Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Below is an excerpt of remarks made by Dartmouth College Student Body President Noah Riner ('06) as he spoke to the incoming class of '09 at convocation a few weeks ago. His remarks were widely transmitted and sparked controversy because of his references to Jesus. I consider them an apt reminder. – Matt Soper

You've been told that you are a special class. A quick look at the statistics confirms that claim. But it isn't enough to be special. It isn't enough to be talented, to be beautiful, to be smart. In fact, there's quite a long list of very special, very corrupt people who have graduated from Dartmouth. If all we get from this place is knowledge, we've missed something. There's one subject that you won't learn about in class, one topic that orientation didn't cover: character.

We hear very little about character in our classrooms, yet the real problem in the world is not a lack of education. Supposedly, character is what you do when no one is looking, but I'm afraid to say all the things I've done when no one was looking. Cheating, stealing, lusting, you name it - How different are we [from “bad” people]?
We have the same flaws. Let's be honest, the differences are in degree.

The Times of London once asked readers for comments on what was wrong with the world. British author G. K. Chesterton responded simply: "Dear Sir, I am."
Not many of us have the same clarity that Chesterton had. In the words of Cassius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "the fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves." Character has a lot to do with sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger. The best example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." He knew the right thing to do. He knew the cost would be agonizing torture and death. He did it anyway. That's character.

Jesus is a good example of character, but He's also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums, [criminals], and me.
It is so easy to focus on the defects of others and ignore my own. But I need saving as much as they do. Jesus' message of redemption is simple. People are imperfect, and there are consequences for our actions. He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn't have to bear the penalty of the law; so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God's love: Jesus on the cross, for us.

When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my sin and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. What is the content of your character? Who are you? And how will you become what you need to be?


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