President Bush deliverd a commencement speech last Saturday before the Class of 2005 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He urged the graduating class to embrace its tradition of service as an example for all Americans.
The president, a Methodist and a born-again Christian, chose the Reformed Christian Church- affiliated college as one of only two colleges he is to deliver commencement addresses this year, reported the Chicago Tribune (CT). Calvin is the third church-affiliated institution among just four private colleges he has chosen for such speeches since taking office.
“As your generation takes its place in the world, all of you must make this decision; will you be a spectator, or a citizen?” Bush asked 900 graduating seniors. “To make a difference in this world, you must be involved. By serving a higher calling here or abroad, you'll make your lives richer and build a more hopeful future for our world.”
The president, who last visited Calvin in 2000 while running for the presidency, emphasized community service to the graduates under the college's stated mission: "We pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God's work in God's world.”
Bush's visit was not welcomed by all as several dozen protestors gathered outside. Some graduates at the ceremony wore stickers that said: "God is not a Republican or Democrat," reported the Associated Press (AP).
A third of the college's faculty members signed a letter protesting the President's visi. The letter was published the same day in a half-page ad in the Grand Rapids Press. Another letter signed by a group of students, faculty, and alumni appeared last Friday, expressing dismay about the president’s administration.
"In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many deeply held principles of Calvin College," stated the ad in the Grand Rapids newspaper.
According to AP, the president’s choice of visiting the 4,000-student Christian college has led to "speculation that he wanted to reach out to his evangelical base in this Midwestern state."
Some college associates have reportedly commented that “the school's Christian background does not make it part of conservative Christian movement.” Bush's visit last weekend marks his third trip to Calvin.
“This isn't a Democratic idea. This isn't a Republican idea. This is an American idea,” Bush stated in the final portion of his call-to-service speech.
Bush plans to speak to the graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis this Friday.