September 25:  Convocation Day

On this date 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:

Socrates was the greatest philosopher of all time, and all he did was walk around the streets and ask people irritating questions.  Jesus was certainly the most influential teacher in history, and his longest “lecture” — for instance, the Sermon on the Mount — cannot have filled up an hour of classroom time or a page in a notebook.  

Professor Neusner ended his speech by calling students to look not only to their teachers for learning, but also to look within themselves:

Your imagination is our richest national resource; an open and active mind, our most precious intangible treasure.  That’s what we try to do at our universities and colleges in this country:  teach people to teach themselves, which is what life is all about — during the coming year, and during all the years of your lives and mine.

Today’s Challenge:  School’s Cool! You’d Be a Fool to Miss a Single Day at 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 1 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Professors are there to guide, to help, to goad, to irritate, to stimulate.  Students are there to explore, to inquire, to ask questions, to experiment, to negotiate knowledge. –Jacob Neusner

 

1- Safire, William.  Lend Me Your Ears:  Great Speeches in History.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

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