The following piece was written by Rev. Joseph P. Marchese, Boston College’s Director of First-Year Experience in support of Colum McCann and his novel Let The Great World Spin: A Novel (Random House Trade Paperbacks, November 2009):
In September 2011, Boston College hosted author Colum McCann and featured his novel Let the Great World Spin at the University’s First Year Academic Convocation. This event is a rich tradition at Boston College, assembling the freshmen class in its totality for the first time, and tasking students with the charge to “Go, set the world aflame!” in the spirit of Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Convocation speakers have featured authors, politicians, and other leaders including Dr. Paul Farmer, Tracy Kidder, Senator John McCain, Jeanette Walls, Ann Patchett, Bill Strickland, and in 2005, then Senator of Illinois, Barack Obama.
McCann’s book was selected by an interdisciplinary book committee comprised of Boston College professors and administrators through a rigorous process spanning several months. Ultimately, Let the Great World Spin was chosen for its poignant exploration of love, hope, redemption, the interconnectedness of humanity, and the revelation of God’s Grace even under the most desperate of circumstances.
Addressing the Boston College Class of 2015 just days after the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Mr. McCann said, “Much of what I wanted to do with my novel Let the Great World Spin was to find value and grace and meaning and, I hope, recovery, in the ongoing thrum of the world. While much of the book may seem to be about a tightrope walk across the space between the World Trade Center towers, the real core of the book is the intersection of the tiny tightropes that we all walk, sometimes a foot off the ground, sometimes a quarter of a mile in the sky.” His charge to the class was to have faith, to be courageous, to embrace hardship, and to be fiercely kind to one another. As beautifully lyrical as the book itself, Colum McCann’s address was sincere, inspiring, and wonderfully human. Moved to chills and tears, the audience met his speech with profound ovation.
Prior to Convocation itself, Mr. McCann participated in a roundtable discussion with faculty and administrators from across the University and graciously shared insights about his book, career, and life with all those in attendance. The dialogue was warm and inviting, a preview of the exceptional delivery he would make that evening. For his gentle demeanor, compelling story, and eloquent command of words, Colum McCann made the 2011 First Year Academic Convocation an event that Boston College and its soaring eagles will not soon forget.
Colum McCann is a guest speaker at Random House’s Tenth Annual Luncheon during the 2014 Conference on the First-Year Experience® in San Diego, California.