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Commencement Address Offers Five
Tips as Graduates "Weigh Anchor"

Posted May 10, 1999

          HOLLAND -- Hope College Commencement speakers John
  and Julie Fiedler found numerous ways to highlight their
  anchor analogy during their address on Sunday, May 9,
  including visually.
          Shortly after beginning their speech, they
  discarded their black academic robes and continued while
  clad as sailors.  "Since everyone seemed to be dressing up
  today, we decided 19th century sailor costumes are pretty
  appropriate outfits for the commencement speech at a college
  whose symbol is an anchor and whose athletic teams are known
  as the Flying Dutchmen and the Flying Dutch," said Julie
  Fiedler, who like John is an adjunct assistant professor of
  English at Hope.
          In keeping with the nautical theme, the Fiedlers
  titled their address "Anchors Aweigh."  They presented their
  "Top 5 Rules for the Flying Dutch of 1999" as the graduates
  prepared to sail into their lives after Hope.
          Approximately 4,000 attended commencement, held at
  Holland Municipal Stadium.  About 590 Hope seniors
  participated, including graduates from throughout the United
  States and as far away as Bulgaria, Kuwait and Peru.
          In addition to honoring the graduates during the
  ceremony, the college also presented a Distinguished Service
  Award to Professor Jose Alfredo Zepeda Garrido, rector of
  the Autonomous University of Queretaro.  Zepeda played a
  central role in establishing the on-going exchange program
  between Hope and the university.
          Also as with the graduates, the event marked both
  an ending and a beginning for the Fiedlers, who are leaving
  the college after their 13 years on the faculty.  John
  Fiedler plans to pursue a career as an elementary teacher,
  and Julie Fiedler as an artist.
          In presenting their five rules, the Fiedlers
  shared the story of the Flying Dutchman captain of legend,
  who because of a rash oath was cursed to repeat an
  unsuccessful journey around the Cape of Good Hope for
  eternity, bringing bad luck to those who encountered him.
  Julie Fiedler noted that "We're proposing a better breed of
  Flying Dutch:  people a lot closer to the way you guys
  already are."
          John Fiedler said, "As you cast off, consider
  these rules and you should have no trouble avoiding a
  lifetime of beating your head against the same old waves and
  making those around you miserable."
          Their first rule was "Count Your Blessings and
  Give Yourself Credit."  Julie Fiedler noted, "Even if you're
  feeling very anxious about venturing onto the high seas, you
  need to recognize how lucky you are, and how much you've
  accomplished."
          The second rule was "Look Before You Leap."
          "Before you exit the mother ship, make sure you've
  planned your next tour of duty," John Fiedler said.  "My
  advice is to seek complex, diverse environments.  In other
  words, choose a ship where you'll meet the whole creation
  and grow in the process."
          "America's becoming more diverse, and you can play
  an important role in determining whether it becomes a
  culture of racial and ethnic inclusion or devolves into a
  society of separation," he said.
          The third rule was "Get Ready to Change Course."
          "Once you haul anchor, you need to be flexible
  about your destination," Julie Fiedler said.  Together, the
  Fiedlers encouraged the graduates to "Commit to the kind of
  continuous learning that will keep you alive, vital,
  engaged, creative, spiritually attuned, interested and
  interesting, and connected to your community."
          The fourth rule was "Lighten Up, Don't Clam Up."
          "Obviously, coping with the kind of change your
  life will demand will be a lot easier if you have a sense of
  humor," Julie Fiedler said.  "Believe me, if we weren't
  laughing as we argued about how to write this speech, our
  marriage would have suffered."
          "But without the argument, our speech would have
  suffered," John Fiedler said.  "So don't clam up, speak up.
  Seek a ship where your voice will be heard."
          The final rule was "Love Your Mates."
          "As you've seen recently, in locations far and
  near, hatred is a deadly threat to individuals and whole
  communities.  It destroys lives, and the threat of violence
  erupting from hatred can destroy the quality of life," Julie
  Fiedler said.  "What I'm about to say will sound incredibly
  obvious, but it bears repeating:  you can love people, even
  people very different from yourself, and love God at the
  same time."
          "And when you find people who love you in an
  exceptional way, hold onto those friends for dear life,
  whether they're a parent or partner or professor or spouse
  or mentor or minister," she said.  "Love can expand your
  horizons and make your voyage doubly worthwhile.  And who
  knows all the places you'll go when love plays a part?"
          Earlier in the day, the Rev. Frederick Kruithof
  delivered the Baccalaureate sermon, "A Living Dog is Better
  Than a Dead Lion."  The title was based on Ecclesiastes 9:4,
  "Anyone who is among the living has hope - for a living dog
  is better than a dead lion!"  He subtitled the address "Turn
  to God, Rejoice in Hope," a phrase inspired by another of
  the service's scriptural passages, Romans 12:12a.  Kruithof
  is the 1998-99 president of the General Synod of the
  Reformed Church in America and minister of preaching and
  congregational care at Second Reformed Church in Kalamazoo.
          He considered the anxiety that the graduates might
  be feeling as their time at Hope ended and the next phase of
  their lives began.  Perhaps, he noted, they were troubled by
  campus controversy, or uncertainty concerning employment or
  graduate school, or events like the shootings in Littleton,
  Colo., or the crisis in Kosovo.
          Kruithof said that despite such troubles,
  Christians can be optimistic.
          "If you are alive, there is reason to be
  optimistic," he said.  "Just because God is God, the
  Christian is always certain that 'the best is yet to be.'"
          "In the English usage, the word 'hope' covers a
  wide range of meanings, and in fact it is no more widely
  apparent than in the Bible," he said.  "It springs from the
  very covenant between God and his people."
          "The promises are made to Abraham and to his kin.
  Paul, among others, picks it up when he preaches--in a world
  of death and despair--to the church at Corinth and says,
  'Death, my friends is swallowed up in victory.'"  He added
  that Paul "encourages us never to lose heart.  Do not lose
  hope, he reminds the Corinthians."
          "There really are no hopeless situations in life;
  only people who have grown hopeless about them," Kruithof
  said.  "The universe at times may stare blankly at us but
  God is still in charge."
                                 -30-
  


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