As a Gordon student, I know it takes a lot for a speaker to engage a chapel full of busy college students in such a way that he or she is actually able to evoke laughter from the crowd. Michael Gerson—opinion columnist for the Washington Post, former aide and speechwriter to President George W. Bush and author of some of the President's key speeches following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—did just this. He made the room laugh, yet also drew the audience into more serious reflection through his rhetorical eloquence.
Gerson also met with Gordon's six Presidential Fellows, engaging us in more personal conversation before delivering his keynote address for the Richard F. Gross Distinguished Lecture Series Thursday evening. While our meeting was off-the-record, I can say that it was an honor to meet with him, and that it was during this informal time that I began to notice Gerson's composure, confidence and personal humility.
Gerson’s Thursday night address, “Whose Responsibility is Opportunity?” began with some brief personal background and some humor at the speaker's own expense, then went on to address the “durable, deepening divide rooted in class.” In today’s society, he said, people are “betrayed by their birth,”—they are not given opportunities that others are given, because of where and to whom they were born.
Everyone should have an equal chance, Gerson stressed; everyone should have an opportunity. He encouraged us to become more aware of inequality and willing to help develop an atmosphere where creativity flourishes. We must be willing to embrace the ideology that God is on the side of justice.
When Gerson spoke the next day at Gordon's weekly Convocation gathering, he focused on "Three Responses to Suffering." He explained that as Christians, we must have compassion, demand justice, and embrace affliction. We should be willing to get involved with social activism but be careful not to make this activism itself our primary focus. He explained that by making God second, we put ourselves in mortal danger. While it is important to focus on our values, we must first focus on God. The world does not lack for important causes, he noted; it does, however, lack people pursuing these causes with their focus first on God. Here is where we as Christians must come in. We are all called to enable the flourishing of creativity and opportunity, as well as develop a compassion that is deeply rooted in a focus on God.
Amber Joy Fiedler ’13 is a Gordon Presidential Fellow working in the office of the Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications. She will be contributing her thoughts on life as a Fellow, College events, and student life over the upcoming school year.
Top photo—Gordon Presidential Fellows meet with Michael Gerson (left to right): Henry Hagen, Amber Fieldler, Skylar Bareford, Michael Gerson, D. Michael Lindsay, K. Trey Walsh, Eric Hilker.