SGA President’s Welcoming Remarks to Students – 2012-13 Opening Convocation

Throughout our time here on earth, we are undoubtedly going to be faced with new beginnings. A “new beginning” implies that there is a shift or a change from what we were once accustomed to, and rarely is it easy for us to emotionally or spiritually accept or embrace these new beginnings at a quick pace, whether as an individual or a group.

Just 24 days ago my dear father, Tim Kretzmann, passed away on August 6 at the age of 61 years old, after less than a year of experiencing the symptoms and being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

This obviously brings profound and deep-seated changes for my family and me. This is not one of those easier “new beginnings,” but it gives me strength to attempt to better embody the qualities my father shared so naturally: befriending all those he would meet, radiating a joyful spirit, and consciously cherishing and embracing every moment. He was and continues to be a true spiritual inspiration for me.

New beginnings also occur on an institutional level. Only nine individuals have served as President of Berea College since the college was founded by John G. Fee in 1855. We, as students, are lucky enough to be here in one of these rare but exciting times of presidential transition at Berea.

Already, Dr. Lyle Roelofs and Mrs. Roelofs (with the help of their dog, Ms. Molly Roelofs) have impacted the daily routine of hundreds of students, me included, with the President’s Running and Walking Club that meets on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

It is important that we as students, and those within Student Government, utilize and cultivate this renewed institutional enthusiasm toward productive and engaging activities, discussion, and initiatives.

I am not blind to the follies of Student Government over the past several years. For too long the Student Government has been misguided and misunderstood; often getting needlessly caught up in emotional attachments to petty bureaucratic entanglements – rather than selfless and practical leadership for the betterment of the student body.

This year, Student Government is also experiencing a new beginning and a revived vision; a new focus on building collaboration and community among all members and organizations within the college. I sincerely believe the most effective method to represent and serve students is through practical service and committed leadership. We can certainly maintain the end goals of modifying certain college policies and practices for the benefit of students, but as we work toward those goals we must take small steps and initiate simple improvements along the way that benefit students immediately.

Indeed, our goal in Student Government this year is nothing less than to create a living example of student leaders who embody and personify the very calling of John G. Fee who, on May 21, 1859, said:

“A thorough education will give you power and control in all deliberate assemblies—whether for political, educational or religious purposes. The man, the woman of thorough education will, as a general truth, come to the front; mould the sentiment and guide the assembly. We should not seek position for ambitious purposes; but every man and every woman ought to seek position as a means by which to do the greatest possible good.”

It is in this spirit and with these ambitions for the coming year that I am so very humbled to be the first Student Government President to introduce Dr. Roelofs, the ninth President of Berea College, to the first of what is sure to be many convocation speeches. As we start our new beginning together, please welcome Dr. Lyle Roelofs, President of Berea College.

Written and delivered by 2012-13 SGA President, David Kretzmann.