Each spring, as tulips begin to emerge and before tourists descend on Holland, alumni from around the world return to their alma mater for Alumni Weekend (photos from April 27-28 coming soon).
There are many highlights. Reunions for five classes and the Fifty Year Circle reconnect classmates on a campus where much has changed, but somehow much as stayed the same. Alumni applaud student accomplishments on playing fields and in concert halls. Distinguished alumni return to be honored for lives of leadership and service. And, in the sacred space of Dimnent Memorial Chapel on Saturday afternoon, Allison Utting, a Hope College senior, addressed the 50th Reunion Class of 1968 with the following speech:
People like to say that history repeats itself. However, I am a part of the small, but correct minority that believes history does not repeat itself. Rather, it rhymes. Certain themes and attitudes cycle through the generations, manifesting themselves over and over again, but never in the same way twice. As a history education major here at Hope, I am accustomed to tracking these rhythmic cycles and exploring them with my students. Perhaps, as a result of this, or of my “old soul”, I feel a certain kinship with your generation. Both the 1960s and the 2010s, the decades in which your generation and mine came of age, will be remembered as turbulent times in our nation’s history. The year of 1968 in particular, the year of your graduation, fits this description well. In 1968, university students across the nation protested the Vietnam war. Today, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and others are marching on the nation’s capitol calling for an end to school shootings. In 1968, athletes raised their fists atop the Olympic podium in Mexico City during the National Anthem. Today, athletes are choosing to kneel on football fields across the nation. In 1968, riots erupted at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Today, oratorical riots are commonplace in cyberspace and on cable news. In 1968, you suffered through the assassinations of not one, but two prominent leaders. Today, thankfully, we have not seen such violence, but do continue to see the increasing vilification of the “other side.” Both you and I entered our adult lives at a time of uncertainty and change. Regardless of your political leanings, this has undoubtedly shaped the way we came to view the world and our role in it. In this, we are similar.
But, there is another thing that binds us inextricably together and that is Hope’s firm foundation in the historic Christian faith and its unwavering commitment to producing globally minded citizens who are ready to go out and use their education to be of service to the world. Amidst the changing times, I am thankful for the steadiness of Hope. This is not to say that Hope is stagnant, in fact, much has changed since you were here. Van Wylen Library opened in 1989 thereby replacing Van Zoeren which has been converted into an academic hall I frequent often. The beautiful Lubbers Hall became home to humanities and social sciences while the A. Paul Schaap Science Center was completed to reflect and support Hope’s outstanding reputation in the sciences and undergraduate research. The demolition of Nykerk Hall (may it rest in peace) helped make way for the beautiful Bultman Student Center where students fifty years from now may continue to join together in fun and fellowship at Hope. Chapel services are no longer required, but every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, you will hear the joyous sounds of hundreds of Hope students and faculty bursting forth from these walls in worship, just as they have always done.
Today, Hope is as committed to its founding principles as it has ever been. And that is the magic of Hope. That is what allows every student of Hope, young and old, odd year and even year, to find common ground in their shared experience. It is a place where mistakes can be made and forgiveness can be learned. It is a place where hard conversations can be had and ideas can be challenged. It is a place where loves are found and passions are pursued. It is place where all students can explore their calling and their faith in an environment that is nurturing and personal. Like many that came before me, I discovered who I am, and whose I am along the shores of Lake Michigan, under the pine grove trees, and in these pews. And for that, I will forever be thankful to Hope.
So, as history continues to roll through its rhythmic cycles, let us all find comfort in the steadiness of Hope, the lessons we learned here, and in the never-changing love and grace of God to whom we owe everything. For, we are the people of hope and people of hope. Spera in Deo. Thank you.