Interim President Stockwell Day’s Convocation Address
Interim President Stockwell Day encouraged the King's students, faculty, and staff to "dare to be wise."
Interim President Stockwell Day addressed the students, faculty, and staff during the annual Convocation, held at St. George’s Episcopal Church on Wednesday, August 31st.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I can feel the excitement not just here, but over the last two weeks. Three weeks it is now that I’ve been here, and looking forward to many more as required. And I can sense from you, especially as students, there’s a sense of excitement. It’s a sense of thrill, which is really appropriate in terms of the day in which we live.
So much of what is articulated these days around the type of life that we live goes around this area of thrills, of taking a dare. Extreme sports. There’s entire television shows that go for weeks on end, about taking a dare and going for the thrill. That actually has existed for all of us, all our lives. And there’s some good aspects of that and some that are maybe not going as well.
I can remember as a young boy, my brother and I and our friends, constantly daring each other. You’ve probably used the phrase – I don’t think it’s quite out of tune yet because I hear my grandkids using it – “I dare you to do this.” Then if you wanted to show that you were up to the dare, you’d say, “Well, I double dare you.”
And if you were really full of bravado, you’d say, “I double dog dare you.” And at those young ages we often dared ourselves to do things we probably shouldn’t have done. I recall for those of you who can remember scenes in the movie of Stand By Me, there was a scene, a terrifying scene in which the boys are crossing a high bridge over a river and the train’s coming.
If you remember the scene, the last of the boys is running for his life to try and get across the bridge. And then immediately we tend to think about that bridge, that somewhat haunting memories of myself, my brother and a couple of our buddies were going over an eerily similar bridge, and the train was coming, and we did the dare, the double dare, the double dog dare.
And I was the only one I was going to say, brave enough, dumb enough to take the dare to stay on the bridge and lie down at the edge of the railway ties about six or eight feet from the actual rail and cling to that, and show how brave or dumb I was. And I wasn’t counting on the speed of the train, of course, pushed out the air at quite an alarming force. And as that air hit me, it was all I could do to hang on and avoid the precipitous drop of probably two hundred feet below to a narrow river and a very shallow river. And I managed to hang on. Obviously, I’m still here. And as a wobbly me ran off the bridge after the train passed, my brother and my friends were looking at each other just in horror.
And of course, the first thing that came from the lips of my brother and I – was it looks of concern over my brush with death? No, the words we said were, “Don’t tell mom!” That’s what gripped us at the moment, because we knew if we did, we would surely be put on probation. We would be grounded for at least a week.
Interestingly, just as a side note, years later, I think I was close to 50 and my brother would have been 47, 48, it was that many years later, we decided to tell our mom about that and we did. And yes, she grounded us both for a week. These type of stories are filled throughout human existence. They’re not all happy or ones that you can laugh at later.
My wife and I visited a friend of ours just a few weeks ago who is completely quadriplegic. He exists by breathing in and out of a straw and he has a forced ventilator and actually called himself the happiest, the luckiest man on earth. He became a person of faith, became a Christian, not too many years after the age of eighteen when one of his buddies dared him – they were in the same hockey training camp, they were being drafted into the NHL – and he dared two dollars just to dive into the river that was right there, not because it was particularly treacherous, but because the water was cold.
He dove in and his head hit the bottom, and he has lived as a quadriplegic for the last 50 years. So daring somebody has its risks. Taking a dare has its risks for sure. In the year 20 B.C., the Romans poet Horace – he has a longer title, of course, but his buddies called him Horace – he writes a book of letters.
And in one of those letters he puts out a dare. Sometimes we just focus on Horace because of his literary accomplishments and the esteem in which he was held. But he was actually a soldier of fortune of sorts. He’d engaged in many battles, lost some, won some. So he would have known people like Mark Antony, certainly Augustus Caesar, who was the Roman emperor at the time of the birth of Christ.
He would have heard about Cleopatra from Mark Antony, would have heard and known the people. It was surmised that he knew Brutus who was involved in killing Julius Caesar. He would have had some amazing stories of daring to tell, but he challenges the people who read, even until this day, a particular dare, he puts out a dare. This particular dare was even recounted by Immanuel Kant in his writings about the age of reason in the Enlightenment.
And he pictures, Horace pictures for us, a picture of a river flowing fairly quickly. And there’s somebody standing by the river and they’re wanting to cross, but they’re actually waiting for the river to dry out, and he puts out a dare to them. First, he says, you have to begin, you’ve got to start. And that’s where the expression we still use today, the beginning is halfway there. It’s halfway through the journey. And then he adds this other part of the dare. And it’s something, it’s a model that is used by institutions down through the years. And he says, “Sapere aude,” he says, “Dare to be wise.” You could have said, “Dare to do a lot of things, get in a big fight, do crazy things, dive in the river – dare to be wise.”
He says begin, and then dare to be wise. And I don’t know, we can’t prove that, he was obviously well read, we can’t prove that he read, had read from then what would’ve been the Hebrew scriptures. We don’t know. But there’s a familiar ring to what we read in Psalms and Proverbs that when we’re talking about wisdom, it begins, it begins with the Lord.
