Noah Riner Says "Jesus" at Dartmouth Convocation

On Tuesday, September 20, Noah Riner stood in front of the entire incoming freshman class during Convocation at Dartmouth College. As student body president, he had been asked to give the tradition Convocation remarks welcoming the class to the college. The son of a Baptist State Representative in Kentucky and a committed Christian, he knew what he had to do. And he did it. Noah went on to give what will be remembered as one of the boldest, most focused welcoming speeches ever given by at any Ivy League school. Although he started out with the usual hype ("You are such a special class"), his tune quickly changed.
But it isn’t enough to be special. It isn’t enough to be talented, to be beautiful, to be smart. Generations of amazing students have come before you, and have sat in your seats. Some have been good, some have been bad. All have been special.
The young man boldly cut straight to the issue at hand. A Dartmouth education, he said, might make you smart or successful, but it won't build character. Noah quoted Martin Luther King Jr:
"But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. . . . We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."
Noah spoke about the atrocities committed by hundreds after the ravage of Katrina. But, he said, his purpose was not to condemn them as much as it is to condemn us. He was speaking to the freshman class, but his words apply to you and I just as much as them. Character problems, he said, are an integral part of all of us.
Let's be honest, the differences are in degree. We have the same flaws as the individuals who pillaged New Orleans. Ours haven't been given such free range, but they exist and are part of us all the same.
He could have stopped here. People's feelings might have been slightly hurt, but no one would have been unduly upset. But he didn't just stop there. The class president took a deep breath, then said just what he had planned.
The best example of character 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.
Noah knew he could still stop now. Sure, he had dropped the Jesus bomb, but anyone would concede that Jesus was a good example of character (even though some would argue that the example Noah had given was not the best). But Noah is a Christian.
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, looters, and me.
Now he had done it. A murmur of surprise swept through the crowd. You could almost hear the student's thoughts. "So Jesus is the only solution, huh?" "What a bigot." "Yeah, sure. Save the preachin' for the pulpit." Noah quietly told the assembly that everything they gained from Dartmouth would prove to be superficial in the long run. What really matters, he firmly said, is character.
Thus, as you begin your four years here, you've got to come to some conclusions about your own character because you won't get it by just going to class. What is the content of your character? Who are you? And how will you become what you need to be?
Read the full speech here.
As you might expect, reactions were immediate. The school newspaper began printing anything and everything that students wanted to say. Some were good, some were bad. Riner's opponent in his earlier presidential race was livid. He called Riner bigoted, preachy, zealous . . . you name it. But that's not surprising. After all, he had been trounced by this kid from "backwoods" Kentucky in the last election. In fact, the angry student ended his letter by declaring that students "didn't need to make a decision about Jesus." Now who's preaching? Other students were more open to the controversial remarks. A young Jewish boy said that although he personally disagreed with the point of the speech, he thought that Noah's willingness to use his right of free speech and stand up for something he believed in was commendable. The discussion about this is still in full swing. The blogosphere is abuzz with stories about Noah Riner's "preachiness". It's one thing to read this speech. Noah's words are timeless. But it is quite another thing to see the speech being given. You can download a video taken by Noah's father, Representative Tom Riner, at this link. So take a look! And say a prayer for Noah while you're at it. His e-and-snail mailboxes have been mobbed with congratulations and hate mail. It's very hard for him, since he is starting his junior year and is trying to juggle classes and interviews all at the same time. He would no doubt appreciate it if you would submit a prayer request for him at your local church. Credit: I first saw this at The Rebelution but got other information from the various Dartmouth websites and personally from the Riner family. In Him, D3


Travis said...

Great post David. Two thumbs up to Noah Riner. We need more people like him in this world.


GabrielB said...

If more people realized the truth of that speech, we'd have a far better world. Great job, Noah Riner. And thank you for posting about him, D3.

Agent Tim said...

Awesome post David! Thaks for letting us know. I really enjoyed Noah on Albert Mohler's radio program on Friday. It's awesome that you have the privelege of knowing him.

Marshall Sherman said...

What is this world coming to?!? How could he say the "J" word?!?


I can't believe the fire he's coming under for sharing his faith. If the people don't agree, then they don't have to do what he said! It's that simple.

Great post...


David S. MacMillan III said...

Jennifer Weston said...

Hello David,
I noticed on another blog (rebelution) that you mentioned having worked with Noah Riner. Do you know of any way to contact him?
By the way, it's great to see a blog that upholds the Word of God and glorifies him. Keep it up.

From a fellow home-schooler (actually I've graduated a while ago),

Jennifer Weston
Please email me if you have any info on contacting Noah Riner at ---email address removed to prevent spam---

Hey Jennifer,

Thanks for commenting. I'll get you some information on contacting Noah ASAP. I deleted your comment so that your email address won't be posted on the internet, but I still have the address.


In Him,


Nathan S. Empsall said...

Dartmouth student here, a Christian, was at the speech.

FIrst of all, Noah's starting his senior year, not his junior year. But that doesn't reall matter. I've talked to Noah about it, I'm in one of the same Christian groups he is - and I can tell you, he didn't take a deep breath before the controversial part. He didn't stand there, thinking he could stop now. It wasn't about "knowing what he had to do." His point was not at all to talk about Jesus as a Christian, but to talk about character as a Dartmouth student. He just held up Jesus as an example of character because, being a home-schooled evangelical from Kentucky, that's what his background was. He used Jesus to talk about character, but it was character he was talking about, not Jesus. He only used Jesus. He could have just as easily held up Gandhi to make the same point; the only reason he didn't was because it didn't occur to him, coming from his background. He will tell you he was speaking from a personal standpoint, and not trying to put Jesus out there - problem is, he didn't make that clear enough to the students. (And if you happen to know Noah personally, as another commenter seemed to suggest, and he has told you something else, than whatever he said was contradictory to various campus statements, and I would hope that's not the case.)

The anger many of my friends have (and not one that I share, I think people on both sides are overreacting) isn't over Jesus; it's about possibly alienating Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, athiest, agnostic, etc. freshman at one of their first campus events. There were indeed non-Christian students who said, "Uh-oh. What did I get myself into? Is this a religious parochial-type place? That's not the school I wanted to attend!"

The anger may be misplaced, but I think you've misread the reasons for it, as well as Noah's motives.

To the commenter Marshall - Noah's not under fire for sharing his faith. He's under fire for the way he shared his faith.

k said...

I heard about this a few days ago. Your take on the topic was great. It just goes to show you how far left colleges really are.

Marshall Sherman said...

To commenter Nathan...

I was simply referring to the fact that it doesn't matter. If they don't agree, then don't listen. If they do, good for them. The way he shared his faith doesn't matter. It wasn't provocative, or anything along those lines, as you simply pointed out, he simply used Jesus as an example. It was no big deal. Again, just like you said, people are over reacting. But thanks for the insight from an insider...

God bless...

Rebekah said...

Oh, wow. Go Noah!! I wasn't aware of the content in his speech. That's impressive. It was really neat to meet them at TPU. Quite a priviledge!

Hope everything is going well! :)