During three ceremonies in mid-May, the University of the South presented honorary degrees to historian Randall Balmer; the Rt. Rev. David Mitchell Reed, Bishop of West Texas; Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009 and a multidisciplinary professor at Stanford University; and several others.

Balmer gave the School of Theology’s commencement address May 11 and reflected on three ways in which the tradition of the Episcopal Church makes its members countercultural Christians: spreading justice; resisting rationalization; and celebrating beauty. In the embedded video that follows, Balmer’s remarks begin at 36 minutes.

Rice delivered the university’s baccalaureate address, recognizing Sewanee as a place where faith and reason are companions, and speaking of the transformative power of education to unlock each person’s God-given potential.

She shared several stories to illustrate her theme that the privilege of an education confers obligations on its recipient. Rice told the story of her grandfather, a sharecropper’s son who “knew that education was going to allow him to become someone that he would otherwise never have been, and he knew that he would pass that on” to future generations.

She asked graduates to remember five responsibilities they carry: to pursue their life’s work with passion; to use their powers of reason and buttress them with faith; to cultivate humility; to remain optimistic; and to serve others.

Rice discussed her struggle to find her passion, trying and discarding various majors in college before falling in love with international studies. “Don’t let anyone define your passion for you, because of your gender, or the color of your skin, or the background from which you come.”

She asked graduates to examine and challenge their own opinions with the force of reason, as unsettling as that may be. “Those times when you think you’re absolutely right,” she said, “go and find someone who disagrees” (watch portions of Rice’s address at this link).

Adapted from the University of the South

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