Quote, Unquote: Commencement 2017

Quote, unquote is an eclectic sampling of things said at and about Hope College.

Photo by Steven Herppich

Enduring wisdom comes from many sources, and as the members of the graduating Class of 2017 prepared to cross the stage at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium during the college’s 152nd Commencement on Sunday, May 7, they were encouraged to remember a children’s Sunday school song.

And also to sing it.

“Now I know we’re all gussied up in our caps and gowns, and I know y’all are on the verge of becoming sophisticated college graduates. But I do not care,” said featured speaker Dr. Charles Green, professor of psychology and former director of the college’s Phelps Scholars Program. “We are going to sing ‘Deep and Wide’ right here at your commencement. That goes for the faculty, the families and everyone else.”

The resulting impromptu choir included approximately 730 seniors. The class consisted of students from throughout the United States and foreign nations around the world.

Green titled his address “A Fountain Flowing Deep and Wide,” from the song’s lyrics. He noted that as the graduates embrace the reality of life today — how to thrive in an age with so many differences in background, perspective and opinion — the song’s message provides a meaningful guide for people of faith.

“As we are all well aware, we live in a divided and divisive time. We’ve always had our differences, but in the U.S. today, and in many other countries, there is a polarization that cuts right through, leaving us fearful, angry, suspicious,” he said.

“Underneath, many of our most divisive arguments are a disagreement about which is better — deep or wide?” Green said. “Should we hunker down with the people who look and think like we do? Or should we embrace the diversity and internationalization of the age?”

“Fortunately, the answer to this question is right here in this song,” he said. “All we have to do is listen for the most important word. It’s not ‘deep.’ But it’s not ‘wide,’ either. It’s ‘and.’ There’s a fountain flowing deep ‘and’ wide. Not deep ‘or’ wide. Not deep ‘but’ wide. Certainly not deep ‘versus’ wide. A fountain flowing deep ‘and’ wide.”

“For people of faith, this fountain represents the depth and breadth of God’s love for us,” Green said. “God’s love is deep and wide because God is deep and wide. Scripture tells us we were created in the image of God, suggesting that we, too, were meant to be both deep and wide.”

Deep engagement with faith and wide engagement with others are not only compatible but complementary, reinforcing each other, Green said.

“When our roots are truly deep, we have the confidence to reach out, to bring alongside, to invite, support, ask, welcome, to meet new people and learn new things,” he said. At the same time, he said, going wide and new experiences “enable reflection and encourage commitment. New ideas offer a richer understanding of God and God’s creation. New people teach us to see difference and similarity, and we learn more about ourselves as we learn more about others.”

The Commencement ceremony was preceded by the college’s Baccalaureate services, held in Dimnent Memorial Chapel in the morning. The address, “Equipped to Serve,” was presented by Sandra Gaddy, who is chief executive officer of the Women’s Resource Center in Grand Rapids as well as a member of the college’s Board of Trustees and was concluding her final year as co-chair with her husband, Arlen, of Hope’s Parents’ Council.