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Augustana Convocation 2003


Members of the Board of Regents,
President Husfloen,
esteemed faculty,
graduating students,
family and friends.

I am honoured to be invited to address you today.

I am a graduate of this institution,
so the school has a special place in my heart
and has had a profound effect on my life:

It made me aware of gifts I did not know I had
and it introduced me to a remarkable community of people,
many members of which
continue to be my friends to this day.

My sense of the spiritual life was aroused here
as was my call to the vocation I serve.

I left behind my local school,
where academic interest made me part of a geeky minority,
and entered this college,
where academics were valued almost as much as athletes!

I have been nothing but grateful for what this school has given me.

Congratulations, graduands, on completing your course of studies.

A baccalaureate degree is the certification
that you know how to research ideas and facts,
how to think analytically, and
how to apply certain skills.

It is not the end of learning.

Rather, it is the foundation for learning
that will last the rest of your life.

It has taught you how to think;
how to learn.

You eventually would have learned those things on your own;
going to university has speeded up the process for you.

This degree should have taught you
that you learn more from questions than from answers;
that you learn more from mistakes than from successes.

In other words, it has taught you that
curiosity and the willingness to explore are
the keys to growth in learning and understanding.

It also means that learning is a human process.

Learning to come to terms with yourself
is the single most important aspect of learning.

If you don't know who you are and what you need,
you will never fully be free to enter into the world around you.

Becoming educated does involve a certain amount of risk.

There is a certain bliss about ignorance,
because you don't have to be responsible for what you don't know.

Awareness of the truth, however, means that
no longer can you be people of the lie.

Awareness of options means that
no longer can you be mere followers.

Knowing how to perform certain actions means that
no longer can you refrain from taking action.

In other words, learning cannot be
dissociated from moral responsibility.

Instilling that sense of moral responsibility in people
is one of this school's objectives.

It is the hope of this university college that
you become leaders and servants of society.

That's an interesting pairing of adjectives.

On the surface they might appear to be opposites.

In a hierarchical society, the leaders are the served;
the servants do not become leaders.

However, if you read the newspapers at all critically,
you cannot escape the realization that
those leaders who do not attend to the needs of their people,
will eventually destroy their people
and have no one left to serve them.

Therefore, leadership is not a privilege,
but a responsibility.

A society is made up of a community of people who,
among them, perform a multiplicity of necessary roles.

Among those roles is leadership.

Leadership is not a solitary function.

It can sometimes be lonely,
but leadership also can be shared among people.

Leadership can be exercised by anyone
who cares about society
and wishes to help it achieve its goals.

It takes a special kind of servanthood
to be able to share vision and skill with others
without having to dominate.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
Almost anything is possible if it doesn't matter who gets the credit.

That's how leadership and service go together.

Orientation to service is a way of being a leader.

So now your intelligence has been awakened.

You have been taught how to think and how to act.

You have been given skills for analysis and perception.

And you have been given these gifts in an institution
that understands leadership to be a responsibility
that takes on the form of service.

Therefore, leadership cannot be
merely a set of skills and techniques.

Leadership requires imagination and moral character.

These cannot be taught.

You must embrace these as part of your formation as a human being.

Perhaps the single most important character trait is courage.

Courage is the quality of character that allows you
to dare to stare reality in the face,
to stay instead of to avoid.

With courage comes the ability to entertain imagination.

Imagination the process of visiting your brain to see what's playing.

Imagination, however, isn't selective;
it visits every channel.

That's where the courage comes in.

If you don't think so,
trying going on a week of silent retreat
and live only in your head for the duration.

Some of the channels are a little unnerving:
Some play tapes from the dark side;
Some are irrational;
Some are pure fantasy;
Some are horrifyingly angry and evil.

Unless you are willing to entertain your imagination,
to consider the irrational and impossible and the ugly,
you will never challenge the limits and rigidity of human thought.

Unless you are willing to go to all the places where the human mind dwells,
you will always be blindsided by the surprises
our human nature hands us.

Imagination, by itself, however, is not enough.

Imagination is not self-evaluating.

To distinguish those ideas that make for a humane society
calls for other attributes:
attributes of love, patience, kindness and generosity.

The imagination says anything is possible.

A human being has the capability to be brutish or gentle,
gross or refined,
disparaging or encouraging.

Imagination produced Mozart arias and the ovens at Buchenwald.

That is the difference between what is possible and what is productive.

There are billions of optional directions,
known to the world of physics,
that the universe could have gone.

However, in order to produce human life,
a particular sequence was required.

In order to maintain that human life,
a certain set of recurring conditions must continue.

These are not only conditions of physical environment,
but an ongoing culture of humaneness,
of treating each other in ways that are life-giving instead of life-emptying.

So, the ultimate value of this school remains to be seen.

What we have already seen
is the academic success you have achieved.

How you use it to be fully human
is where our hope for your future lies.

Thank you very much.

This address was prepared by Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada for the Augustana University College Convocation 25 May 2002



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