With a little more than 50 days until our 2019 Kilimanjaro Climb gets underway, we are featuring climber Jonathan Justice. To support Jonathan’s fundraising goal and learn more about where the funds that we are raising will be going, visit his personal fundraising page.
Q: Who are you?
A: Jonathan Justice
Q: What do you do?
A: I’m a professor in the (newly
named) Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy & Administration at the
University of Delaware, where I study and teach public budgeting and finance
(guess how I know Kurt!), policy analysis, urban affairs, and local economic
Q: Do you have any hobbies? Of course you do! What are they?
A: I’m an avid (but slow)
recreational cyclist and concertgoer (mostly jazz, opera, and the extraordinary
Philadelphia Orchestra. I also spend a lot of time walking a personable
standard poodle around our quaint village in downtown New Castle, Delaware,
where I am a member of the City Planning Commission. And of course, when I can,
I love to read for pleasure, completely unrelated to my work.
Q: What makes you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
A: Actually, I have wanted to do
this since I was a child. The exact reasons are lost to the mists of time (50
years or more), but probably I saw a TV show about Kilimanjaro or the Leakey
family’s work. This is in fact the #1 item on my “bucket list.” Plus
a memorably excellent former student lives and works in Arusha, and I hope to
visit briefly with him while I’m there. So when Kurt said TDS was going to
climb the mountain again this year, I knew I had to get into it.
Q: How are you preparing to hike to the top of a 19,341 foot mountain?
A: Cycling for an hour, two-four
times per week is my normal aerobic routine. Just to be sure, I asked at my
annual physical exam. The doctor recommended a treadmill stress test, just to
be absolutely certain I wouldn’t be a danger to myself or others, and I passed
with flying colors. And I walk the dog two hours per day. He’s old and slow
now, but at least I can get my brand-new (I’m going to REI to buy a pair as
soon as I finish this questionnaire) hiking boots broken in that way. And maybe
this will give me an excuse to visit my parents in Santa Fe (elev. 6000 ft.)
during spring break, and go for some vigorous walks there. And of course I’m
reading up (I AM a professor, you know) in travel guides, a beautiful
National-Geographic coffee-table book about Kilimanjaro, and on the web. I’ll
probably quiz my former student by email, too.
Q: What animal do you want to see on Safari?
A: Yes! Meaning: All of them. But
if I had to choose a most-wanted, it would be a boringly familiar choice:
elephants. Yes, I’ve seen them in zoos and circuses, and yes I know they can be
dangerous in the wild, but they are somehow utterly fascinating to me for their
physical grandeur, psychology and intellect, and family and social
Q: Do you have any past experience with TDS? If yes, please explain.
A: Only as a donor. I wanted to
go to Kilimanjaro with TDS a few years back, but couldn’t make it work
schedule-wise, so I just sent a check. This year, I just felt I had to make it
Q: How important is reading and writing to you on a daily basis?
A: Well, at one level, it’s what
I do every day as a professor to put food on the table. So I value it as a way
to earn a living. On another level, it’s how I keep informed about the world
around me – via the internet and (I know, what a dinosaur this shows me to be)
printed newspapers and books – both to satisfy my curiosity and to get the
information I need to navigate life and be an informed citizen of a democracy,
and how I share relevant factual knowledge with others. But most fundamentally
it’s been my portal to the world for a lifetime: a way to gain access to the
world beyond my immediate sight and to communicate in thoughtful ways (I think
writing gives us time to think more deeply about what we want to say, and gives
us more time to edit and refine our thinking before we share it with others).
Reading brings me the whole universe of human and natural-world information, as
well as the deep intellectual and emotional experiences of fiction and poetry
(I’m pretty wide-ranging in my tastes: I still love science/speculative
fiction, popular fiction, and literary fiction from the ancients to the 21c.)
Besides those instrumental values for reading and writing, I have to say that I
also just enjoy reading and writing as pleasures in and of themselves. I don’t
have a way to justify that for any skeptics out there, but it’s nevertheless a
fact that I just plain enjoy writing and reading, in spite of Socrates’s
complaint that by inventing writing the Egyptians destroyed our ability to
memorize information. (Of course, I know of Socrates from reading his
comments in one of Plato’s Dialogues! I can find out which Dialogue if that
Q: What is your favorite book?
