“One Book, One Community”


“One Book, One Community” is something I look forward to every year, because it really underscores that all of us in East Lansing and Michigan State are linked, not only by geography and proximity, but by our common experiences.

The kick-off event at the Hannah Community Center was packed.

I was struck by how the project provides all of us with a kind of intellectual bridge, not only between campus and the larger East Lansing community, but also to the global community of which all of us are increasingly a part.

Ginny Haas and the members of the committee did an extraordinary job of picking a timely and relevant book this year. “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini, examines themes of friendship and obligation that are fundamental to our shared human experience. As a work of fiction, the book provides a convenient prism through which we can look at other peoples and other cultures—in this case, Afghanistan—and at the same time see reflections of ourselves and our own lives.

One of the ideas “The Kite Runner” explores should resonate with anyone familiar with MSU’s land-grant mission: how an individual’s success and happiness can be inextricably linked to the larger community and the relationships that a person forms with others in it.

Hosseni reminds us that one’s success often depends on identifying what we have in common with others, rather than the things that make us different—particularly if those differences are used as justification for actions.

By asking all incoming freshmen to read the book, the “One Book, One Community” project offers a valuable shared experience that is the basis for an immediate connection between new MSU students and the local community of which they will be an important part.

Hosseni himself is an extraordinarily powerful speaker. Because the event at the Hannah Center was full, we made a point of inviting those who weren’t able to get seats to join us the following day for the University Welcome at the Breslin Center and another opportunity to hear him. Many of those attending approached him afterward for a brief word or to have their books signed, and students, staff and other community members who participated have been uniformly enthusiastic.


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