Standing on the Edge
By Michael J. Graham, S.J.
I can’t be completely sure about it, but I think I had a mystical experience last Friday. I was standing in front of our brand-new freshmen class in the Cintas Center, just arrived on campus and sitting there with their parents on the very edge of their Xavier experience. And it was if I suddenly saw them in a different way or in a different light. All of these marvelous kids, drawn from so many places, each of them with their own special talents and gifts and abilities, the histories and experiences which have been theirs. All of them now flowing together there in the Cintas Center before me, all of them about to carry Xavier into the future even as they prepare themselves to become Xavier. It was a daunting but privileged moment for me. It was daunting because I had been realizing anew just how important the mission is that has been entrusted to Xavier University. Over the summer, a great deal of activity here on campus pushed forward the various elements that will shortly be woven together into a strategic plan to chart the University’s future. As is the nature of these things, we thought a great deal about our past, the values closest to our hearts, those things that we already do well that collectively stamp us as who we are. But we also took what I hope was a hard look at ourselves, seeking to see just where it was that we fell short of our often lofty rhetoric and just what we might do to shape a Xavier University that is ever more congruent with its mission. Ultimately, that mission has two points of focus: the students we seek to transform and the world into which we will send them in the hopes that they will in turn help to transform it. Standing before those freshmen was like standing on holy ground, like beholding something sacred. And I found myself saying a quick prayer that we would all be up to the task. But being with them was at least as much a privilege as well. It was clear just standing in front of them: four years of institutional history to be written, who knows how many lifelong friendships to be formed and memories to be gained, pure potential waiting to spring into action. It was a profound moment for me to be reminded of why it is that I do this thing with my life, after all as a professor, a priest, a president: For these young people are our lives, and nothing less. But one thing more as well. Through many of you, I have come to know that what begins here at Xavier does not end on graduation day, but is part of a full and ongoing life. To see the freshmen sit before me was often enough to be reminded of you, as I’ve come to know you. Reminded of the lives you lead across the country, reminded of the places you call home, reminded of the work and communities to which you give yourself, reminded of the families who embrace you. You represent the future to which these new students are called, and I am grateful to God that somehow all of us—you and me and them; Xavier’s professors, alumni, students, administrators, staff and friends—are all of us part of one great family. Let us therefore welcome these newest members of the Xavier Family, the Class of 2007, and let them remind us of ourselves as we once were, in all our curiosity and insecurity, our idealism and our youth. And meanwhile, let us continue to do well what we often do anyway, and that is holding up to these new students of ours our many examples of whole lives lived successfully and well. God bless you and those you love best in the school year to come.