- Grove City, Pennsylvania

June 11, 2013

Sparks tells GCC grads: Faith and freedom matter

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

GROVE CITY — The keynote speaker at Grove City College's 134rd commencement on Saturday defended the importance of faith and freedom, while the student speaker emphasized love.

Speaker Joel Richardson, a communications studies major, gave a heartfelt speech about what sets Grove City College graduates apart from the thousands of other students graduating from other universities.

He said he has found that basic college issues, like studying, dorm life, chapel and abiding by the rules "were blips on the radar," he said, compared to "some concealing addictions that torment ... who have families torn apart ... who experienced deaths ... who don't know what we believe anymore."

Richardson confessed that he was leaving GCC, which graduated 592 seniors Saturday, "with more confusion than when I came," he said.

However, he took heart in his faith, quoting Philippians 4 in the Bible about being content in all things.

Richardson said he believes that what would set him and his class apart - separate from their future goals, accomplishments and successes - was the type of love spoken in 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible.

"If I have a degree from Grove City College, but have not love, who am I?" he asked. "Without the presence of God in my life, I am nothing. Those who love are born of God and know him. This is how we go in the world and carry something rich and beautiful and true."

Keynote speaker, retiring dean John Sparks - a 1966 GCC graduate, long-time faculty member and attorney - came in on the heels of that message, stating how the college equips students to love by living their faith and defending freedom.

When he began his studies at GCC in 1962, the Berlin Wall was being built to separate East and West Germany, in order to have a "Communist Paradise," he said. "2.7 million people fled. The question was about freedom."

Around the same time, faith rituals were being taken out of public schools, Sparks added. The question was whether "faith would continue to play in the formation of young minds."

Does faith and freedom really matter in the world anymore? he added. "At Grove City College, our answer has always been an unwavering, unflinching, courageous 'yes.'"

The freedom established by the founding fathers is what has drawn people to America from other lands, Sparks said. It hasn't been without blemish, particularly with the enslavement of African Americans in the nation's past, he noted.

"We are meant to be free," Sparks said. "Ultimately, the liberty we enjoy is protected by the way we are made by Almighty God." It is also why oppressive regimes always fail, he said.

Sparks was proud to note Grove City College graduates he has known who have defended freedom through their professions, which was possible through living their faith, which enables them to believe that freedom is the right of all people established by the Lord.

A post-modern, secular and amoral world-view cannot have such high standards because it does not believe in them, he added.

"We have taught students to love the things they ought to love and detest the things they ought to detest," said Sparks, who encouraged the students to leave GCC to be world changers, godly parents and future alumni who return to GCC; "This little piece of the kingdom," he said. "This special place."

Published May 22, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.