STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 08/07/2009

Commencement Weekend '09

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).

A Baccalaureate Blessing
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
May the Blessing of God, Who creates, redeems and sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day and always.

Read by Ann Seavey, Director of Academic Support; based on a Franciscan blessing

Excerpt; Annery Miranda ’09
I want to be extraordinary.
I want my graduation weekend to be extraordinary.
I want my postgraduation plans to be extraordinary.
I want my life to be extraordinary.
In fact, I want this speech to be extraordinary.
See, I want my life to capture all of my ambitions. I want to be about something. Something others will write about. I want every second to be lived to the fullest with no oversleeping and no vegging out on the couch. I want to wake up at 5 a.m. every single day to sip coffee after my run, read a book and go to my job to help poor children in Latin America. But my hunch is that the likelihood of living my life so perfectly is about the same as providing you with an all-encompassing speech.

When I applied to colleges, I wanted to be in a big city going to a big-name school doing big things. But it was through this smaller college in a small suburb that I found the extraordinary opportunities to meet people like you who would open doors for me in the areas of international relations and peace and conflict in other countries. I have come to identify you, Gordon College students, as some of the most thoughtful people I have ever met.

Some of you will be the first in your families to graduate from college. This makes you extraordinary. When I see some of you studying in the library every single day at the same time, practicing an incredible discipline that I so envy, I know you’re extraordinary. When I see some of you struggle with depression and anxiety and other health issues and still manage to graduate—even though others may not recognize how hard you have worked at staying above water—I can say you’re extraordinary. In a world so divided by ideas, I have witnessed and engaged in respectful conversations with people with whom I disagree.

Gordon College students, I know this: You have arrived.


David Batstone