Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."

Featured Fellow: Ta-Nehisi Coates

photo credit: Gabriella Demczuk


Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of Between the World and Me and We Were Eight Years in Power. His most recent book is The Water Dancer. He was a Kathryn W. Davis Fellow for Peace in the French School in 2014. 

Why did you want to study French at Middlebury?

I’d always thought being fluent in a foreign language was important for a writer. I’d started with French because of my wife’s love of the language.

You’ve written about your time at Middlebury and the difficulties of learning a language as an adult. Have you continued to study the language?

Yep. Have a session today!

Has your study of French influenced your writing?

More than the language influencing my writing, the exposure the language has allowed to the broader Francophone world has proved to be of tremendous consequence. My world is just much larger now.

The goal of Fellows for Peace is to build peace through language learning. Can you share an example of how your study of French has allowed you to reach across cultural boundaries?

Probably the biggest one was the year I spent living in France, itself. The year after I attended Middlebury, I decamped with the family for a year abroad in Paris. It was an incredible experience. It also just happened that I had a book out in French that year and I spent much of that year touring the country with the book.

How would you like to use your French in the future?

In everyday conversation. This is the best part. 

Why does French inspire you?

I don’t know that the language inspires me. People inspire me and I value the language precisely because it puts me in the company of so many different types of people.