Colin S. Diver’s speeches, letters, and articles
Convocation August 25, 2004
Good afternoon. It is my privilege to open the 2004 Convocation and to inaugurate the 94th academic year in the history of Reed College.
First, I want to extend a heartfelt welcome to the new students, and their parents, who have arrived here from literally around the world. You are 339 freshmen, 46 transfer students, and 11 exchange students. You come from 43 American states and 23 foreign countries. The 339 freshmen hail from 299 different high schools and several home-schooling situations. You were selected from the largest applicant pool in Reed's history. You are the most racially and ethnically diverse student group in Reed's history. And you are, by all accounts, as academically talented, intellectually ambitious, and creative as any student body in our history. May your experience here confirm our wisdom in selecting you for admission to Reed, and your wisdom in accepting our invitation.
Second, I also want to express special thanks to two Reed students without whom this orientation would not have been possible: our two orientation coordinators, Margaret Boyle and Michelle David. I'd like to invite Margaret and Michelle to come up to the stage to receive our thanks. Margaret and Michelle . . . .
Orientation is truly a student undertaking at Reed. By thanking Margaret and Michelle, we thank the dozens of other students who have worked so hard to introduce you to Reed. When I was a candidate for president three years ago, one of the students who interviewed me said, rather solemnly, "I don't know why we need a president. The students really run Reed College." I have found that to be partially true.
As we gather this afternoon, the theme of the moment might well be summed up in the Greek word "agon," which means "contest" and is the source of the English word "agony." Wherever we look, it seems that we are surrounded by contests - the Olympic games, the presidential election, the war on terror, the struggle in Iraq, the red states vs. the blue states, even - dare I say? - college rankings. (Which sometimes seem like Reed College vs. the rest of the world.) Wherever we turn, it seems that we confront agon - the agony of conflict, the agony of choice, the agony of defeat.
The contests in which we are engaged challenge our will, our heart, our endurance, and our intellect. Of all of these qualities, it seems that it is the intellect that is in shortest supply. Ours is indeed an age of too much information and too little knowledge, too many viewpoints and too little wisdom.
That is where Reed College comes in. That is why we - my colleagues on the faculty and staff - are here. And that is why you - students and parents - are here. It is no accident that we begin with the ancient Greeks, whose contributions to athletics, knowledge, and aesthetics are being celebrated during the current Olympics. Our task at Reed is to return to the timeless understandings that have informed our civilization's enduring achievements. And it is also our task at Reed to remind the world that there is a difference between argument and allegation, between evidence and assertion, between testable hypothesis and wild speculation, and - most of all - between truth and power.
It's a big job for a little college. We need help. I'm glad you're here. Thanks.
Colin S. Diver
Remarks at closing
My thanks to all who made this Convocation possible. I especially thank my colleague Elizabeth Drumm and our honored guest Warren Washington for their eloquent remarks.
This completes the Convocation program. I ask the audience to remain in their places for the recessional, and I ask the first-year and transfer students to remain in the auditorium for instructions from the photographer concerning the class picture.
Colin S. Diver