A Generation of Justice: “Gen J”
“No matter what the news says, it’s an ideal time to graduate because at what time has the world needed you more than now? It’s a brilliant time to graduate,” Dr. David Batstone told the Class of 2009. Batstone, professor of ethics in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco and cofounder of the Not For Sale Campaign to end human trafficking, spoke at the 117th Commencement under a perfect spring sky on the quad. His address, “Many Are Called but Few Answer,” was a stirring and personal charge. “As students of a Christian liberal arts education, you’ve learned how to learn, how to respond. So you’re graduating at a perfect time to address the needs of a world crying for help. We need a smart generation, a just generation. The models we have are broken. Name yourself a generation of justice. Gen J. You don’t have to go looking for your call; it’s all around you. Instead ask yourself, What can I do for the world? What can I bring to the world?”
Batstone emphasized the need for Gen J to “use innovation that creates sustainability and addresses the needs of the world.” He cited several examples of individuals who responded to their passion and in the process stumbled onto innovative ways to meet the needs of those around them. “Learning and risking are a part of being human, so how can we take what we’ve learned and create smart and deep activism in all we do—activism that brings about lasting change?”
The evening before at the Baccalaureate worship service, the Class of 2009 was addressed by another modern-day abolitionist, Dr. Gloria White-Hammond, copastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston and cofounder of My Sister’s Keeper, a ministry that partners with women in war-torn Sudan.
“The class of 2009 is the largest graduating class in recent history,” she said, “leaving college to enter the worst economic state in recent years. How do you do the right thing? Step up in courage, step out in faith and step forward in determination.” White-Hammond’s sermon “Just Do It!” pulled the Nike slogan back to its roots in Scripture. She combined personal anecdotes from her experiences as a physician with three steps for graduates to go forward: “Step up in courage and you’ll find either a good place or a God-place,” she said. “When you step out in faith, you come to a point where you realize Jesus is all you need because Jesus is all you have. And when you step forward in determination, you become the kind of world changer who keeps going because you know God loves you, and you want to love Him back,” she said.
Three hundred sixty-five undergraduates from 11 countries and 20 states participated in the ceremony. Colby Smidt, a sociology and economics double major of West Point, New York, received the Collegian of the Year Award. Junior and Senior Distinguished Faculty Awards were presented to Mark Stevick, assistant professor of English, and Bruce Webb, professor of economics and business, respectively (story, page 20). Two new members of the emeriti faculty were also introduced at the ceremony: Dr. Michael Givens, kinesiology; and Dr. Peter Stine, English. Emeriti status is reserved for faculty who have taught at Gordon for at least a decade and who have served the College with special merit as educators. Retiring faculty member Dr. Stella Pierce was also honored at the Commencement ceremony (story, page 21).