Text of 2018 Commencement Address
Chosen: So This is Hope
Prepared remarks by Dr. Temple Smith, assistant professor of sociology
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Ray and Sue Smith Stadium
Thank you. Congratulations to this most excellent Class of 2018. To the parents, grandparents, friends, families, mentors and supporters of our dear students, we recognize you at this time. Together we share this proud moment as these students are before us adorned with caps and gowns, and aspiring faces. No longer nervous freshmen but prepared seniors. What a moment for us all.
To seniors! Here we all are, Class of 2018! Assembled one last time to commemorate your victory that we call commencement. Yours has been the survival of late-night studying, arduous labs, too many group projects to name, tons and tons and tons of homework. Laughter at Phelps, friendships in the residence halls and plenty of good times and stories to decorate the memories of your mind with a fondness for your alma mater, Hope College.
I am so elated to have been chosen to speak to you, Class of 2018!
As I thought about what to say today I considered delivering an address that explored
I thought about The Game of Life. Do you remember that, the board game by the makers Milton Bradley? The slogan for that game: “You can be a winner in the game of life.” I said, “Okay, I can unpack that. Maybe they’re on to something there. After all, the intended age group for that game was 8 to 11. Surely I can talk to college graduates about winning in the game of life.”
I thought about Oprah… America’s cheerleader. She said, “Live your best life.” Oh, I’m here for that. That sounds great, to encourage you to live your best life!
As a sociology professor, I thought I should relay the wisdom of academic literature echoing and defining characteristics of this generation, proclaimed by leading academicians and scholars.
And in my furious planning… I grew still. AND a still, small, quiet voice deeper than Milton Bradley, more prominent than Oprah and wiser than all academic literature combined reminded me that while popular culture, media, public figures and society have all attempted to speak to your generation — and further label your generation as the x generation, iPhone generation, entitlement generation and offer mantras to live by…
God has already defined your generation and offered words to live by. In 1 Peter 2:9 we are reminded that you are the chosen generation meant to showcase the excellency of our God.
Thus, I have prepared for you this brief address titled “Chosen: so this is Hope.”
You have been chosen. Chosen means to have been selected. You were selected, admitted to Hope College four years ago. Through the years you were prepared. We as an institution, ever striving to live up to our mission, prepared you for lives of leadership and service in a global society through your various academic and co-curricular programs of recognized excellence in the liberal arts and in the context of the historic Christian faith. You were prepared.
Prepared across the various fields of science, law, education, arts and social sciences, it is our hope that you fully lean into and embrace the call on your life for which you have been chosen. In this very assembly holds the promise the world is waiting for. YOU!
So this is hope.
Mark Twain puts it this way: “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
We hope that you fully answer and fulfill your calling. There are lives that you are meant to touch, positions only you can fill, answers which only you have and barriers only you can break.
It won’t always be easy.
But you have been chosen and prepared. You come from good stock.
So this is Hope. Hope is a desire for some future good. This is not merely looking on the bright side or being a perpetual optimist. The theological virtue of hope is a form of confidence in God. It sets aside empty fears and a dread of failure and encourages fresh efforts. One theologian put it this way: He who loses hope will not succeed but who continues to hope cannot fail at last.
So this is Hope.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. May you ever be reminded of the anchor symbolic of your time here urging you to have hope firm and secure. Remember to hold fast to hope, Class of 2018, for it is a choice.
In the face of inevitable trials, transition stressors about what’s next and the bravery that life requires recall that you have been chosen, prepared and equipped. Hold fast to hope when fiery trials of life threaten to extinguish your light. Know that if God brought you to it, He will bring you through it. Remember all that you have learned here, in and out of the classroom.
The writer of Lamentations 3:21 puts it this way: These things I remember therefore I have HOPE! Colloquially speaking, you got this!
So this is hope.
In the coming years we hope that you would remember the small college in Holland, ornate and stately with its glorious, green Pine Grove; majestic, stained-glass chapel; inspiring professors; and symbol of an anchor exclaiming our namesake HOPE, and more importantly hope in God. Remember that you have been chosen for a unique purpose. It is our hope that you pursue that purpose and wholly fulfil it.
In closing, my charge to you, as you leave this place called Hope, is that you leave with a hope (a desire for future good) firm and secure to do what only you can in the pursuit for which only you have been chosen.
So Class of 2018 this is Hope…
And as expressed in Romans 5:5, hope doesn’t disappoint.
Congratulations, Class of 2018.