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