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Summer 2003 | Volume 26, Number 3 | From the President
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?

Essayist 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 resources 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 more enduring.

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, the winds blew and beat upon that house; but it did not fall, because its foundations were on 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.


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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 Grandson
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]

Still Exploring
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]

Second Wind
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]

My Response
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.