UK Diplomat Catherine Arnold visits University

The University of Notre Dame welcomed Catherine Arnold as a guest speaker at the Eck Visitor Center on Sept. 12.

Arnold is a British academic administrator and former UK diplomat. Since Oct. 2019, she has been the Master of St Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge. Arnold is the fifteenth person to hold that post and the first woman.

After being introduced by vice president and associate provost for internationalization, Michael Pippenger, Arnold gave a speech reflecting on the roles of academic institutions and religion in shaping ethical, global leaders.

Arnold used the example of the recently late Queen Elizabeth II of England to reflect on change and constancy.

“’I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,’” she quoted from the British monarch. “Even before taking the reins of power, she proved to be an exemplary leader.”

Arnold said she believed human nature was the primary obstacle to leadership and unity.

“As technology changes all around us, humans remain stubbornly constant,” she told the audience.

She specifically provided one of her alma maters, Cambridge, as an example of how allowing a Catholic influence through its St. Edmund’s college would strangle free thought.

“Both [the church and the college] had a fear of change,” Arnold commented. “It is not enough to hold a world-class degree… indeed, there is more room in educational establishments other than just academic fundamentals.”

She followed by saying that Notre Dame is a leading example of how the combination of mind and heart can be accomplished.

Pippenger said he sees this theme at work in his duties overseeing Notre Dame international gateways and their goal to attract parts of the world not traditionally attracted. He said he calls Notre Dame an “experiment of globalization.”

Through discussion, Arnold and Pippenger said they agreed that by going out into the world and training to be a global citizen, students can recognize how religion plays into education, free speech, public policy, ethical business practice and other areas.

Arnold said she hopes Notre Dame will foster more “conscious leaders.” She said she believes that it is crucial to train leaders who understand their impact on others and that a conscious leader must be comfortable and resolved in making decisions that exclude others.

“The more power you have, the more you realize that there is often no right or wrong answer; you almost always exclude someone,” she explained.

Arnold also was able to provide the Observer with some guidance for Notre Dame students, connecting her lecture themes with real-world advice.

“Don’t ever listen to just one person’s piece of advice,” she said. “Seek out different people’s perspectives, and then continue to press both them and yourself with existential ‘why’ and ‘so what’ questions.”


Avril Lavigne’s ‘Let Go 20th Anniversary Edition’: Legacy and impact

On June 4, 2002, Canadian artist Avril Lavigne shocked the world with her debut album “Let Go.” Twenty years later, she returned to her roots with a 20th anniversary edition of the album. To commemorate this occasion, I am revisiting the album to reflect on what was so special about it and how it had such a profound impact in the music industry at large.

When “Let Go” was released, Avril Lavigne was framed as a pop-punky alternative to the mainstream, even so far as being referred to as an “Anti-Britney Spears.” She was taken as a truly authentic voice — more “real” than the likes of popular contemporaries such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. In essence, her music was salient with her audience because she was seen as ordinary. She wore baggy jeans, tank tops, and neckties, embraced the rising skater culture and generally held an attitude of forgoing glamor and “being fake.” In a world characterized by deceitful politicians and machine-like record labels, the Canadian artist was a breath of fresh air. In fact, “Let Go” remains to this day as the best-selling album by a Canadian artist in the 21st century, which is especially impressive considering her young age of only eighteen at the time of its release.

Avril Lavigne was also seen as pushing the limitations of traditional femininity. Armed only with a guitar in hand and a rebellious attitude, she embraced the genres of rock, emo and pop-punk, swimming against the then current trend of female artists producing pop music. Her tomboyish appearance reinforced this image and further added to her perception of being genuine and the same person on and off the stage.

The “Pop-Punk Princess” is often credited as a pioneer in the pop-punk movement, sometimes even considered the first artist to push the genre into the mainstream, and this is in no small part due to the massive success of her first album. In addition to her personna and her push of alternative rock further into the pop space, another component that contributes to the legacy of Lavigne and “Let Go” is her skillful balance between her angsty side (“Sk8ter Boi,” “Complicated”) with the drama and sensitivity of a conventional singer-songwriter (“Tomorrow,” “I’m With You”). Such a balance has been adopted by other mainstream artists such as Oliva Rodrigo and Billie Eilish, who in the footsteps of Lavigne (Rodrigo and Eilish have both credited her as a major influence) are leading a recent trend of rock and punk in the pop scene. Her triumph was not in the fact that she was a mess; it’s in that she had the confidence to admit it.

The 20th anniversary edition of the album features six bonus tracks that were written for the debut album but never made it to final production. Notably, one of these is “Breakaway,” which Lavigne sold to Kelly Clarkson because Lavigne found it to be unsuitable for “Let Go.” The song went on to huge commercial success under Kelly Clarkson.

Overall, Avril Lavigne had an instrumental role in shaping and defining the pop-punk and alternative scenes as we know them today. Her success can be attributed to not only the fact that she was different from the mainstream but that she had the guts to own it. She is a reminder that originality and authenticity are factors that allow a song to transcend from just being good to being memorable.

Maxwell Feldmann

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