Laura Pierson - Student Response 2019

Laura Pierson - Student Response 2019


Spring Semester, Freshman year. The year is 2015. The classroom is Founders Hall 102. The class: Core Biology. A very wise professor remained in the classroom once class was dismissed answering students’ questions and making himself available for conversation. Once the larger crowd had cleared out, a few curious students were left, and all questions about homework were answered--as happens so often on the grounds of Concordia--a conversation about belief broke out. The professor was Dr. Rod Soper, and the question asked of him was, “Why are you Lutheran?” His answer, to summarize, was this: “A system in disarray will never self-correct, it must be acted upon by a helping force outside of itself. Lutheranism agrees with this, I have found it to be true in nature and in salvation.”

A helping force outside of itself.

Friends, family, graduates, faculty and staff of Concordia University Irvine, I am honored to be standing before you on this day. Today is a day that stands as the cornerstone between everything that we have come to know and everything that knowledge has prepared us to face. We entered onto Concordia’s campus several years ago, each of us in disarray in our own way. Today we stand as changed people, helped and guided by this university, this community, forces outside ourselves. Today we hold to our colleagues and friends of the graduating class of 2019 as a united front one final time.

Over the past several years, we have been presented with many opportunities to learn and to grow, to be challenged and to be changed. We have been asked to join in the great conversations of mankind not to only receive grades, but to prepare us to be meaningful members of our world. We have been asked to look outside of ourselves and to seek how we might be helped by listening to an opinion that is different from our own, and how we might be listeners and prompters in a way that furthers thinking rather than smothering ideas.

Through the prompting of incredible faculty and staff, through all you have learned, I hope that each of you is now sure of one thing: you are part of the Great Conversation. This thing called the Great Conversation goes by many names, one of the most infamous being the Core Curriculum. Through this curriculum, we have had to wrestle with some of the most enduring questions in and out of the classroom, questions you are familiar with, three of which I’d like to ask you today. What is goodness? What is truth? And what is beauty? Through mind-boggling term papers, late nights of studying that turned to early morning breakfast burritos, through conversations with our esteemed faculty and staff, I can confidently say that we are departing today with refined answers to these enduring questions, and more importantly, more refined questions than we were equipped with just several years ago.

So let us begin with this: what is goodness? Let me start by saying that I think we all know better now than to try to present one simple, concise answer to any of these questions. If it were simple, our Core Math term papers would have been one page long. But we know that that was not the case. No, these questions all simultaneously have a thousand answers and no answers at all, but we have learned that it’s still important to talk about them, which is what I’ll do today.

So, Goodness. Over the past several years, we have encountered so much goodness at Concordia. We have found friends to lean on in times of pain and hardship. We have learned from professors who give grace and withhold grace as they relentlessly seek what is good for us. We have come to know that math, philosophy, biology, theology, English and history can guide us to a better understanding of goodness in a way that matters for how we interact with the world around us.

We have been asked the question, “What is Truth?” While we might have spent years seeking a seemingly elusive answer to this question, it is in the seeking that we have found “little t” truths that sustain us and prompt us with new questions that lead us closer to the ultimate truth. We have discovered that Socrates might not have been all that crazy when he said that the man who admits he knows nothing is the wisest of them all.

And finally, “What is Beauty?” I can only fall back on the reality that you know beauty when you see it, and I have seen so much beauty from this group of people in the past several years. I have witnessed students praying together, making music together, studying together, teaching and learning from each other, showing grace to one another, and encouragement at the toughest moments. The ride has truly been beautiful.

Through all of these questions and all of these years, Concordia has taught us how to be a part of the Great Conversation. We may still feel like we are systems in disarray, but I am confident in saying that we have found a helping force through Concordia. We have been pressed and challenged in ways that we never thought imaginable for an outcome that is all good, true, and beautiful--an outcome that does not end today.

So now that we are equipped with these questions, all of this knowledge and more, in what manner are we to continue? Graduates, the world is in dire need of goodness, of truth, and of beauty. I believe that it is not only our privilege, but our obligation now to carry these things into our world.

The future looms a greater void now than ever before, but we need not be systems that are in disarray. We have found help here through this university, through the relationships we have built with one another, the ancient and modern books we have engaged with, through our selfless professors and mentors. In the same way we have been helped, we are now to continue to act as that help for each other, to ask questions and to listen, to love and sacrifice, to seek goodness, truth and beauty, and rejoice in them. This is how we are to continue to lean on each other, to help and seek helping forces outside ourselves.

And finally, we know that we have the ultimate helping force, a God who is the source of all things good, true, and beautiful. A God who reminds us in Isaiah 41 not to fear saying, “I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." He has brought us to this place, and He has now brought us through it.

That same God is not only a helper, but Scripture also, in Micah 6:8 says that it is God who has shown us what is good. This verse prompts us with a question and gives an answer, saying “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Concordia has done well to uphold these kinds of teachings of love and humility over these past several years. Concordia has taught us about all of these things and so much more. But perhaps most importantly, Concordia has taught us to ask questions, to respond with justice, to be merciful, to speak humbly, and to seek to become ever more wise, honorable, and cultivated citizens. So it is with that humility that we continue. It is with that humility and with honor that we join the ranks of alumni of Concordia University Irvine, and with them, that we bring questions, ideas, goodness, truth, and beauty into the world. So, class of 2019, let us go now and let us continue the Great Conversation.

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