JACKSON, Tenn. – May 30, 2006– NOTE: Luke Pruett, president of the 2006 senior class, was supposed to give a speech during Union University’s commencement May 20. But rain shortened the ceremony, and Pruett didn’t get the opportunity to deliver his address. The following are Pruett’s intended remarks:
Dr. Dockery, board of trustees, faculty and staff, fellow graduates, family and friends, it is my honor to address you on behalf of my fellow graduates.
If I have learned one thing in my college career, it is to cite your sources. Mr. Rogers, the great theologian who spoke to us as children from his “neighborhood,” once said that, “Everybody longs to be loved and the greatest thing we can do is let somebody know they are loved and capable of loving.” This quote sums up my time here at Union.
I have encountered love from the staff; whose constant behind the scenes work creates an environment in which learning can be both comfortable and safe. At the same time the faculty has far surpassed many of our dreams in their willingness to open their lives, offices and often, even their homes up for us. From many of you we take away instruction that has transformed the way in which we think, act and believe. Our interactions with you, which have often led to deep friendship, will not easily be forgotten.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was martyred at the hands of Hitler’s regime, said in his “Cost of Discipleship” that, “Besides Jesus, nothing has any significance; he alone matters.” While I wholeheartedly agree with this quote, we as a university, and as alums, must commend Dr. Dockery for leading Union in a direction towards superior scholarship in the liberal arts allowing us as young Christians to further understand our calling to become salt and light in a lost world.
We as students came here looking for a Christian atmosphere and discovered it, in the classroom of all places. As a result, Union has equipped us as Christians to become pastors, doctors, nurses, economists, accountants, teachers, psychologists, lawyers, journalists, musicians, artists and so much more. We as the class of 2006 have created paintings, sculptures and written papers far exceeding our high school term paper length of eight pages. We have been published. This semester many stood before classrooms filled with elementary, middle school or high school students and led them. We have memorized facts which have caused us to see just how tragic our world is, while at the same time attending lectures both in class and out which have instructed us in how Christians are to react in a world filled with darkness.
Classes here at Union have led to social involvement, volunteer work and dedication to a lifestyle separate from a complacent “Christianity,” whose willingness to critique is rendered void as a result of an unwillingness to bring forth action or change. As a result of my study in ethics and literature, I have been surrounded by voices from which I have taken truths away that I may never have encountered -- particularly within the parenthesis of a Christ centered community.
Notice that I say community rather than bubble. There is much talk within our community of the Union “bubble” -- a bubble which has trapped us into unrealistic thinking; which confines us to have discussions that are only relevant here, but I beg to disagree.
The truths which I have learned inside of the classroom and out during my time here are not only relevant, they will be our lifeline now that we are leaving. In fact, I would venture to argue that bubbles will continue to encapsulate us no matter if we live here at Union, or in a far country. Rather, we must take away from Union a model of “global caring,” community involvement and patient understanding.
For underclassman, I challenge you to seize your time here, not only for involvement at Union, but also within the greater Jackson community. Your ministry opportunities need not wait two, three or four more years. They can begin today.
For my fellow graduates -- we are headed in a direction of uncertainty, and though we may not know what lies ahead there remains a model, in the form of Christ, whose discipline, simplicity, serenity of spirit, sympathy for suffering of all types and complete reliance upon our Heavenly Father serves as the light which we must follow. Though both success and failure inevitably lie in our path, He alone will be our comfort.
Finally, we must thank all those who have given so much for us to attend this institution. Your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed and is the greatest expression of love in human form that many of us will ever encounter.
A tangible expression of this sacrifice is this year’s senior class gift. Combining with the class of 2003, funding is now allotted for the building of a “domed” amphitheater suitable for hosting guests, recording artists and even symphonies.
We as a class have accomplished goals we once believed unfathomable, all because Union has chosen to stand for the best in Christian higher education. Following Christ’s command to be, “In the world but not of it,” Union has chosen to engage the arts and sciences, while at the same time attempting to pierce it with truth. Bonhoeffer, a lover of the arts himself, would be proud. Now we must ask ourselves, whether or not we, like Bonhoeffer, will be willing to give our lives fully for the cause of Christ.
Dr. Dockery, if you would please come forward, the class of 2006 would like to present you with the blueprints for our future amphitheater.