A Tale of Two Commencements

 

DeVos-Bethune
With the graduation season in full swing, two commencements couldn’t offer more diversity.
On Friday, the President gave the commencement address at  Liberty University, which is the largest Christian university in the country. More than 50,000 people gathered to celebrate the graduates of 2017 and to hear President Trump’s first commencement address as president.
Trump spoke about God, faith, and America’s Christian history. He encouraged grads to never give up, and to be courageous to challenge the establishment and the critics. The President repeatedly  thanked the crowd for helping him get elected, and recognized the 1,600 military graduates in the audience.
Liberty University was a frequent stop for the Trump train during the campaign.
Two days prior, at Bethune-Cookman University, Betsy De Vos, the new education secretary, met with much opposition at this historically black university. De Vos is a proponent of school choice and angered black Americans by her assertion earlier this year that black colleges were “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” Historically, this is incorrect. Colleges such as Bethune-Cookman were founded as the only option because of legal segregation.
De Vos was introduced by President Edison Jackson to a chorus of loud boos. De Vos began her speech with an appeal for to the audience to listen and converse, even in disagreement, her voice rising to be heard above the clamor. Many of the students responded by turning their backs.
Protests began weeks ago, as soon as it was announced that De Vos would be speaking. Petitions were circulated, yet President Jackson urged the school community to be willing to engage with what they consider “other.” He wrote, “When we seek to shelter our students and campus communities from views that are diametrically opposed to their own… we actually leave our students far less capable of combating those ideas.”
At one point during De Vos’ speech, Jackson interrupted and threatened to end the ceremony because the catcalls had become so loud. He said it was up the students, but if they did not allow De Vos to finish, he would be mailing the students their diplomas. Eventually, the jeers subsided and De Vos was able to proceed.
Why this Matters: Kudos to President Jackson for his determination to bridge the gap between the right to free speech and the responsibility we have to listen to respect each other. Kudos to De Vos for not cancelling the engagement, but valiantly meeting her opposition. 
Pray for the healing of hatred in this country. Pray for believers that we will approach tough situations with the heart of Christ, always standing firm for our faith.
1 Cor. 16:13 – Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.
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