By Philip Eaton, President
"Hope is a big deal," says SPU President Eaton. "I have come to believe that leaders will be measured by their ability to bring hope to their organizations, their communities, the country or the world."
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about hope. Let me ask you this: Are you hopeful about the future -- about your own personal future, the future of your company, the future of our country, the future of our world? It is very easy to slip into despair or discouragement about the way things are going, isn't it? And yet hope is vitally important to our lives, our work and our culture.
At a gathering in one of our residence halls recently, I asked a group of students this question about hope. As I listened to the answers of these wonderful young people, I became aware that much depends on how this future generation of leaders answers the question about hope. If the younger generation today is hopeful, then the future of our world will be very different than if their vision of the world is shaped by fear or despair. Hope is a big deal.
As I listened to the hopeful answers of our students, answers that could be very different indeed, I came to a renewed sense of our purpose at Seattle Pacific University: We must prepare these students to be people of hope. We must structure all of our work at Seattle Pacific so that we can prepare a new generation of leaders to bring hope into the world. We must do our work so that we too bring hope.
I have come to believe that leaders will be measured by their ability to bring hope to their organizations, their communities, the country or the world. This is true whether that leader is leading a group through a task, leading a company through strategic re-focusing, or leading the country through a crisis. Good leaders will bring hope.
When a group of people, for example, finds itself entangled in an issue or task that seems hopeless -- the complexity is too great, the obstacles huge, the personalities impossible, the dynamics confusing -- it is the leader who steps up with strength and clarity and points the way toward resolution and conclusion. This is bringing hope to the situation.
But then my thinking about hope has also led me to these vital questions: Where does hope come from? Why is hope important? If we are going to give our students a vision of the world that is hopeful, how do we go about such an awesome task? How do we teach hope?
I recently rediscovered, with an intensity that startled me, the book of Colossians. As Paul reflects on the experience of this new and very young church, he is pleased and grateful for their faithfulness and their love for one another. The power of the gospel, he says, is truly engaging the culture and changing the world, and they are part of this worldwide movement of hope. And then Paul says something that was suddenly very fresh to me. There is a reservoir of hope stored up for us, he says, in the realm of light -- hope that is available to us, accessible, provided for us. Hope, in other words, is the way things are. Hope is a world view, a leap of faith, a bedrock assumption on which lives are built, organizations are created, and leadership is shaped.
We are connected to the reservoir of hope through faith, and we communicate this hope through love. Hope is indeed available to us, but we must do something with it. Live a "life of active goodness," Paul says in so many ways through this book. And, of course, here we have encountered that radical combination -- hope, faith and love -- with which we can change the world. Hope, faith and love -- this is the way things are, the foundation on which to be a leader of hope, the ground point on which to educate a new generation of leaders.
Our vision for Seattle Pacific University has something powerfully to do with hope. We are called to prepare graduates to bring hope into the world, to take part in a kind of scholarship that brings hope, to organize our own work and our own community around hope. We are called to be leaders of hope. Hope can change the world. Hope is indeed a big deal.