A: Whichever one I read last. At
the moment, that’s V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas. It was a
remarkably powerful account of a fictional but apparently much like Naipaul
himself protagonist who was deeply human, utterly flawed, and perhaps not even
very likeable. But the writing was so direct and so real that somehow Mohun
Biswas demanded my sympathy even when he was behaving badly or making
self-defeating decisions. And the book transported me to a new time and place –
mid-20c. Trinidad – and into the lives of people unlike myself as they lived
experiences I have never had. The obituaries of Naipaul said this was his best
book, and I definitely found it to be a very rewarding read. I broadened my
horizons and got a lot of direct pleasure from the story and characters.
Actually, this is a book that will be a favorite for years to come, I think,
even when other books become my most-recent reads.
In terms of what books do I tend
to read and reread, number one is Homer’s Odyssey
in the original (back when I could still read ancient Greek, Homer’s Doric
Greek was my favorite dialect) and in translation. Every time a new translation
comes out, I read it. And I have read Robert Fitzgerald’s translation a
half-dozen times, including once during a “blue voyage” of Turkey’s
Mediterranean coast – very near the places that are the settings for the poem’s
events. Interestingly, one pretty good translation of the Odyssey is the one by
T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia.
Q: What is your favorite memory from school?
A: That’s a hard one, just
because there are so many good memories for me from many years of school (over
20 and counting, excluding my time on the teacher side of the room). I have
been privileged to attend excellent schools from kindergarten through a Ph.D.
Wonderful memories include brilliant lectures by teachers, interactions with
teachers and schoolmates in classroom and non-classroom settings, and moments
when teachers or classmates found something I said or did or wrote to be
especially valuable or noteworthy. My time at high school was especially joyful
for me, but the part that stands out is basically all of it. It was a
residential school, so we were immersed in learning 24/7. Even leisure
activities often involved our teachers, so we could learn from them (and from
each other) in unstructured time as well as in the classroom.
I almost feel that by singling
out particular memories or teachers I’d be unfairly ignoring others. So maybe I
can highlight the pleasure of free reading time in school libraries. I love
libraries as places to do research, but I also love just finding a secluded
chair in a library where I can settle in with a book – maybe one I’ve brought
with me, or have just sought out, or maybe one I’ve just happened across by
accident (I have a thing for open-stacks libraries, even though I’m told
they’re going the way of the dodo bird, at least in academia).
OK. Here’s a pair of favorite
memories from a college seminar devoted to reading Homer (in Greek). One was
when I went to class incompletely prepared, but somehow managed to deliver an
excellent translation of a difficult passage on the spot. Another was a
particularly good extended argument – this time I prepared scrupulously in
advance – about the ethics of a particular passage in the Iliad.
Q: What about traveling to Tanzania are you most excited for? What are you most nervous about?
A: Most excited about – probably
the mountain and the natural setting, just because that’s been on my mind for
50+ years. But I’m also very excited to contribute to the work of LCRC and TDS,
and to experience the people and culture of Tanzania. I’m also really looking
forward to seeing a new country – actually a whole new continent for me, since
I’ve never been to any place in Africa before – and visiting my former student.
Most nervous: maybe the climb
itself. I haven’t been camping for over 40 years, and I know that the high
altitude is very challenging for even physically fit people. And of course
there’s always the general nervousness of making a very long journey to a new and
unfamiliar place: did I pack everything I’ll need? Am I going to be able to act
appropriately? Will I get lost? Will I get some annoying travelers’ disease and
be a nuisance to myself and the others? But all of this can be mitigated by
preparation, and I know I’m traveling with an experienced and well prepared
Q: Why is it important that your friends, family, or acquaintances donate to your personal fundraising goal?
A: Because otherwise I’ll have to
make up the difference myself! Seriously, this is an opportunity to share the
joy as well as the material advantages of learning, with children who might
otherwise have less access to that. I won’t say that this is the only place or
the only cause in that place that deserves their support, but I certainly think
that it is a good enough cause to be worth supporting. It promotes equality of
opportunity, economic development, citizenship and democracy, and all the other
personal and social benefits of an educated population. Plus, of course, it’s a
chance to share with children the immediate and intrinsic joys of reading,
writing, and learning that we enjoyed as children and continue to enjoy as
adults. (As an aside, I did check it out with a former student, now a
management consultant, because I know he was often critical of well-intentioned
but unhelpful American charity efforts in Tanzania. He said this is legit, and
I should do it.)
Q: Is there anything else you want TDS followers to know about you?
A: I am grateful to be in a
position to participate in this program. It’s a great opportunity to help
school-age children enjoy access to the privileges, economic advantages, and sheer
joy of knowledge that come from education, reading, and writing. And it’s a
great thrill to travel to Tanzania and the mountain. I really appreciate the
many privileges that make it possible, and I hope I can contribute in whatever
way to making similar privileges available to others.