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On this day in 1991, Professor Jacob Neusner, a historian of religion, delivered the convocation address to students at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Unlike a commencement speech, which is presented at a graduation ceremony at the end of a school term, a convocation is a speech to incoming students at the beginning of a school term.
The purpose of a convocation, therefore, is to call a student body together and to spark the students’ quest for knowledge as they stand poised at the beginning of a new school year. Neusner clearly is qualified to speak about acquiring knowledge, having played a part in the publication of over 1,000 books, either as an author, editor, or translator. In his convocation, Neusner evoked examples of history’s great teachers, teachers who helped their students to discover truth for themselves. First, he held up Socrates as an example, saying his primary method was to walk the streets and to stop people to ask them irritating questions. His second example was Jesus, whose Sermon on the Mount was anything but a long, boring lecture (1).
Today’s Challenge: School’s Cool! You’d Be a Fool to Miss a Single Day of School
What is the purpose of education? What would you say to welcome, motivate, and inspire students to make the most of their learning in the coming year? Write the text of your convocation speech, giving your audience the best advice you can about how not to take their education for granted. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
1- Safire, William. Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.