Now in its 17th year, PSU’s annual PSU Weekend was held Thursday to Saturday, with a series of free lectures and other events to promote the university, honor PSU alumni and take a look at local and global issues. Organized by the PSU alumni association, this year’s seminar focused on travel, global culture and diversity. In order to help accomplish this, PSU enlisted travel writer Paul Theroux to deliver the weekend event’s keynote address.
Now in its 17th year, PSU’s annual PSU Weekend was held Thursday to Saturday, with a series of free lectures and other events to promote the university, honor PSU alumni and take a look at local and global issues.
Organized by the PSU alumni association, this year’s seminar focused on travel, global culture and diversity. In order to help accomplish this, PSU enlisted travel writer Paul Theroux to deliver the weekend event’s keynote address.
Saturday’s schedule of events featured several seminars on topics such as a history of food and cooking in Portland, and how gender strategies were used by Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov. Sarah Palin in their respective presidential election campaigns.
The event also featured a global marketplace, set up on the second floor of the Smith Memorial Student Union, on Saturday featuring fair trade goods for purchase through Global Sistergoods, the JFR Foundation and the Nicaragua Service Project.
The kickoffThe event kicked off last Friday in the newly renovated Shattuck Hall, with a recognition dinner and preview of the weekend’s events. The catered preview dinner had about 60 attendees and featured a speech by Wim Wiewel on the university’s commitment to sustainability, as well as a live jazz band.
Theroux was also present at the kickoff, entertaining the audience with tales of his travels.
The idea of traveling, or to “take a journey,” is one that PSU wanted to stress because it would keep attendees thinking about other topics besides current events, said Jim Turner, a member of PSU’s Alumni Association.
“We knew this was an election-saturated year, and we wanted to move away from the election politics,” Turner said.
As a travel writer, Theroux would capture the audience’s attention and take them places besides national politics, he said.
Taking a journeyPaul Theroux, travel author and keynote speaker at this year’s annual PSU Alumni Appreciation Weekend, gave his address Saturday, addressing a packed audience in the Smith Memorial Student Union on everything from his political views to his world travels.
Theroux has written both fiction and nonfiction, but is best known for his travel writing–most notably his book The Great Railway Bazaar, which chronicles his journey by train from England to Japan and back.
During his keynote, referenced several well-known writers such as Joseph Conrad, Robert Frost and Henry David Thoreau, as well as relating his own experiences in world travel.
In particular, Theroux said he has been affected by his experiences in Africa.
“It’s a gift of sight as you grow older, to be able to see what has become of a place after you first visit it,” said Theroux, referring to changes in Africa due to continued efforts from relief organizations like the American Red Cross and Oxfam International.
Theroux, who taught students in the African country of Malawi as a member of the Peace Corps from 1963-65, said he has always wanted to go back.
“I have a hankering for going back to Africa,” Theroux said. “I planted a tree there when it was just a sapling, and I want to see what happened to that tree.”
Theroux also related the story of when he was able to meet Barack Obama in Hawaii, years before he had gained the national spotlight.
Obama was “the most charismatic and relatable politician I’ve ever met in my life,” Theroux said.
Overall, Theroux stressed the importance of travel through his own experiences.
“Travel isn’t just about going away, it’s the return journey,” Theroux , 67, said. “A traveler doesn’t know where he’s going, and a tourist doesn’t know where he’s been.”
An American writer most often identified by his travel writing, PSU Weekend keynote speaker Paul Theroux has written several pieces of nonfiction and fiction. Aside from The Great Railway Bazaar, Theroux is also known for his 1981 novel The Mosquito Coast.