, 2010. Kim became president of the World Bank in March 2012. The excerpted paragraph appears in the midst of a longer response to a question about the involvement of the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science in relieving the post-earthquake health crisis in Haiti. Here's the full question and answer, for context:

Sullivan: I think a tangible example of that [Kim's interest in encouraging Dartmouth students to go into the field of global health] is what is going on in Haiti right now. Partners in Health has been there, is still there. Is that the kind of influence we could see more of in the future?

Kim: Well you know the Haiti project was based on a ‘once in every 200 years' disaster. The earthquake just devastated a country that could least afford it, the country that could least afford it in the western hemisphere. and the response of Dartmouth students and faculty and the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center has been extraordinary and we kept it up, especially now with the cholera outbreak.

We are continuing to support efforts in Haiti and I think that will continue as long as we are helpful but we are not going to be in the business of going after every disaster in the world. There are many other colleges and universities and organizations that do it much better than we do. This was something that was quite spontaneous. Really wonderful to watch, but it is not a pattern that we are necessarily going to repeat in every country that has a disaster.

I also think that what our students get out of the arts and humanities is critical for them to develop a sense that is much bigger than the quantitative aspects of a problem to understanding human complexity. So, I think every day we are preparing young people to tackle the troubles of the world. I don't think that John Sloan [D]ickey ever meant that we were going directly fix the troubles of the world. I think what he meant and what I quote him as saying is ‘The worlds' trouble are your troubles.' But since the worst troubles of the world come from the hearts of men and at that time there were only men on campus, there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings can not fix.

So, some of the things that we do like the healthcare delivery science are going to be directly useful. But what we really do is: we are about building the better human beings who are going to tackle those troubles in a way that we have never seen before.

I think the critical piece to building those human beings is a broad liberal arts education where you get really in-depth in subject matter but then you also study Greek literature and you also study philosophy and you are forced to take a studio art class. Those are the kind of human beings that I think the world needs to tackle the world's troubles[.]

John Sloan Dickey, whose name appears midway through the crucial paragraph, was president of Dartmouth from 1945 to 1970, and was noted for his sensitivity to social issues outside the walls of academia. During his tenure as college president, he founded various programs that attempted to connect Dartmouth students to real-world problems of the time, and I get the impression that Kim saw himself as following in the tradition of Dickey's activism.

According to a January 27, 2007, article in Vox of Dartmouth (which calls itself "The Newspaper for the Dartmouth Faculty and Staff"), Dickey in a 1946 convocation address told students:

The world's troubles are your troubles...and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.

It thus appears that Kim was riffing on that quotation with the WCAX interviewer. Unfortunately, the point, nature, and extent of the original quotation got garbled by the interview transcriber's handling of Kim's parenthetical remark about the all-male student body of Dartmouth in 1946. To put it bluntly, the transcriber utterly failed to represent that portion of Kim's remarks accurately, owing to a spectacular misapplication of simple punctuation marks.

Here, I think, is how the transcriber should have rendered the paragraph in order to make Kim's meaning reasonably intelligible:

I also think that what our students get out of the arts and humanities is critical for them to develop a sense that is much bigger than the quantitative aspects of a problem, to understanding human complexity. So, I think, every day we are preparing young people to tackle the troubles of the world. I don't think that John Sloan Dickey ever meant that we were going [to] directly fix the troubles of the world. I think what he meant, and what I quote him as saying, is ‘The world's troubles are your troubles. But since the worst troubles of the world come from the hearts of men'—and at that time, there were only men on campus—'there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.'

The crucial changes in my version are (1) the use of em-dashes to break out the parenthetical phrase "and at that time, there were only men on campus"; (2) the extension of the quotation beginning "The world's troubles are your troubles," so that, instead of ending there, it continues all the way to the end of the phrase "hearts of men"; and (3) the resumption of the quotation to encompass "there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix." To accomplish these things I introduced the following changes in punctuation: (a) two new em-dashes, (b) a relocated close quotation mark, and (c) an additional pair of quotation marks. As Mari-Lou A observes elsewhere, I could have used parentheses instead of em-dashes to achieve goal (1) above, but in this particular situation I like the visual jolt of the dashes.

The point of Kim's interpolation about there having been only men on Dartmouth's campus in 1946 wasn't to emphasize that the world's troubles come from the hearts of men (as opposed to the hearts of women) and therefore that better human beings (women) can fix the world. Rather, it was to defend retroactively (and anachronistically) Dickey's use of "men" to mean "human beings"—on the shaky grounds that he was addressing an audience composed entirely of male human beings.

It's an odd tangent to go off on, but it's the sort of thing that people say in unrehearsed interviews. The much more serious problem here relates to the radio station's transcription of the spoken interview. The transcriber should have noticed that something weird was going on toward the end of that paragraph and should have done a little research to figure out who John Sloan Dickey was, what he had said, and what Kim was trying to say about those two things. That may seem like a lot to ask of a humble interview transcriber, but it took me only 15 to 20 minutes of online research to work out what was going on, so I have little sympathy for the inadequate job the transcriber did.

One thing that we can all take away from this episode is a renewed awareness of how important punctuation is and how potentially harmful it can be to a correct understanding of a person's transcribed remarks. Though punctuation may not be a matter of grammar, as we often read on this site, it can produce completely misleading grammatically correct statements when incorrectly applied to a person's spoken words. So don't take it lightly: In writing, punctuation is an extremely powerful and often underestimated tool in an author's (or editor's or transcriber's) hands.

