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The President comes to my alma mater

21 May 2005

I graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. It’s a small, liberal arts school operated by the church my parents belonged to back then. It’s a safe bet that you haven’t heard of it, unless you’re really into Division III basketball. We had a good team.

Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when I found out earlier this month that President Bush would be speaking my little alma mater’s commencement ceremony this year. I was immediately conflicted. “The President of the United States will be at Calvin! Wow! …and… ew!” I mean, leader of the free world and all that — it’s a huge deal. But I haven’t hesitated in making feelings known about this administration.

I wasn’t alone. Mr. Bush was at Calvin today, and was greeted by a full-page add in the local paper placed by a large group of faculty, students, and alumni. It included the following:

As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort. We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq.

and then:

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

Three dozen protesters picketed outside the venue, and students wore buttons and armbands saying, “God is not a Republican or Democrat.”

Most of the media outlets led with the controversy — and it’s not surprising. Karl Rove had approached Calvin with the offer to bring the President, showing a strategic need to bolster support in a state they barely lost to John Kerry in the last election. This would be a perfect opportunity for a warm reception from an evangelical Christian college just before the mid-term elections. But it didn’t quite play out that well. And that’s big news.

There is coverage in the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC — but the best report is in Christianity Today. ​