Presidential Speeches

Baccalaureate Reflections

Everyone Makes A Difference

May 23, 2010

President Jo Young Switzer

Most of us have attended a church potluck or a big picnic every once in a while. Have you ever been to one where it seemed like everybody brought the same thing? Maybe almost everybody brought salads.

  • Tossed salad with ranch dressing

  • Lettuce with peas and onions and bacon and mayonnaise with ranch dressing

  • Mixed greens with red onions and fresh strawberries and ranch dressing

  • Maybe one lonely potato salad

No variety, no chance to pile your plate high with luscious barbeque beef or that cheesy potato casserole with crunched-up potato chips on top. No deviled eggs or baked beans. No chance to end the meal with an entire plate filled with dessert – chocolate cake, sugar cream pie, blueberry cobbler piled high and topped with real whipped cream.

No. Just salads. Lettuce ... ranch dressing.

The scripture we heard this morning (1 Cor. 12: 14-261) reminds us that God’s creation needs people with different gifts ... different talents. Just like our picnics need all kinds of dishes. A college community needs all kinds, too.

Manchester College is clear that we welcome all kinds of people to be the community we aspire to be. In fact, our Mission Statement begins with the words: “Manchester College respects the infinite worth of every individual.” We need all kinds of people, and each one of them – each one of YOU – makes a difference.

Our Mission goes on to say: “Manchester College ... graduates persons of ability and conviction who draw upon their education and faith to lead principled, productive and compassionate lives that improve the human condition.”

Our faculty members are here to teach more than classes. They are here to teach students. When your professors prepared for class, they worked hard to design assignments and ask questions that help students learn to think ... to ask hard questions ... to listen carefully to different theories.

We realize that such a task requires lots of teachers – faculty, staff, families, friends, graduates. Each person has an important role in the growth of each student who attends here. Some of you learned most from a specific professor. Several of you learned most from your campus supervisor – Dave Friermood is one of our best teachers. Some of you learned from your mistakes. We are not just a school with lots of majors; we are a community of learners.

We need music majors and accounting majors and Spanish majors. We need students who like to perform and be in the spotlight, and we need students who enjoy watching their friends in the spotlight, singing and dancing and competing on the athletic fields.

Let’s revise the scripture that Jonathan just read to see how it might apply to us and our time at Manchester. Listen to these words that you heard just moments ago – but in the setting of Manchester College.

For just as Manchester College is a really good school with many motivated students, and all the students and faculty are clearly part of the College, everyone here is a Spartan. They hear the Chime in the morning. They love Patty checking their swipe cards at lunch. They avoid stepping on the worms on the sidewalks after a spring rain. They all get frustrated at the cost of textbooks. They like the faculty rock-and-roll band.

Manchester College isn’t made up of just one person, but of many.

If the peace studies majors were to say, “Because I’m not studying biology, I do not belong to the College,” it wouldn’t make them any less a part of Manchester.

And if the members of the choir were to say, “Because we are not cross-country runners, we don’t belong here,” that would not make them any less a part of the College.

If the whole College were made up of education majors, where would we find the mathematicians? Or the psychologists? If the whole College were the softball team, where would be Model UN? Or the Oak Leaves? Or MCIA?

But as it is, the founders arranged the parts of the College, each part.

So, as it is, there are many different parts and many different people – but one Manchester College. The English Department cannot say to Exercise and Sport Science, “I have no need for you,” nor the Social Work program say to Environmental Studies or Athletic Training, “I have no need for you.”

On the contrary; the parts of the College that seem to be weaker because they are small or less noticed are absolutely indispensable – majors like physics and philosophy. For today’s graduates and for the College in the future, all members of the community must look out for one another. Each department, each student, each professor needs to look out for the others, even if one votes for McCain and the other voted for Obama. Even if some are vegetarians and others love big, juicy steaks. They need to care for one another. If one group suffers, everyone suffers together. If one student receives a big honor – like winning the Student Research Symposium or winning a Fulbright or being HCAC Baseball Player of the Week – all of us rejoice.

Today, we rejoice because graduation is here.

Over the years, we've gotten to know you pretty well. Some of you graduates are feisty. Some of you are artistic. Others of you are quiet. Some of you are confident. Others don’t realize yet how talented you are. Some of you have been on the Dean’s List regularly. Others are going to have your best academic successes later in life. We rejoice today because, regardless of your talents, your contribution to our life together at the College here is distinctive and important.

Right now, I'd like to give you a short baccalaureate assignment. I invite you to think about yourselves for a moment, seniors especially. Picture yourself:

  • What is your strongest talent?

  • What ways do you help others?

Let me ask you to think about the person on campus who is most unlike you. If you’re shy, that person is a huge extrovert. Picture that person who is really different from you:

  • What is that person's strongest talent?

  • How does that person help others?

You make a difference here. And the person you just pictured makes a difference, too. It is all of us – with all of our differences – who make this place the transforming College that it is.

In the morning, when I walk into the Administration Building, the Chime is playing something different. “Morning Has Broken” or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” or a children's tune. You can often tell the personality of the Chime ringer by the music being played. Every day I am thankful for many things:

  • For Chime-ringers with a sense of humor

  • For the opportunity to have a job that has a profound impact on students – a transforming effect

  • For co-workers – faculty and staff – who really care about you and your learning

  • For a campus community where people respect one another and respect their environment

  • For differences – I am deeply thankful for differences

The whole here at Manchester College is greater than the sum of the parts. And it is better because of that reality. The choir was wonderful today because of the sum of the voices and the personalities. Our commencement this afternoon will be impressive because of the sum of the seniors who are graduating. Our graduates are impressive – one by one. And when you sit together as you are now – and as you will this afternoon – you are even more impressive.

Manchester College is strong because we are different – not despite it. Each one here makes a difference on the lives of others.

An early environmentalist told this story: One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, "What are you doing?" The youth replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die." "Son," the man said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make a difference!"

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, "I made a difference for that one."

On this day of celebration, we honor each of you graduates because you have made a difference here. And we celebrate the fact that you are distinctive among your graduating class. That is good. And now you are stepping into a world that is just as diverse – maybe more – and that needs a lot from you. Be guided by these words from Wayne Muller: “The heart of most spiritual practice is simply this: Remember. Remember who you are. Remember what you love. Remember what is sacred. Remember what is true. Remember that you will die, and that this day is a gift. Remember how you wish to live.” 2

Each day is a gift. There are starfish to save. Remember how you wish to live.

_____________________

11 Cor. 12:14-26

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

15 If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body.

16 And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?

20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’

22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

23 and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect;

24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member,

25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.

26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

2 Muller, Wayne. (1996) How, Then, Shall We Live? New York, NY: Bantam Books.


For information about speeches by President Jo Young Switzer, please contact the Office of Public Relations, 260-982-5285.

 


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