When I was in high school, the revered newsman and commentator Eric Sevareid stepped away from his duties at the microphone of CBS News (Okay, I’m dating myself, but let’s not dwell on that). In his final 1977 commentary, the sage Sevareid explained his philosophy of broadcast journalism, and his words have stuck with me to this day because of how apropos they are to a principled, ethical life in general (I even re-watch them occasionally on YouTube).
Sevareid, who began his career as a correspondent during World War II, stated that he had operated under “self-imposed” but important “rules,” though “these were few.” They included, “To elucidate, when one can, more than to advocate…to retain the courage of one’s doubts, as well as one’s convictions, in this world of dangerously passionate certainties.”
Where have you gone, Mr. Sevareid?
My interactions with Wheaton alumni make it clear that our graduates populate broad spectra of theological, political, social, and ecclesiastical thoughts, which, for many, are far from static. Yet I am inspired by the conscientiousness with which our alumni express their opinions while exhibiting openness to engaging different ideas. I think that this is at least in part a manifestation of their Christian liberal arts education.
In his classic, The Idea of a Christian College, Wheaton’s now-sainted Professor Art Holmes ’50, M.A. ’52, wrote:
The educated person shows independence and creativity of mind… the power to gather, sift, and manipulate new facts and materials, and to handle altogether novel situations. The educated Christian exercises critical judgment and manifests the ability to interpret and to evaluate information, particularly in light of the Christian revelation. In a word, if she is to act creatively and to speak with cogency and clarity to the minds of her fellows, the educated Christian must be at home in the world of ideas and people.
If those of us who come to work on this campus do our jobs rightly, we will prepare the next generation of Christian leaders to “elucidate” with “cogency and clarity,” while retaining the “courage” of both their “convictions” and their “doubts.” With God’s help, we will equip them to exercise “independence and creativity of mind,” while being “at home in the world of ideas and people.”