Editor’s Note: It is graduation season now, a time when thousands of young men and women across the country celebrate their new-found knowledge and prepare to embark on a journey to establish their place in the world. We hope they will utilize a healthy dose of discernment along with this knowledge, as well as an eventual wisdom that will be based on foundational truth rather than fleeting opinion. Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, delivers this charge. — Pat Daugherty Ed.D.
A Commencement Address For The Nation
Dr. Everett Piper is the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU). He is the author of Why I Am a Liberal, and Other Conservative Ideas and the viral op-ed, “This is not a Day Care. It’s a University!” In 2015 he received the Jeanne Kirkpatrick Award for Academic Freedom from the Bradley Foundation and the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) Award. He has been featured on FOX & Friends, NBC Today! Show, Varney & Co., The O’Reilly Factor, The Glenn Beck Show, and a host of other radio and television venues. Piper also writes routinely for a number of publications. A native of Hillsdale, Michigan, Dr. Piper, his wife, and their two sons have served as OKWU’s First Family since August of 2002. He actively participates on a variety of councils relating to cultural engagement and public policy.
I am passionate about teaching. I adore learning. I love the Academy and all the ideals that reside within the four walls of the ivory tower. I have given over 30 years of my professional life to this enterprise.
Why? It’s because I am a believer. I believe in education.
I believe that the best education is that which is tested by time, confirmed by experience, validated by reason, and, ultimately, grounded in Revelation.
I believe that the academy is the gate-keeper of our individual virtue and our national conscience. I believe that all intellectual and moral training must be anchored in our Creator who endows us with the rights of life and liberty. And I believe that if we build education on any foundation but Him we will lose our conscience and shortly thereafter lose our freedom, our joy, and our ability to pursue happiness.
I believe that our future lies in the hearts and minds of today’s students, and that all cultures are but one generation away from irrelevancy and extinction.
I believe that what is taught today in the classroom will be practiced tomorrow in our churches, our companies, our communities and our country at large.
I believe in absolutes, and I believe that if we don’t teach them, learn them, and cherish them that we will be cast about by every wave of human desire, political promise, and selfish ambition.
I believe in the historical mission of the university, a mission set deep in the bedrock of what is immutable, unshakable, permanent and true; not in the bricks and mortar of grand campuses and sports colosseums, but rather in such cornerstones as honor, integrity, virtue, temperance or perhaps patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
I believe there must be more to education than just passing along a few facts and figures and opinions to our young people. Maybe, just maybe, the best education rises above the theories of Dewey and Darwin and Derrida to a way and a truth and a life that is found only in the dogma of the classics and the Divine.
I am a believer.
Education has changed my life and it has changed my family. With it, God has not only given me a career but he has opened my mind, changed my behavior, challenged my character, confronted my sin, and saved my soul. He has broken the pattern of the generations that preceded me, taken me off of the prodigal path, and shown me the joy of choosing the road less traveled. Whether I be poor and unemployed or rich — with a predictable paycheck, education is a treasure to me. It has proven to be the gold given by God that serves as his currency for purchasing the incorruptible riches of his truth.
Today, as you graduate, I leave you with one word: Believe!
Believe in the liberal arts, an education that is driven by the hunger for answers rather than the protection of opinions; an education that is not subject to the ebb and flow of personal agendas or political fads; an education that is not afraid to put all ideas on the table because there is confidence that in the end we will embrace what is true and discard what is false.
Believe in liberty — because the best education is one that indeed liberates. It liberates us from the consequences of those things that are wrong and frees us to live within the beauty of those things that are right.
Believe in integration — and that truth cannot be segregated into false dichotomies, but it is an integrated whole where you cannot and should not separate personal life from private life, the head from the heart, fact from faith, or belief from behavior.
Believe in those things that are revealed by God and not just constructed by man.
Believe that truth gives salvation to the damned and freedom to the slave. Be energized by the unapologetic pursuit of truth. Wherever it leads, be confident in the words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
Doesn’t the lesson of history tell us that when we exchange the truth of God for a lie that we build a house of cards that will fall to mankind’s inevitable temper tantrum of seeking control and power? Time and time again we see that when we deny what is right and true and embrace what is wrong and false, we inevitably fall prey to the rule of the gang or the tyranny of one. We need look no further than to the lessons of Mao, Mussolini, Stalin, Pol Pot, or Robespierre for such evidence.
The question to you as you graduate this weekend is this: Do you enjoy more freedom today than in days gone by or are we now becoming more and more enslaved by the constructs of the Uberminsch – the superman – the power brokers, the elites, the ‘fittest” who have survived in the political arenas of campaigns or campuses? Are we free to live within the boundaries of truth that come from a classical liberal education, or are we becoming more and more bound by group think, political correctness, and populous power?
Education – complete education – liberal education — must be grounded in the conservative respect for and the conservation of what is right and just and real. It should seek to reclaim what has been co-opted and to reveal what has been compromised. It should be free of intimidation and should honor open inquiry. It should have confidence in the measuring rod of Truth, that unalienable standard that is bigger and better than the crowd or the consensus.
Education, good liberal education, is the business of pursuing Truth. It isn’t about just getting a job or furthering your career. It isn’t about constructing opinions. It’s about choosing to obey God rather than trying to become God.
Today, as you watch the consequences of bad ideas play themselves out on the nightly news, remember that your education should, at minimum, have given you the ability to discern between good ideas and bad ideas, between that which is right and that which is wrong. Remember that as Chesterton told you: “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”
Congratulations on your graduation day.
My charge to you graduates today is this – Believe!
Now leave this campus! Culture is now yours! Go change the world!