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Home > Commencement 2011 Highlights Moral Courage, Spiritual Integrity

Commencement 2011 Highlights Moral Courage, Spiritual Integrity

May 16th, 2011

By David Halbrook; pictures by Art Cox

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722

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New alumni celebrate their milestone.

Four strenuous years of study, scholarship, and perseverance were summed up poignantly at the outset of Saturday’s 2011 Commencement ceremony by graduating senior Hannah Mitchell in her opening address to students.

“It takes a great amount of faith to live the life that you, Patrick Henry College students, have chosen to live,” began Mitchell, a Literature major. “Here, we have been taught to probe the why and wherefore of every position we hold, every opinion we give, every belief we confess. We have been challenged to ‘think our feelings, and to feel our thoughts,’ and to ‘involve the whole range of human judgment.’ It has been exhausting.

“Over the last four years,” she added, “we have written those thirty-page papers. We have created a guild of young entrepreneurs. We have commuted into the District for internships. We have had lunch with prominent journalists. All of this because we have watched our school’s founders erect this very building. We have watched our parents run their own businesses. We have listened to stories told by professors who were at Tiananmen Square, and who met Solzhenitsyn. In all this, we have dared to develop hearts as soft as our minds are steely.” (see text of Hannah Mitchell’s address).

This Saturday’s Commencement exercises at Patrick Henry College, May 14th, saw 58 determined young men and women cross the stage to receive diplomas and to hear fellow students, administrators, and special guests send them out into the world with bold words of inspiration, caution, and challenge.

“We are now joining our contemporaries in the real world,” said graduating Student Body President Jonathan Carden in his Charge to Graduates. “Now, more than ever, we are entering the battle that our parents and grandparents have been waging for decades. Those great heroes of our faith, living or not, will soon be entrusting us with the responsibility of carrying on the mantle of our faith and our ideas -- a responsibility to be taken seriously.”

Carden , who received special commencement awards in both Leadership and Oratory, then quoted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, reminding grads that, “’to some generations, much is given. To others, much is expected. But this generation has a rendezvous with destiny.’

“God has placed us here,” he concluded, “in this time, with these opportunities, these gifts, for a reason, and that’s why my exhortation to you today is three-fold: with strength, be courageous; with faith, take action; and with hope, persevere.” (see outline of his address)

Lt. Col. Oliver North explains what makes a true hero.

Graduating seniors enjoyed a colorful exhortation on principles of courage, integrity, and moral leadership so desperately needed in this generation from Lt. Col. Oliver North in his special commencement address. “Some of you grew up thinking that a hero was the person who caught the football in the end zone or who made an incredible dunk,” he began. “But I’m here to tell you that a hero is someone who puts themselves at risk for the benefit of others.”

North proceeded to share stories and anecdotes from his own decorated military career and work as a commentator and documentary host for FOX News. He described the transformation of soldiers he knows who “once wouldn’t share a piece of candy with their brother but who now would give the last drop of their water to a wounded comrade.” Showing videos of combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he noted that, “in all my time in the military, I’ve never seen so many young Americans so willing to stand up and profess their faith in Jesus Christ. If you know where you’re going and why you’re going there, you need fear nothing.”

He described his own decision of faith in 1978, “when I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior,” and how that moment has since served as his directional compass throughout his many travels and endeavors. Quoting from 2 Timothy 4:7, North concluded: “Most importantly, my hope for you all is that at the end of your days, people will say of you that, as graduates of Patrick Henry College, you have fought the good fight, have finished the race, and have kept the faith.”

College founder and Chancellor, Dr. Michael Farris, quoted pastor William Smith, the first provost of the University of Pennsylvania, in his Chancellor’s Charge to Graduates. He reminded graduates to “live consistently with the character and dignity of a soul created to live in the eternal presence of God” --  and that “the Christian world stands much in need of people who demonstrate inflexible patterns of integrity and perseverance.” Dr. Farris then added that “If you are like me, there will be a temptation to be far more attentive to accomplishing projects than to developing relationships with people. I hope indeed that you will take on great projects. But, I hope that you will also love people and love them well in the process.” (Read full text.)

When Commencement 2011 had reached its conclusion, with grinning students marching across the stage to receive their diplomas to joyful applause, the afternoon’s many rousing themes had been, perhaps, best summarized by Hannah Mitchell in her opening Student Remarks.

“We are all the keepers and the carriers of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” she said. “But we must never forget that the whole purpose of taking in knowledge or of gaining street smarts in business, or politics, or education, or the arts is to point to the source of all earthly excellence. Our goal, as Paul writes in Colossians 2:3, is ‘Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’”

The following graduates received special academic and leadership awards:

  • Alumni Association Award: Michelle Barbara Wright
  • Classical Liberal Arts Award: Tricia Michelle Archer
  • History Award: Barton Jarrett Gingerich
  • Literature Award: Colin James Cutler
  • Journalism Award: Evan Mantel
  • Government Award: Michelle Barbara Wright
  • Oratory Award: Jonathan Kyle Carden
  • Tim LaHaye Leadership Award: Jonathan Kyle Carden
  • Beverly LaHaye Leadership Award: Susanna Foote
  • Trustees’ Academic Excellence Award: Grace Lichlyter (3.99 GPA)


View photo gallery below.