Graduation speakers call the class of 2012 to dream and
to collaborate with God to make God's dreams reality
|Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of the Diocese of Cape Town, South Africa at the Gonzaga Univerity graduation|
“All! All! All!” Thirty times the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate and archbishop emeritus of the Diocese of Cape Town, South Africa, repeated “all” to make his point that Jesus draws all people, not just some, into God’s “incredible divine embrace of love.”
God embraces all, regardless of their beauty, cleverness, height, shape, race, gender, sexual orientation or faith, he told Gonzaga University’s 2012 graduates in his commencement address for the university’s 125th year.
Tutu closed with God’s call, “Help me so my children will know we belong in one family, God’s family, the human family, and no one is outside this embrace.
“Help me! Help me! Help me!” he repeated about as many times, as God’s call to the graduates.
He challenged them to respond to God’s call to collaborate with God and make the world more hospitable to gentleness, caring, compassion and sharing.
“God is calling you. God is depending on you to make this the kind of world where no one goes to bed hungry,” the archbishop said. “Please, my children, help me.”
Tutu also repeatedly challenged the graduates to dream.
“Please, please, please dream. Don’t allow yourself to be infected by the cynicism of oldies like us,” he challenged. “Dream incredibly idealistic, creative things.
“This can become a world where war is no more. Think of the billions we spend on instruments of war and destruction. A minute fraction of the obscene amounts would assure that God’s children everywhere can have clean water to drink and would not die for a lack of cheap inoculations,” he said.
Tutu also urged the graduates to dream of a world without poverty and a world marked by equity, where everyone, everyone has a decent life.
“We can have such a world,” he said.
Tutu, who was part of a Semester at Sea two years ago, said Sue Weitz, Gonzaga University’s vice president for student life and leader of that program, who invited him to give a commencement address. Even though he announced his retirement in 2010 to spend time with his family, he decided to come when he read doing in a copy of Gonzaga’s One World magazine about the social justice action students were involved in.
“That undermined my resistance to coming. I can’t resist young people. Youth are some of the most fantastic creatures in God’s world,” Tutu said, pointing to the nearly 1,150 graduates. “You are the distinguished VIPs today.”
Tutu, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree during the commencement May 13 in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, asked: “Have you discovered how extraordinary God, the Omnipotent One is? God almost always waits to have a human collaborator for what God wants to happen in the world.
“If there are hungry people, the Omnipotent One is not able to do it without human collaborators,” he said.
Through salvation history, Tutu said God has had collaborators and co-workers, often young people like Joseph, David or Jeremiah.
“Jeremiah, you are not an afterthought,” Tutu spoke in God’s words. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. I chose you. You aren’t an accident. Although some of us look like it, no one of us is an accident.
“God knew you, and you, and you, and you,” he pointed to the graduates, “from all eternity, and you are totally indispensible. Fantastic!”
With an attention-getting “Knock, Knock” joke format, he told of God sending the archangel to tell Mary, “God wants you to be the mother of God.” Tutu suggests Mary’s first response, “What! You want me to be what, an unmarried mother?” Then she responds: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.” He quickly adds: “The whole of creation breathed a cosmic sigh of relief, and Jesus was born. He died at 30, another young person.”
“Francis of Assisi was young,” Tutu continued. “You are at this university named for Aloysius Gonzaga, a young guy who died at 22. He was caring for people who had the plague and succumbed to the plague.
“Youth are fantastic,” Tutu asserted.
He recalled coming to U.S. campuses “a long time ago,” and having his heart warmed by students out in the hot sun demonstrating, asking their institutions to divest from companies that did business supporting the oppression under apartheid in South Africa.
Even though the U.S. President Ronald Reagan had opposed sanctions in the 1980s, the Free South Africa movement organized students and others to help change the climate in this country so Congress was able to pass the anti-Apartheid legislation and override the President’s veto.
That movement helped free Nelson Mandela from prison so he could go on to become president, serving from 1994 to 1999.
“You helped to free us. We have freedom and democracy in South Africa now,” Tutu said. “We seek to be a non-sexist, non-racist democracy. You were part of that movement to change God’s world to make it beautiful.”
From years of struggle to end racial apartheid in South Africa, he challenged those who would dismiss or penalize half the world because of gender or exclude people because of race or sexual orientation
“Go out! You are extraordinary creatures. God says please help me. Help me! Help me! Help me! God is calling you,” he said.
Before his invocation for the commencement, the Rev. Steve Kuder, SJ, associate professor in the Religious Studies Department and rector of Gonzaga’s Jesuit community, urged graduates to see themselves as poised to move into deeper union with “the limitless love of God.” He encouraged them to live their lives free from fear so they can gain peace by working for justice, and can transform themselves and the world.
In his address, Gonzaga University President Thane McCulloh, a 1989 graduate of Gonzaga, advised graduates to be aware that they can experience success by reflecting on lessons they will learn in times of failure and defeat.
Whether a failure can be transformed into a success depends on one’s capacity to be imaginative and creative as one dreams, he said, calling the degrees the graduates were earning “a professional license to dream.”
Citing Roman philosopher Seneca, who said students do not learn for school but for life, Thane said that their studies prepared them to go out to make the world better. He told them to live lives of integrity, use their imagination and influence to help the culture heal itself, rely on their voices to speak for those with no voice and invest in and allow their faith to be a light shining in the darkness for those who have lost their way. He invited them to use the power of their imaginations not only to dream new realities into being but also to inspire others to dream as well.
“You will answer key questions life throws at you not only through your life, but with your life,” he said, saying the intellectual gifts, skills and habits they have absorbed are their credentials.
“Credentials you have earned come with strings attached,” he continued, saying that Gonzaga grants the credentials expecting graduates to “go out and make the world a better and more decent place.”
Thane cited Tutu as someone who “listened intently to God’s voice, had the courage to animate dreams into action and to turn a personal dream into a powerful public reality.”
“The difference between knowing what needs to be done and doing what needs to be done is courage. Go forth and share your gifts with the world.”
The 2012 student speaker John Tyler Hobbs, student body president, said his point was simple: “Be kind.”
He suggested that moments of kindness, kind words and kind glances are ways to overcome his classmates’ disillusionment and hopelessness about the world’s inequity and seeming incomprehensible problems.
“For every incomprehensible bad there is abundant good,” Tyler said. “Kindness determines what is said, heard and done.”
Despite mistakes the graduates may make in life, he said, “we can be kind.”
Tyler hopes classmates will forge ahead to “live lives of extraordinary worth” continuing at the core to “be kind.”
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Copyright © June 2012 - The Fig Tree