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["Beamer, Benz, or Bentley" by Lloyd Banks playing]

Thank you, Coy.
Thank you, Lee-Ellen.
Thank you, Charlie.
Thank you, NMH.
Thank you, Dwight Lyman Moody.

Y’all know I couldn’t start this without playing a little music.  I grew up listening to a lot of music, I’ve always wanted to be a DJ, so it felt right and true to who and how I am.

Good to see you. Good to see you. Good to see you. Seven hundred "good to see yous."  At least that’s how many people I think are here today.

Before I get into it, I have a request, to try your best, let’s have fun in this space.  Enjoy each other’s company in this space. But like Kendrick Lamar, let’s be humble too.

I’m loving the energy right now - thank you for it.

What I’m about to say to you will be divided into three parts.  I teach all my students that their introductions must provide a road map for their readers.  So I feel it’s only right to provide you with a road map. 

Part 1 will be a little background - humanity
Part 2 will be a little about love - purpose
Part 3 will be a little about the mission - sleeves rolled up (where the chalk meets the board)

Part 1 - a little background - humanity 

This place was founded for a future.  There was a future in mind in 1879, when founder Dwight Lyman, DL, Moody sought to open the doors of the Northfield campus. Born in Northfield in 1837, Moody converted to Christianity at about the age of 18.  He never really joined a church, never committed to any denomination - very broad minded when it came to dogma, felt that Christianity was a necessary thing, because he believed that one needed to have some kind of organizing principle for faith and services and believed that one had to have an educated community, needed to have seminary and schools, but he also believed that people should just start by reading the bible.

Moody believed there was a truth in the bible, a form of justice that was ever present in the words that were written well over 2,000 years ago.  This was his conviction - that justice should prevail in some form, and this form was through education.  Throughout his travels to Boston and Chicago, Moody came to realize the importance of faith in a higher power, known as the Judeo-Christian God, and in particular that people have access to understanding this God as a way to restore a community.

According to Peter Weis, “Moody was a cultural imperialist not of the worst kind and a consciousness objector, he is extraordinarily complex.” And I would add yes, especially through the lens of 21st-century spectacles.

Today, we know that Northfield was founded in many parts as a way for people to have access, for women to have access.  But what I find so interesting about the history of Northfield Mount Hermon and DL Moody’s impact and legacy is what occurred in the very first few years of Northfield’s inception.

While I was researching Moody and Northfield Seminary, I kept bumping my head against the metaphorical ceiling of the idea that Moody was trying to create a humanly responsive pedagogy.  What exactly did that look like in 1879?

Typical courses were, as you might assume:
And of course there were classes designed specifically for cisgender women to be cisgender women.

[Talking about stereotypical activities of women]: Cooking, cleaning, sewing, making babies

We know the society was deeply rooted in patriarchy, so the fact that women were taking the first few courses I listed, pertaining to science, was really forward thinking for the time, especially for young women to be taking.

Makes me think more about our responsibility today as an institution to have a humanly responsive pedagogy.

The future that was in mind in 1879 — I’m reminded of the words of Paulo Freire (Brazilian educator and philosopher) who wrote, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (published in late 1960s).  Freire, like many social-justice advocates, really “calls in” a community to consider how “humanization is a people’s vocation.”  Now I’ve asked my students to define this term before in class, but I want you to think for a moment of how you define the term, “human.”  Now I want you to turn and talk to your neighbor friend for about 30 seconds and share this definition with each other.

Does your human have an age?  Does your human have a voice?  Is your human able-bodied?  I ask these questions of my students and then I ask them if we can have a definition of human that is one word: you. me. us. they. them.

I challenge us to think about this idea of humanization as our vocation because I believe it applies to why this place was founded over 140 years ago.

Part 2 - a little about love - purpose

You know that phrase, “haters gonna hate”? I wonder if we can turn that phrase into “lovers gonna love”?

Don’t you just love how it feels when someone gives you a compliment “That’s a dope jacket…”

Lovers gonna love.

“Hey, Jade, you know that comment you made in class yesterday? It was so helpful to hear, it really opened my eyes to a new perspective.”

Lovers gonna love.

“Hey Rachael, thanks again for your help last night with dorm duty.”

Lovers gonna love.

Instead, we’re so quick to judge and throw stones at each other.

There are probably so many humanly responsive pedagogical phrases we heard in early childhood
Sharing is caring.
That’s pretty simple - you have two red markers, they have three green markers, you share.
If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
That’s also pretty easy to understand because it’s easy to tell if you’ve hurt someone’s feelings.

I mean, that’s it.

This is where we as educators, academic leaders, students, and adults are on the cusp of not simply teaching and learning for the sake of teaching and learning, but as bell hooks (distinguished professor and social activist) asserts, teaching and learning for the sake of freedom.  In her book Teaching to Transgress, hooks argues that we need to teach each other how to “transgress against racial, sexual, and class boundaries in order to achieve the gift of freedom.”

It is here where I believe the chalk meets the board and allows all of us to recognize our true potential as agents of change in our ever-evolving world.

I believe in education. You want to know why?  Because I believe in you.
I believe in you.  I believe in all you.

Part 3 - a little about the mission - sleeves rolled up

Put simply, DL Moody’s vision is our current mission.  This idea of acting with humanity and purpose is achieved through practice.  Why is it that I often hear from students, “Why do I have to take DSJ? Why do we have to have the same conversations in SLS? Why must we always talk about privilege and systems of oppression?”

Privilege and Oppression? Privilege and oppression?  Every time I hear someone ask me again about this, I literally feel like I’ve dropped an album and I’m about to get signed for a record deal because I’ve heard several remixes to this.

Interestingly enough, I never once heard one of my softball players at practice ask me, “Coach, why are we throwing and catching the ball again? Why am I batting again? We just batted yesterday.”

I also have never once heard one of my basketball players ask, “Coach, why must we shoot the ball over and over again?”  As a matter of fact, I’ve heard just the opposite. I’ve even had so many players from other teams ask, “Can I use this side of the gym today so that I can get in more shots?”

Let me tell y’all what - because I believe in education, because I believe in y’all - we aren’t gonna stop having these conversations.  We’re not gonna stop having us consider the places and spaces that need to be researched for more people to have access.

No, no, no.  We’re gonna practice, practice, practice.
Because practice makes progress.

And after all, these are the values that have guided our institution throughout its history into its present.

Our mission statement is a verb - it’s to act.  To act with humanity and purpose.

In 1879, Northfield was teaching women how to be women. Today, we’re teaching humans how to be humans.  And it doesn’t matter what side of the desk you’re on, we’re all teaching each other.

I keep telling my students that I need a future where I have access to water and health care, but the more I think about it, I simply need access to a future.  I need access to this next word, to this next minute, to this next breath.

So, will you roll up your sleeves with me?

Here we go, NMH!


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