It begins with the Lord. The beginning of wisdom is to know the Lord. And then he points out the dare, dare to be wise, is what the writer of Proverbs and the writer of Psalms says. Dare to be wise. The first part of which talked about the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom, that’s where you dare – the fear part is what, that comes with, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what God says is true and will happen. Near where we live in the mountains of British Columbia, where I like to drive my little somewhat ancient sports car, there is all kinds of s-curves, curves, rounded curves. I love to go through there because I know the sports car will hold, it will hold to them.
My wife isn’t always convinced of that, but I’m pretty well convinced, and I love to see that there’s a particular set of s-curves that are very tight and there’s a sign, a big yellow sign, and it says 70 – now that’s Canadian terms, that’s about 42 miles an hour, but it says 70. And I’ve come to know that that sign was put there by the engineers who designed the curves.
And surely if you stick to 70, you’re going to have a nice ride through those curves. But I found out on that particular curve, almost found out the hard way the first time, if you go 75, you’re gonna be in trouble. So every time I see that sign, I have this mixed feeling. I have this fear that it’s right, I have love for the fact that it’s there and that the engineers put that in place.
And it’s that knowing the Lord and how He operates that helps us have this loving fear, this respect. But He also, when you look through scriptures, there’s this amazing thing that we sometimes miss. Sometimes people just characterize the fear part as, don’t do this, don’t do that. But in some cases it says, do this. Matter of fact, when you read Malachi in the third chapter, he says, “Try me!” First He lays out the thing to do and He says, “Here’s what happens if people don’t do it.” But then He says, “Do this, try me, come on, bring it. Try me.” Like my dad used to say when my brother and I would want to wrestle and we were small, he was much larger, and he would say, “Come on, bring it.” And we used to have a wonderful time where he would say, “Try me.”
The Book of Deuteronomy is entirely written to nations, provinces, states and cities saying, I dare you: follow these principles and these things will happen. I promise. Don’t follow these principles, however, and these other things will happen. I can remember working my way through meditating on the Book of Isaiah and specifically Chapter 58. That particular time in my life, I was being challenged in one particular area that was being articulated in this chapter, and it was, the Lord was saying, “Do this, try me,” and there’s this beautiful promise.
He says, “If you do, I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I do know it applies to everybody, not just me. And believe me, there’s times when I haven’t taken the right dare, or I’ve tried the wrong thing, I haven’t sought the wisdom of the Lord and it never works out.
But in this case, soon after taking that on, I was stuck in a situation where my car was not going to be up to a long journey that I committed to speak at a weekend seminar and in the midst of wondering how I was going to get there, a friend who was a business person who had a plane said, “I heard you’re going to spot number x, I will fly you there if you want, if that’s okay.” I said, “Well, that’s marvelous.” And as we’re coming in for a landing, after about a three hour flight, there were storm clouds, but suddenly they opened up and the pilot said, “We’re going to go right through that sunny spot there and we’re going to land safely.” And as we were doing that, it was as if I heard not audibly, but I heard, and this was soon after daring the Lord on this Isaiah 58 portion, it was as if I heard the words, “I’ll cause you to ride on the high places of the earth,” and I said, “Is this what this means, that I’m going to fly in a plane?”
And it was as if the Lord was saying, this is just one application. This not just for me, but for you also. When I was going on another drive many, many years later, I had this recurring reminder in my ear. This is one of those times – through the streets of Washington, DC, with your president, in his car and cavalcade, not behind him, in the car with him. We were knee to knee, the way we were sitting and talking to each other and I was – he asked me to persuade him on a certain policy that was going to make a difference for our nation. And I thought, this is amazing. I’m in this, with the president of the United States, in this car. Now, with a few cars behind us, of course, and a few ahead of us. But I heard the voice almost again, it was saying, “I told you.
If you will do this, I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth.” It was only a few years ago, after being out of government for a number of years, I was invited with a few people to join the Dalai Lama in his place in exile in northern India. It’s a mountainous village, his cabinet, that is in exile from Tibet, and he had called for a handful of people to come and strategize with him, with his cabinet, with the monks that were there on how to geopolitically handle the reality of China and the threat they were being to Tibet.
And I can remember sitting on the platform just like I’m sitting next to Brian here – the Dalai Lama is a little more compelling looking than Brian, but we’ll let that go – I can remember, I felt that same thing. Here I am, in this mountainous region high up in the mountains in India and being asked to give advice for an intense geopolitical situation.
And I, it was as if I heard, “I told you I would cause you to rise up to the high places of the earth.” And so I put that before you this year as you’re making decisions, whatever it might be, first acknowledge that the fear of the Lord understanding that God hears you, that’s the beginning. That’s the first step that Horace was talking about and later referenced. And then then comes the encouragement. Dare to be wise, dare to be wise, sapare aude. And if you do that, my dear friends, I can promise you that whatever the decision it is you’re thinking, if you will dare to be wise based on the knowledge of the one who said that, and the knowledge that His promises will always come true, then I can say to you, be good and ready, be good and brave and be ready for what God is going to do in your lives this year and the years to follow. God bless you. Thank you.