Patrick Henry College
Class of 2007 looks to the future
With a stiff spring breeze scattering his notes, filmmaker Ken Wales leafed instead through a lifetime of memories, regaling PHC’s 2007 graduating class with vivid tales of Hollywood and of creating movies with one’s integrity – and faith -- intact.
On a sunny day that witnessed a record 59 graduates walk and PHC's new Chancellor and President formally installed, Wales chronicled the key, often stunning moments of a lifelong romance with cinema – beginning with an improbable encounter with a moviemaking genius. As a high school senior, Wales recalled how he found himself the unexpected beneficiary of a weeklong internship with Walt Disney, looking to pick the teen’s brain about the cinematic tastes of American youth. That surreal week featured a personalized tour of Disneyland by its creator, and culminated with Disney cutting Wales a personal check, paying for four years of film school at USC.
“I spent a week as a teenager at the Disney studios in Burbank, and ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Walt Disney,” he recalled. “(Mr. Disney) was as interested in my ideas as I was in his, and after that I was hooked. I could never have afforded college, but that launched me. He taught me the importance of bringing a sense of goodness to film.”
The producer of dozens of films and award-winning television series, including the critically acclaimed Christy and recently released Amazing Grace, about Christian reformer William Wilberforce, Wales shared the importance of stewarding faithfully the “honor and privilege of free will.”
Crediting the many movies he chose not to make with safeguarding the moral standing he needed to pursue some of his greatest, later successes, he told graduates, “leaving (college), the choices you are about to make are the choices that will change the world. We have to live our faith. We are in control of our thoughts and actions. If we don’t do the work God gives us to do, who will do it?”
Graduating senior, David Sewall, a government major, opened his Student Remarks observing that the 2007 graduating class is the last to have direct contact with the inaugural class of 2000. Allowing for his own eagerness to graduate, Sewall implored graduates and remaining students alike to fight the urge to rush through college – or life -- distracted by thoughts of the future.
“If we are always wishing away the present, we will miss the full vibrancy of life,” he said. “It is easy in our time here at PHC… to rush about from one activity to another, from one internship to another, for all these things clamor for our attention. Do not wish away these four years of your life by longing to be elsewhere.”
Chancellor Mike Farris used the parting lessons of his friend Jerry Falwell to remind graduates how “Christians should join the fight for the future of this country. You should not sit silently on the sidelines while this nation is led down wrong paths toward wrong goals.”
Given that PHC’s cultural mission to train national leaders “remains a controversial idea,” Dr. Farris cautioned outgoing seniors that “the ideas and the principles that motivate you must be straight from the Word of God if you wish to ever have the kind of impact on this nation that you dreamed of when you first enrolled at this college.”
Graduating senior and government major, Katherine Teubl, delivered her Charge to Future Graduates by calling on her fellow “pilgrims” to bear one another’s burdens on the journey ahead.
“It is my hope that as we scatter to the many different places the Lord is calling us that we still be united in this one thing: that our hearts are set on pilgrimage. Look out for your fellow pilgrims. Pray, exhort, rebuke! Meet often with your God in prayer, in fellowship with other believers, in reading His word.
“Be strong not just for the tasks God gives,” Teubl concluded, “but for the other Christians in your community.”
Following the presentation of diplomas, President Graham Walker exhorted the Class of 2007 with the words of Christ from Luke 10:20.
“As many of you are focused on that which is next,” he began, “anticipating new jobs and careers and a sense of God’s calling on your lives, what matters most is what Jesus told the seventy as he sent them out: ‘Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ Remember that the most beautiful thing about you is that you belong to Him, that your names are written in the Book of Life. So trust not in your own rational analysis and academic achievements, but rejoice always in Him who is your wisdom.”