  • You could place in bold the "punctuation marks" the transcriber omitted, I'd be curious to hear the original interview, would it have been clearer where the citation ended and began again. – Mari-Lou A May 28 '15 at 6:33
  • Yes, is the answer. You can distinctively hear the pause and the tone of the voice shifting from 2.49 in the taped interview to 3.03. – Mari-Lou A May 28 '15 at 6:42
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    @Mari-Lou A: I'm glad to hear it. I don't have a Flash player on my computer, so I haven't heard the actual recorded interview. My analysis was based entirely on what Dickey is supposed to have said originally—the content of which I've been able to find only in the the partial version reported by the Dartmouth newspaper (and a number of other news outlets)—and what it would have made sense for Kim to mean to say here. – Sven Yargs May 28 '15 at 7:04
  • I just want to thank Mari-Lou A for some constructive suggestions (now deleted ) that she made with regard to fine-tuning this answer. – Sven Yargs May 28 '15 at 8:06
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Here the writer is not comparing men and women.

He (or somebody whom he is quoting) is using "men" to mean "men and women", and he is clarifying that thought.


This answer has two parts : a general response, followed by a specific response.

This is what he wanted to say:

"... what our students get out of the arts and humanities ... But since the worst troubles of the world come from the hearts of men, there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings can not fix."

He is using the word "men" to cover "men & women" or "humans".

Now, somebody, worrying about political correctness, may say (or he may have had an afterthought) that : Why do you use the word "men" ? Why not "men or women" , why not "human" or why not "humankind" ?

In his own afterthought, he added the reason : "at that time there were only men on campus".

This is what he finally said:

"... what our students get out of the arts and humanities ... But since the worst troubles of the world come from the hearts of men and at that time there were only men on campus, there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings can not fix."

This is what he should have said:

"... what our students get out of the arts and humanities ... But since the worst troubles of the world come from the hearts of human beings, there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings can not fix."

After having said "men", this is what he could have said in afterthought:

"... what our students get out of the arts and humanities ... But since the worst troubles of the world come from the hearts of men and I use the word "men", not to exclude women, but because at that time there were only men on campus, there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings can not fix."


From comments, I see that there is some background to this situation, which is not available in the question. So the previous part of this answer is a general response, while the following part is a specific response to that historical artifact.

This question has a quote of a transcription of an interview where a speaker quoted somebody else, but inserted a comment in the middle. In all of this manipulation, some meaning was lost by bad transcription.

What the transcriber should have written is:

"I think what he meant and what I quote him as saying is ‘The worlds' trouble are your troubles. But since the worst troubles of the world come from the hearts of men [ and at that time there were only men on campus ] there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings can not fix.'"

Refer : http://writingcommons.org/open-text/research-methods-methodologies/integrate-evidence/incorporate-evidence/453-inserting-or-altering-words-in-a-direct-quotation

  • This is a thoughtful analysis, but it doesn't address the fact that the phrase "and at that time there were only men on campus" appears in the midst of the speaker's attempted quotation of a speech made by another person 54 years earlier. The person who originally referred to "the hearts of men" was not Jim Yong Kim, the person being interviewed in 2010, but John Sloan Dickey, in a speech given in 1946. – Sven Yargs May 28 '15 at 7:12
  • @SvenYargs , Was "at that time there were only men" said by Dickey or by Kim ? If by Dickey, then why would he say "at that time" referring to his present ? If by Kim, then he is clarifying what "men" means, which is what I am reclarifying. I am not aware of the history of this situation and I gave my interpretation only the basis of English and Human Nature. If Kim was quoting Dickey, then he should do it verbatim and then add his clarifying comments. – Prem May 28 '15 at 7:18
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    Again, it all happened in a radio interview, so Kim was speaking extemporaneously. Kim launched into a famous quote by Dickey, beginning with "The world's troubles are your troubles," but then, when he got to the "hearts of men" language, he interrupted the quote to explain why Dickey said "men" and not "human beings" there; then Kim returned to Dickey's original quote to complete it. What confused the OP is that the transcript ends the Dickey quotation at the first sentence ("are your troubles") and attributes everything else to Kim. For further thoughts on what happened, see my answer. – Sven Yargs May 28 '15 at 7:27
  • Listen to the original recording, you can hear the pause made by the speaker to clarify that the term "men" was used because the campus was only attended by men, a parenthesis if you like, and when the citation then continues. I might have placed and at that time there were only men on campus in parenthesis, but dashes do the job fine too. – Mari-Lou A May 28 '15 at 7:33
  • @Mari-LouA , So this question has a quote of a transcription of an interview where a speaker quoted somebody else, but inserted a comment. In all of this, some meaning was lost. OK, I will add a section to my answer for this specific historical artifact. ( english.stackexchange.com/questions/240984/lost-in-punctuation seems somewhat related ) – Prem May 28 '15 at 9:04
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Yes, the word means male. To put it in context, there was a time when certain institutions (not just universities) did not allow women to be involved, and this is what is being implied.

The writer does not refer to men as opposed to, for example, boys, or to animals. Here, the writer juxtaposes men with women.

  • Still, the sentence in bold typing doesn't make sense to me. – InfimumMaximum May 24 '15 at 10:15

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