This is a wonderful occasion and I am deeply indebted to all of you
who have chosen to share it with us.
I recognize that there are a lot of college and university delegates
here who have many very important things to do. I recognize all of you
have great responsibilities and you would think enough of this great
university that you would be here today is indeed a splendid tribute.
I recognize also that there are many emotions that a person feels
on an occasion like this. I certainly have a deep sense of humility.
It's really hard to be proud at a moment like this because one does
recognize a deep sense of roots, a sense of consciousness, a consciousness
from whence he has come. And if I could trace back far enough, I would
go back beyond Johann Carl Christian Corts who came here in 1862,
departing Hamburg, and found his way in a new land. I recognize also
that this meeting could probably go on too long without too much effort,
and so I'll try to be very thoughtful of that limitation and to respond
It occurred to me as we stood outside waiting to come in that this
was probably my last good chance whether I wanted to ask for a raise
or anything else. This was probably the best time to do it. I'm not
sure why but I think that's why they put me at the end of the line
and Mr. Brown at the head of the line.
This is a great institution. I have found it to be greater in many
respects than I even imagined. I have carried for many years a respect
for it and its former president, and I recognize keenly that we build
upon the foundation that has already been laid. I am very aware of
the fact that there are many whose names who we cannot recite, many
whose records have long been lost, without whom this institution would
have folded. It would not be here today.
I look out over the sea of faces and I see people who give and who
give generously. Without their gifts, this institution probably would
not exist or be a mere shadow of what it is, and I recognize a great
partnership in the cause of this great institution.
It is also my awareness that I can not bring a satchel full of tricks,
a grand plan, something to be unfolded, readily announced, soon implemented,
and then to sit back and watch with pleasure a new era. But rather,
I understand that this is a deliberative process. In that by representing
the best interests, the hopes and dreams, the prayers of each one
of us, this great group process results generally in what is best.
Now I am no stranger to dissonance. I have often thought about the
fact that all of us live with dissonance, disharmony of some sort.
I have remembered that about age five or six, we used to play sandlot
baseball in the little corner of the town in which we grew up. I can
remember going out there to watch my older brothers play and I chased
the ball when it was hit over the fence. And wondering there, why
it was that my brothers, who lived very straight and upright lives,
could not hit the ball as far as another fella in the neighborhood,
who used excessive profanity, never darkened the door of a church
and didn't seem to be one of God's children. At a very early age I
decided that there was a great disparity between what I thought God
ought to do in this world and what He did. And I have been living
with that dissonance, at times easier to accept than at others, but
recognizing surely that God is God, and we see through a glass darkly
but someday face to face.
I recognize also that there is a tremendous gap between my own best
intentions and what I can accomplish. On more days than I care to
remember, I have set out to do a long list of things to get done,
only to realize at the end of the day that I never really got started
on the list. And it creates a kind of dissonance and inward stress
and tension within which one can live only for so long.
I have a lot of dreams and hopes. I have places I want to go, people
I want to meet, experiences I want to enjoy, milestones to pass. But,
I recognize that probably when it is all over and the lights are out,
I will not be living with anything other than a certain degree of
that dissonance. But I also recognize that I am temporary and that
I only go around one time. And in that one time, I want to make a
commitment to reduce the dissonance, the distance, the disharmony
between that sense of excellence, the possibility, that hope that
is held out there for a great Christian university, such as this.
And I want to reduce the dissonance, the distance between what I see
and what many of you see and have shared with me in what we hope and
dream for and the reality that is here.
The best has not yet been, it is yet to be, and that is the finest
tribute we can make to all of those who have been a part of the illustrious
past of this place- so idyllic in setting, so exciting in context,
so fraught with possibility. And so to that end, to that reduction
of dissonance, in a world torn apart by hatreds, in a community that
is growing and building, among scholars who seek for truth, God's
truth, through countless avenues; to the reduction of dissonance,
the distance, the disharmony between people who care, people who love,
people who intend to make a difference in the world, I pledge myself.
In the front of the little diary or daybook that I carry, I have written
Richard Chestershire's little prayer, "Day by day, dear Lord, of
these three things I pray - to see Thee more clearly, To love Thee more
dearly, To follow Thee more nearly, Day by Day."
I promise you that is my plea and my prayer. I thank you.