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Seattle Pacific University
Autumn 2007 | Volume 30, Number 2 | From the President

Going Global

As people of promise, we are called to make the world a better place

President Eaton, pictured at Seattle’s World Trade Center
SPU is asking what it means to offer a global education within the context of its own unique vision, says President Eaton, pictured at Seattle’s World Trade Center.
We are launching a major conversation across our campus these days to determine how best to become even more intentionally global in our work.

What does “global” mean for Seattle Pacific University, as a Christian university, for this moment in time, in a world that changes with such alarming speed? How must we change the way we do our work as a university in such a world? How can we define global education that bears the emphatic stamp of our own unique tradition and history, and our distinctive vision to engage the culture and change the world? Indeed, how can a university change the world? These are the big questions on our plate as we enter more deeply into this conversation.

When we dig down deep into our roots as an institution, down there in our own DNA, we discover that the visionaries who founded Seattle Pacific had a clear view of preparing graduates for mission work all over the world. Our roots say global.

I am fully aware, by the way, that similar conversations are going on in earnest at universities all over the country. Global is the buzz, these days, as it should be. If the American academy does not aggressively and intentionally address questions about global education, the world will just simply pass us by, and our influence and effectiveness in the world will dwindle dramatically. Our students are clamoring for action and focus on global matters. Our world cries out for a Christian university to step up to the huge challenges we face.

We know a lot about our world. Perhaps more than any other generation in history, we are global people. Technology has extended our reach of knowing in marvelous and dazzling ways. That’s exciting, exhilarating at times. It is also frightening. Sometimes the world presents us with such complexity, such daunting challenges of suffering and conflict and poverty, such horrifying prospects of brokenness, that we simply don’t know what to do with it all.

At times our knowing presents us with the blur and whirl of change, both bewildering and confusing, a world full of such opportunity, a world where economies are exploding, and yet we find ourselves uncertain about how to make choices that are right and good, how prosperity and opportunity can be shared throughout the world. Too often we harbor the haunting suspicion that we have lost our ability to influence the enormous forces at work around the globe.

How can Seattle Pacific University imagine that we could make such a world a better place? Isn’t that presumptuous and arrogant of us? We are tempted to withdraw into the comfort of resignation and separation from it all. We are tempted to feel small and inadequate and even helpless in the face of what’s going on. Really, what can a university do to change the world?

But resignation and withdrawal, even consternation, can never be the posture of the Christian university. In preparation for Jürgen Moltmann’s visit to our campus this fall, I have been rereading his marvelous book Theology of Hope. In it, Moltmann argues strongly that the Christian story begins with a promise, God’s promise that he will someday, somehow, make the world right. Ours is a story, grounded in history to be sure, but always driven by “the hope-giving word of promise,” he says.

Our Christian story, says Moltmann, “can have nothing to do with fleeing the world, with resignation and with escapism.” No, indeed, we are called to engage, to get into the global mix, to understand first, to be sure, but then to equip ourselves and our students to be active in the promise that anchors our story. We are called to spread the word of hope, to see reality “in the hand of him whose voice calls into history from its end, saying, ‘behold, I make all things new.’” As we hear this word of promise, again and again, indeed as we vigorously embrace our Christian story of promise, we develop “the freedom to renew life here and to change the face of the world.” Because we are people of promise, it is our obligation and opportunity to help make the world a better place.

All of this will press us in the days ahead to begin any number of concrete initiatives and programs. We will clearly need, for example, to understand better the encounter between Islam and Christianity. We will need to know Chinese and Arabic. We will need to address the challenge of Africa, its staggering poverty and disease, its yearning for order and political stability. We will need to understand better how India flourishes while at the same time leaving so many desperately behind. How can we understand the clash of civilizations, wars between religions, dividedness among ideologies — and the horrific violence unleashed on the world? How can we better prepare our students in science and technology, engineering and math, to meet these critical needs of the emerging world? How can we better understand what it means to provide economic opportunity through business, not just for our own country, but through our interdependence with countries around the globe?

The task list is endless, and we will need to find our distinctive focus, but through it all, and guiding us each step of the way, is the “hope-giving word of promise.” This is where we find our distinctive stamp on global education. We have an enduring story of hope to share. While our posture must be one of humility and gratitude, this is what gives us the appropriate confidence that we can change the world.

What a conversation we are launching. I invite you to join us.

—By Philip W. Eaton

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Department Highlights

Going Global
President Philip Eaton asks the Seattle Pacific community to discuss what "global” means for SPU.

The President’s Bookshelf
See what President Eaton has been reading and why.