| A Tone for the Times
Will the World’s Troubles Bring Out Something
Better in Us?
At SPU’s Commencement ceremonies on June 7,
President Eaton congratulates the new recipient
of a master’s degree. “Our students are facing
a different world,” he writes. “We have the opportunity and responsibility to
teach new foundations,
a new posture, and indeed a new tone.”
I HAVE THE FEELING that the tone of our lives
may have shifted for the better in these times.
That may seem an odd thing to say in a time of
war, economic uncertainty, and shrill and divisive
public discourse. So how can I say that our tone
has shifted for the better?
Just three years ago, we were at the height of
a rocket-propelled stock market. What Alan
Greenspan called “irrational exuberance” left us all a little giddy. We thought
we had it made without trying. And peace seemed to reign in the world. Of course
this was before September 11, before the market began its precipitous slide,
before corporate scandals, before war in unstable and little-understood places,
before scientists and
scholars were discovered plagiarizing others’ work.
Well, the wind is out of
everyone’s sails, and we find ourselves searching for a tone. Will it be bitterness,
cynicism and pessimism?
There’s lots of evidence to say this is so. Or could it just possibly be that
these shifts in our world might bring out something better in us all?
David Brooks said recently that we find ourselves “at an odd cultural moment.” The
scandals in the business world,
for example, leave us now with “no dominant image of business
success.” For those young people who aspire to a career in business, where are
the models of excellence?
Brooks digs deep into American history to propose Abraham
Lincoln as a model for these sobering times not the Lincoln of great leadership
and statesmanship, but the hard-working Lincoln, the Lincoln who developed and
used his talents to make a living for his family, the Lincoln who scrapped and
scrambled to build his law practice, the Lincoln who emerged from backwoods poverty
through hard work and talent and the simple virtues of honesty and respectability.
This is the Lincoln who was all the while “building the spiritual and moral
that enabled him to face the greatest crisis any
American had ever faced.”
We are talking here about another set of values not
the giddy sense of entitlement that emerges out of exuberant times. Perhaps we
are reaching down right now to discover a deeper core of values, a posture of
simplicity and humility, a deeper commitment to hard. work, a new understanding
that honesty and integrity bring a more lasting sense of respectability and self-esteem.
Perhaps we are discovering
that patience, perseverance and the long view, while they may not
be as much fun at times, are in fact better, healthier. Perhaps the
hopefulness that comes from such a life is much stronger, much
Several years ago, at the height of our
nation’s irrational exuberance, I hosted a luncheon for 15 students who were
preparing to graduate from our School of Business and Economics. The purpose
of this luncheon was to bring our students face to face with donors who had provided
scholarships for this stage of their schooling.
The students appropriately thanked
these donors with genuine and touching gratefulness. But I came away from that
luncheon feeling uneasy. As one young woman talked about her future, she said
she had been advised to keep her options open, because options were so plentiful.
While our students focused, as they always do, on the ways they could make a
difference in the world, the room was nevertheless full of a sense of guaranteed
opportunities and even of easy money. Unbridled confidence and giddiness crossed
over into entitlement, and I had the uncomfortable feeling we were all headed
toward a dangerous crash. And crash we did.
One of the guiding texts of my year is from Matthew 7, where Jesus
admonishes his followers to be very, very careful about foundations “So whoever
hears these words of mine,” he says, “and acts on them is like a man who had
the sense to build his house on rock. The rain came down, the floods rose,
winds blew and beat upon that house; but it did not fall, because its foundations
rock. And whoever hears these words of mine
and does not act on them is like a man who was
foolish enough to build his house on sand. The
rain came down, the floods rose, the winds blew
and battered against that house; and it fell with
a great crash.”
The point is clear that the rain will always come and the floods
will always rise and the
wind will beat on our houses. So we’ve got to make sure about our foundations.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about the values he believes so foundational:
humility, mercy, peacefulness, gentleness, moral vision, the toughness to face
up to trials. This is where we find the right tone. Maybe, in fact, we have
a new opportunity in these times to discover an even better tone for our lives.
Our students are facing a different world. We also have the
opportunity and responsibility to teach new foundations, a new
posture, and indeed a new tone.
— BY PHILIP W. EATON, PRESIDENT
— PHOTO BY DANIEL SHEEHAN
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A Gift at Any Age
Young alumni are supporting The Campaign for SPU with the Young Alumni
Endowment. They will provide scholarship support to students
engaging the culture. [Campaign]
Like Grandfather, Like
On June 7, 80-year-old Sheldon Arnett finally received
his bachelor’s degree from Seattle Pacific. His grandson,
Jeremiah Johnson, earned his SPU bachelor’s degree the
same day. [Campus]
The Retiring Class of 2003
Five professors, with a combined 162 years in the classroom, retired
this year. They tell of their careers and the impact students
had on them. [Faculty]
Missionary bush pilot Roald Amundsen ’41 founded
Missionary Aviation and Repair Center (MARC) — becoming an
explorer just like the famous Norwegian for whom he was named. [Alumni]
A marathoner, wife, mother and business alumna, Claudia Shannon came back after tough
times. As a 45-year-old senior, she was on the SPU cross country
team that ranked 14th in the nation. [Athletics]
After 25 years, Joyce Quiring Erickson, retiring professor of English and
dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, reflects on glossy brown
chestnuts, home and the Promised Land.