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President Hays starts the academic year on the theme of seeking wisdomSeptember 10, 2013
Trustees, Faculty, Staff, and students – students, most of all.
The beginning of an academic year is an appropriate time to think about gaining wisdom. When I asked a senior how it was going, he said, “This is the best year yet. I’m good.”
That is my hope for all of you, not only seniors, but those especially who are at the beginning of their college experience, those who have survived the lessons of sophomore year and those who are just starting them – and graduate students, too, who are focused on professionals skills and careers and raising their families.
Just a few weeks ago, on August 28, we marked the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963 that changed race relations in this country because Reverend Martin Luther King had a dream of inclusiveness. This past weekend in St. Peter’s Square, a hundred thousand people gathered with Pope Francis to pray for peace in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, asking God to give wisdom to world leaders so they can find another way to resolve a situation where there is pain and suffering on every side. As an Argentinian who sees himself coming to Rome “from the bottom of the world,” the Pope said something that particularly caught my attention. “We are one planet,” he said, “and we are all interrelated.”
Wisdom is not merely information, although you as students have to process a lot of information. Wisdom is transformation, and that comes from love and from being called together, related together, as one planet, and here, as one community. “Called together” – that’s what convocation means. ONE community, that’s what “Unity” means. And that’s what we’re all about.
Last April greater Boston had a major realization after the Marathon Bombing, and everyone started saying “We are Boston, we are one.” The ancient Greeks explained that wisdom comes through suffering, and perhaps that’s what happened. But wisdom also comes from love – not the Madison-avenue advertising kind, but the deeply relational, supportive, thoughtful, and giving kind, in which one knows who one is because one belongs to a community. That’s what Boston was experiencing – a deep, social connectedness, a sense that we were all in this together, a sense of being brothers and sisters.
You are now studying, working, and living on one beautiful campus in one academic community. Regis is a diverse, multicultural, intergenerational, multiracial, and multifaith community. No one party or race or group or religion has it all in this community, but we all hold a faith of mutual connectedness and mutual respect and intellectual exploration together, whether you are from the city or the suburbs, New England or Florida, Puerto Rico or Saudi Arabia, Haiti or Canada, you have to make that act of faith to be here, to belong.
Underpinning that belonging, funding its emotional and intellectual power, no matter what religion you are, or aren’t, is that Regis is an academic community founded and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, whose ground of belief is a Catholic sense of social justice and intellectual commitment. Inclusiveness is their heritage of “unity and reconciliation,” and that’s why Regis is the way it is. You don’t have to be a Catholic to be here, but you have to be a person who belongs to this academic community in good faith, that is, as the existentialists say, with authenticity. You have to truly be here and truly connected to other members of this community.
As President of Regis College, I am proud that the people on this campus hold the diversity of the planet among us, speak different languages with one voice of inclusiveness, and embrace a sense of family – from the children in the pre-school and kindergarten to the youngest freshman, from the sagacious senior to the most mid-life graduate doctoral student, from the veterans home from Iraq and Afghanistan to the wisdom figures of life long learning. The human family is intergenerational and so are we at Regis. Regis is on the cutting edge in higher education because we –you and me – are so varied and so together, and so communal.
I am proud of our unity in diversity, and I am thrilled that you are here making it happen. Let’s stay one. Wisdom is about the books you’re reading and the conversations you are conducting and, in a world in which community itself is often under attack, about a transcendent kind of love that includes friends and couples, teachers and students, races and ethnicities and generations in a larger bond. When we meet someday on campus, I’m going to ask you about that bond and how you express it.
We have something special here, and we hold it together. May your 2013-2014 academic year be off the charts in grades, friendships, fun, and serious thinking. You deserve it, and I am here for you.
We are one.