Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Courage to Stand

It's graduation time. We have a stack of invitations to commencements and parties over the next month. It's definitely a time to celebrate. But, what happens when a young man gives a commencement speech at Catholic university and dares to share his faith and morals? And not just his faith, but supposedly those of the school he is graduating from. The celebration turns sour real fast. From NRO's Colleen Caroll Campbell,

When the students, faculty, and staff of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., elected Ben Kessler as "Tommie of the Year" and student speaker for this year"s commencement, they got more than they bargained for.

Kessler, a straight-A student and ESPN Academic All American football player who plans to be a Catholic priest, shocked the crowd at his May 20 commencement by delivering an address that elicited catcalls, boos, and obscenities. The controversial content of Kessler's speech led several professors and students to walk out of the ceremony, while other audience members chanted "Stop it! Stop it!" One graduate told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Kessler "ruined the day" and another told InsideHigherEd.com that Kessler's words made her cry. Two days later, University of St. Thomas president Rev. Dennis Dease apologized for the remarks in a prepared statement that included an apology from Kessler for any hurt feelings he had caused.

Here's a video of the speech if you would ike to view it. (Obscenity alert.) His most controversial statement came when he talked about purity in a relationship and dared speak about against contraception.

Birth control is not good for the female, the male, nor the long-term health of the relationship, Kessler said. "Birth control is selfish."
It's controversial but certainly in line with Catholic teaching. He brought it all up because of a recent decision by the university not to allow unmarried chaperones to share rooms while traveling with students on school trips. Sounds like a sound policy decision to me. Why would the professors walk out?

He also exhorted his audience not to live selfishly but selflessly.

We all make selfish choices. I am no different in this. We all do. You can ask my parents, you can ask my friends, you can ask my rector, who sit with you today. I also make selfish choices. I am no different in this. I am no different. Regardless of the past, regardless of what's happened in the past, we must change for the future...

I can only hope to meet each of you years from now and see that you are happy, truly happy. Truly happy because you gave, gave, gave, and gave with the end of the community in sight. Truly happy because you lived unselfishly.

Pretty sound advice from such a young man who hopes to be a priest someday. Why would someone feel hurt?

His message is one we all need to be reminded of daily. Perhaps if recent climbers of Mt. Everest had heard such a message, they would have been more willing to help. Instead, they ignored a fellow climber's needs in favor of their own selfish desire to climb higher. They lived to make it to the top, he died on the mountain. Said one expert climber,
Everest climbers may be forced to decide whether to jeopardize their once-in-a-lifetime investment to help a dying person.
I thought about that incident as I listened to Ben Kessler's speech. He's rightly encouraging his fellow students to do what those climbers were unwilling to do. That is, to consider others more highly then themselves as they struggle to the top of their "mountain" in this life. To put aside their own selfish ambition and consider something more. He dared to stand up for the Truth. For that, he received jeers instead of cheers.

(Thanks Tina for sending me the tip to Barbara Frank's blog.)

Don't miss this week's Homeschool Carnival at Palm Tree Pundit.

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