President Voskuil, Provost Short-Thompson, Dean Johnson, Colleagues, family, friends, and most of all, students of the incoming class of 2022—welcome to this convocation.
Our gathering marks the formal opening of the 2018 – 2019 school year, and it’s indeed
it’s a privilege, to have these few minutes to share a few words with you. In the process of preparing these remarks, I realized that I was flattering myself, thinking that I had words of value to say to you. But the truth of the matter is that it is you – class of 2022 – who possesses information that I need. And what I really need to know is: do you believe?
- Do you believe in the education you’ve come to get?
- Do you believe this liberal arts education matters to you as a person, a future leader,
and as a
citizen of this great nation?
- Do you believe that attending an institution that emphasizes a liberal arts curriculum
change your life for the better?
- Do you believe that asking “Why?” is as important as asking “Who? What? When? Where?
- Do you believe this education [you aspire to achieve] will not only empower you to
money but give you the tools for making a life?
So, I want to know, I need to know . . . do—you—believe?
The question is appropriate and worthy of urgent consideration. For in the opening
decades of the
21st century there are many who question the value of higher education, especially an education at
an institution like Hope College. The arguments are well known:
- Such an education is too expensive
- It’s not relevant to the modern world
- It graduates employees instead of entrepreneurs and future employers
Questioning observers wonder what’s the overall value of an of an education that’s
producing talented scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and computer wizards while also taking
time to explore faith, politics, art, history, music, and ethics? And they’re not wrong to ask such
For in a world where centuries of knowledge can be accessed with a keystroke
- In a world where technology has reshaped reality faster than we can comprehend and adjust
- In a world where social media has redefined the meaning of “friend”
- In a world where it’s easier to order from Amazon.com than drive to the local store
- In a world where drone strikes from continents away have made us re-think the meaning
methods of war
- In a world where passwords are far more important than actual names
- In a world where YouTube offers anyone a path to stardom
In such a world, is there really any need to discuss John Calvin’s Institutes of the
Christian Religion; the
dialectic of George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; the meaning of Rene Descartes when he said, “I think
therefore I am”; what it meant in the context of the 18 th century when Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”; or the prophetic power of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination, when he said: “All we say
to America is be true to what you said on paper.” [# Hash tag, we’re still working out this
democracy thing, but one day we’ll finally get it right].
Those questioning a Hope College liberal arts education assert that outcomes are more important
than the processes that produce them.
They demand to know how reflecting on the mysteries of the cosmos impacts the great demands of
the here and now.
One need not look far, or hard, to find these questioning voices for, indeed, there are many who
wonder just exactly what’s the point of a curriculum that can’t guarantee a student’s walking from
the classroom to the job site the day after graduation.
What’s the point of coming to a place like Hope College that has a vibrant and thriving chapel
Does faith really matter when you go on the job, into the courthouse, into the operating room, into
the sports arena, to your recreation space, or even to war?
How does understanding the human condition and those forces that can either uplift or torture the
human heart really matter to the bottom line?
Why pay attention to those thoughts, ideas, movements, and events that have sometimes
invaluable gifts to humanity while others have inspired unspeakable acts of evil?
Incoming class of 2022, how you approach those questions will provide answers to not just the
value of your Hope College education but lend insight into the kind of person you are and intend to
Because, while it’s never good to assume anything there are sometimes enough available facts to
make assumptions that bend toward the accurate.
And here’s what we know, right now, this moment, this day on August 26, 2018.
FIRST, we know you’re here. And because you’re here, some part of you already understands,
believes, or at least suspects that the Hope College education you desire will not only equip you to
compete in the unforgiving marketplace of the 21 st Century, but guide you into a deeper
understanding of yourself, your faith, and your purpose.
Sounds quaint, doesn’t it? Sounds old fashioned, to speak of people having a purpose beyond
serving self. It even sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it? Talking about doing work that elevates
human beings and guides people into fulfilling the second-greatest commandment: “Love your
neighbor as yourself.”
I’m talking about the assurance in your deepest heart of hearts where you already know that there’s
more to this journey than a law-of-the-jungle rule that celebrates every woman and man for her or
You already sense that you want to do more than have a good time without giving thought and
assistance to those daily being stomped by the heavy boot of life.
You possess a burn to do, to be, to contribute, and discover the possibilities above and beyond
settling for a predictable life of comfort, privilege, and security.
SECOND, because you’re here, we already know – that you know you must be computer literate and
tech proficient. But we need you to just believe that we’ll help you explore the impact of technology
upon a humanity that is utterly broken.
You know – that you’ll have to do your best to succeed. But we need you to just believe that we’ll
help you ponder a path to success that won’t require you abandoning those virtues of what it means
to be human and care for other human beings.
You know – you’ve got a bright future. But we need you to just believe that we’ll help you
understand that the quality of your future depends upon every decision you make – starting NOW!
You know – that, right now, time is on your side. But we need you to just believe that by this coming
Thursday, forty years will have already passed and the great architect of time is measuring your life
by how well you’re being His hands and feet on earth.
THIRD, because out of all the colleges, and all the programs, in all the places you could’ve chosen
to be, you chose to be here, we know that you already sense there’s something special happening on
Hope College’s campus.
- Yes, it’s about knowledge.
- Yes, it’s about development.
- Yes, it’s about professions, careers, and making a mark in the world.
There’s also that part about an institution in 21 st century America that says, in
all we do, we openly
identify ourselves with the person, life, divinity and mission of Jesus, the Christ.
For like that moment in the book of John, chapter 20, verses 24 -31, when the Apostle Thomas
demanded proof of Jesus’ being alive before he’d believe in the freedom of his salvation by grace,
the world demands proof that a Hope College education is worth the cost, time, and effort that’ll set
you free to go and change the world [in His name].
Upon seeing that the Christ had indeed risen from the dead, Thomas said, “My Lord and My God.”
This, of course, made the Christ happy, but he also noted, “Blessed are those who have not seen and
yet have come to believe.”
Incoming class of 2022, you obviously have not seen, heard, or experienced any of what you’re
going to encounter in the next four years.
But you’re here, and more than ever, we need you to just believe that this Hope College education
isn’t just a good tool to have in your box of knowledge.
It’s a treasure that can help you join others in solving some of our most pressing problems.
We need you to just believe that, as important as it is to know how to do a thing, at Hope College
you’ll learn how to better navigate the question: should you do the thing?
We need you to just believe that, as important as it is to amass wealth, no man or woman is buying
their way out of death, so you also need to master loving your neighbor as yourself.
We need you to just believe that the staff, administration, and faculty of Hope College are acutely
aware of what you’re investing to come here as the next stage of pursuing your dreams.
We applaud you for the faith you’ve already shown in the promise of what we say we’ll
preparing you for a world that’s already looking radically different four years from now than it does
So more than ever, we ask you to just believe and join us in taking those next steps