It is a pleasure to give this talk. I have much en-joyed those that have preceded it, and cannot hope to match their eloquence and wit. But I will follow the precedent most of them have set and cast my remarks in an autobio-graphical and hortatory vein.
I take my title from two of the greatest of twentieth-century British intellectuals: Mick Jagger and Keith Rich-ards. I trade on the title line of one of their minor mas-terpieces: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find that you get what you need." I will divide my talk into three sections corre-sponding to the three principal phrases of this line. (I had hoped to have four backup singers for my talk but Pro-fessors Applegate, Outram, Rubin, and Young all politely declined my invitation to serve in that capacity.)
*Keynote Address, Graduate Student Conference, Department of History, University of Rochester, 3 May 2003. Do not cite, copy, or quote without permission of the author. © 2003 2
You Can't Always Get What You Want
First then: "You Can't Always Get What You Want." I will not presume that what I wanted when I began my career as a historian is what any graduate student among you wants, should want, or would want. I hope the lessons here are adaptable to the plurality of desire. That is, while I am not--certainly not--proposing that you best adopt the wants I had, I am suggesting that whatever wants you may have, you will find that you are unlikely wholly to satisfy them; that you should nonetheless strive to do so; and that in so doing you might well discover that you are developing other wants and meeting needs quite different from--and perhaps even at odds with--those initial wants. I will also suggest that if you try sometimes you just might find that you get something enormously rewarding but too improb-able to have dared to want. In sum, the alertness to con-tingency and the...