Centre College came together Sunday night, Aug. 28, for Opening Convocation, the annual ceremony that marks the official start of the academic year.
Professors in their colorful academic robes, including 14 new members of the faculty, processed across campus accompanied by the 401 new first-year students, the largest first-year class in College history. Nine transfer students are among the newcomers on campus.
New York Times columnist David Brooks was the featured speaker. Although he is best known for astute political analysis, his remarks Sunday focused on character and on achieving a life well lived.
Referencing his most recent book, “The Road to Character,” he pointed out the importance of finding balance between “resume virtues”—those things that enhance a career—and “eulogy virtues”—such inner character attributes as honesty, courage and capacity for love.
While both are important, he said, “we all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the resume virtues.”
Too often, especially earlier in our careers, we concentrate on the resume virtues, he noted. But eventually we will realize we need something more.
“I think deep down we are all born with this thing called moral imagination,” he said, “a desire to lead a good life, not just a rich life, not just a successful life.”
A good life does not mean freedom from suffering. And it requires asking questions of mission and purpose.
“You don’t have to figure all that stuff out in college,” he said. “I do think you have to begin to stock the resources so when you try life out over the next 20 or 30 years you have the resources to answer those questions.”
Brooks received the honorary degree doctor of humane letters as part of the ceremony.
In addition to his biweekly columns on politics and culture for the Times, which he has written since 2003, Brooks is a regular commentator on the “PBS NewsHour” and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He has written four best-selling books, including “Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class” and “How They Got There.” His most recent book is “The Road to Character.”
A CBS journalist once said of him: “It goes without saying that Brooks is one of the most influential opinion-makers in the world. If you want to know where this country stands, and where it might head next, it’s never a bad idea to dip into David Brooks.”
His visit was his third to campus to deliver the annual Press Distinguished Lecture, which honors trustee emerita Lillian Press and her husband, Len Press. Earlier in the evening Brooks met with students, including members of the Centre Democrats and Republicans, as well as the inaugural class of Grissom Scholars, first-generation students who read “The Road to Character” last year.
Sarah Hutchinson ’17, Student Government Association president from Lexington, Ky., presented the motto chosen by the Class of 2020: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses.”
Class mottos are engraved on a plaque that hangs in the library.
Fall term classes at Centre began Monday.
by Diane Johnson
August 31, 2016