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Reply To: In the news


Philosopher can accurately be applied to Joseph Campbell (it’s not a job title, but a description, like philanthropist or statesman). Most philosophers in recent centuries have had day jobs: Erasmus was a monk; Immanuel Kant taught physics and mathematics at the University of Königsberg; Nietzsche started off as a professor of philology at the University of Basel; Ayn Rand was a film  extra, junior screenwriter, head of the costuming department at RKO, and novelist, etc.

(Of course, anyone with a Ph.D. is technically a “Doctor of Philosophy,” but Campbell dropped out of the doctoral program at Columbia; all he had was a Master’s Degree.)

Ivanka Trump’s citing Campbell toward the end of her commencement address drew a lot of attention to JCF on social media: a number of posters on various platforms were incensed and quite vocal with demands that the Foundation condemn her usage. All we could do is verify the accuracy of the quote (she doesn’t provide a source, so took a little while to track it down); after that, our hands were tied. Whatever one thinks of Ivanka Trump or her father politically, the quote was correct and did fit the context of her speech, which was relatively generic and uplifting, as commencement addresses tend to be. Had the same speech been delivered by, say, Reese Witherspoon, or Tom Hanks, there would have been no public controversy.

I can’t say whether or not Ivanka is familiar with Campbell’s work. She well may be, but seemed more like whoever wrote the speech was looking for a relevant quote to plug-in from a figure who might carry some weight with young people. Could just just be my projection, but if that truly were the case, Ivanka’s reference does signify how deep Campbell’s influence is in popular culture.