2017 Honors Convocation Speech: "Social Justice"
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2017 Honors Convocation Speech: "Social Justice"

Photo courtesy Briar Cliff University Dept. of Marketing

President Shirvani addresses the honored students, faculty and staff during the year-ending Honors Convocation Ceremony on May 11, 2017, at The Chapel of Our Lady of Grace.

Speech as delivered:

Good afternoon and welcome to the 2017 Briar Cliff University Honors Convocation.  I extend sincere congratulations to the students we are honoring.  You are here today because of your gifts – of intellect, of effort, of integrity.  You have rigorously cultivated your minds and your hard work has served you well. 

As President, my desire is that you leave today with one phrase branded into your minds, the minds you have so ardently shaped during your time here at Briar Cliff.  The phrase I want you to remember is “Social Justice”.

The term "social justice" was adopted by the Jesuit Luigi Taparelli in the 1840s, based on the work of St. Thomas Aquinas. It is the foundation of Catholic social teaching and is consistent with the Roman Catholic doctrine, both of which relate to matters dealing with the collective concept of humanity.

As graduates of this outstanding Catholic Franciscan University, it will be important for you to stay true to your faith and your core Catholic and Christian values in all areas of your life. Your individual morals and ethics will always be paramount in your decision-making, regardless of the situation.

Faith and obedience to Christian teachings are not things one can turn off or on based upon simple convenience or a given situation.The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine.  This is my greatest challenge to you.

I urge all of you to get involved in politics and social justice.  I encourage you to use your faith and religious values to give back to society and to infect others with the conviction to navigate through life with a clear understanding of what is right and wrong.  It is vital that you use your gifts to critically evaluate the arguments of others and, perhaps most importantly, your own.  Critical thinking assists us in carefully examining the world’s portrayed wisdom as well as our own, enabling us to seek and find truth. 

You have spent your time here at Briar Cliff University learning.  It is my desire that, regardless of your intellectual achievements, you never stop learning – learning from others and learning from yourselves.  We call the university our “alma mater”, Latin for “nourishing mother”, and you can trust that our faculty is teaching you the truth and how to recognize it.  It is my hope that you continue to invite knowledgeable teachers into your life and that others seek out your wise counsel.  Again, I extend my congratulations to you.  Well done.

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