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No. 4

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by David Halbrook
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Commencement Celebrates God, Service, and Love

In what has almost become an annual tradition, spring rains yielded to blue skies in the hours prior to Patrick Henry College’s Commencement 2008. By the time the 63 graduates strode to the podium for their diplomas, a stiff breeze had stilled, letting warm sunlight bathe the spirited tribute to four years of hard work, academic perseverance, and transcendent memories.

PHC graduate prays
PHC/Art Cox
Sixty-three students graduate at Patrick Henry College's 2008 commencement.

Graduates from 25 states received diplomas, and commencement speaker Mike Huckabee’s keynote address stirred a capacity crowd of parents, family, and friends.

Introduced by PHC Chancellor Michael Farris as “a person who beautifully articulates and lives out the goal of this college … which is to take the truths of Jesus Christ and His Word and translate them to [the] world in a manner that is winsome and articulate,” the former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate launched graduates with a sometimes humorous, often sober-minded reminder of why they chose PHC in the first place.

“You came here because you knew there was a unique and special purpose for this campus,” he began. “You wanted more than to have a career or job—you wanted to change the world and, frankly, if you had come for another reason you probably wouldn’t have lasted four years.”

PHC graduate prays
PHC/Art Cox
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee delivers the keynote address.

Observing that, in order to change the world, one must discover one’s true purpose, Huckabee asserted, “No one is kept from the will of God because He’s holding it back. It’s not because God is unwilling to reveal it but because we’re not willing to obey it. He will not reveal our true purpose until we’ve given Him an absolute commitment…to accept the task even before we know what it is.”

Cautioning grads that “there are no guarantees that the enterprises upon which you embark are going to be successful in the eyes of those around you,” he concluded that “what appears to be failure is often part of a process much bigger than anything you can understand. Trying to really be salt and light in a society and culture that is filled with decay is not necessarily an endeavor that will earn you the plaudits and approval of those around you.”

In his student remarks, government major Caleb Jones challenged graduating seniors not to “let your lives be hollow, but do all things in love.”

“I’m here to warn you,” Jones charged, “that as you seek meaning and significance in your life’s work…it will be hollow if you do not love.”

“I don’t need to encourage you to be more productive, to be more motivated, to make a name for yourself in the world, or to be the best and the smartest,” he added. “It’s easy to remember to be motivated and productive. It is difficult to love. Don’t lose sight. Don’t give up. Fill your actions with meaning.”

PHC graduate prays
PHC/Art Cox
David Carver challenges future graduates to live fully.

Literature major David Carver addressed his remarks to future graduates. Describing what he believes a classical Christian liberal arts education ought to be, he drew from the lyrics of the popular musical The Sound of Music: “When you know the notes to sing / You can sing most anything.”

“A liberal arts education demands from its students a developed practice,” he said, defining a “liberal” mind as a “free mind, a forgiving mind that can interact with the creation in its wholeness.”

“Why do we learn the notes?” he asked. “So we can sing! And not simply to sing, but by learning the basic set of notes we discover the key to singing anything conceivable…so we can more fully live and inspire others to do so themselves. Find the Rock so you can build your house upon it. Learn the notes so you can sing.”

In his closing benediction, PHC President Graham Walker prayed that the Lord would turn students’ “hearts and minds to Jesus in everything they do.” He prayed that students would “choose the one thing that most matters—Jesus Christ.”

About the author

David Halbrook is director of communications at Patrick Henry College.