Timothy Vanable

Tim Vanable, RTA, Columbia College ‘24

Date Interviewed: July 26, 2023

Introduce yourself!

I am Tim. I am a rising senior at Columbia College and I'm majoring in American Studies. I'm from Syracuse, New York.

What drew you to work at F&C?

I would say the opportunity to pass on a love for the books that I discovered in my Contemporary Civilizations class. If you guys leave with just a basic interest in philosophy, I think we will have succeeded, even if many of the intricacies of the arguments you will probably forget. I think the opportunity to be a part of that really excited me and I've found that while I've been here.

What is your favorite part of the program?

Probably the late night sessions—not too late, Dr. Lee!—with the boys in my suite when the day is wrapped up, but we're still talking about philosophy somehow and they still have the energy for it. Everybody's more uninhibited than they are in our day-to-day schedules, and everybody's personalities are on full display. I think it's in those times that I really get to know everybody the best and we all just enjoy each other.

What is your favorite reading in the program and why?

I'm going to cheat and select two texts, commonly compared to each other, and that is Pericles’ funeral oration in the History of the Peloponnesian War and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Both are addresses made to a people in the midst of a serious war, in one case, war between Athens and Sparta and the other a civil war. I think they both achieve two things. One, they inspire families of the dead and their countrymen to go on fighting for the cause, for which so many thousands died. Second, they outline the political stakes of the battle, or of their respective battles. Both are really works of political theory, defining what it means to be a good citizen and to live in a democracy. Lincoln, for example, ends with the phrase “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” which came to be a touchstone for Americans for centuries to come and became a succinct definition of what our political system is at its best.

What is one piece of advice that you would like to give to F&C students?

The choice you will be facing with colleges is in a sense everything, but it's also nothing. What I mean by that is that, you know, according to the butterfly effect, you arrive at college and you meet certain people who lead you down certain paths and you make certain professional connections and not others, [and you make] certain friends at one school that you wouldn't get another. On the other hand, I think people's experience of college is often as much a function of their own personality and temperament as it is the specifics of the school they go to. So there are people who bounce from institution to institution transferring, you know, three colleges before they graduate, and they go on and on about how this college was insufficient this way and this college and another way, but really, it's what they bring to the table, I think that makes or breaks their experience. With that in mind, I think it takes some of the pressure off of the decision because much of what will be good about your college life will be your own virtues, and much of what's difficult about college will be your own vices, and those are things that you'll be living with your entire life.

What is one fun fact about you?

Over the last year or so I've taught myself German because I fell in love with the work of Immanuel Kant and wanted to get closer to his ideas. I was studying abroad in England and I did everything I could to connect with German culture. I had no formal training but I was just listening to hours and hours and hours of German TV and podcasts and movies and studying grammar textbooks on my own. I recently passed the advanced German proficiency test downtown at the Goethe Institute and now I'm eligible to apply for post-graduation opportunities in Germany.