Smiling, at 9:20am, 10 minutes before the commencement of the graduation ceremony, students and faculty marched into the Cannon Activities Center on Saturday, June 30. Families cheered and waved at their graduates who would later be congratulated for their success and were encouraged to lead lives with righteous patterns and high moral character.
President of BYUH, John S. Tanner, came to the pulpit and welcomed those in attendance. He thanked special guests, Mark B. Woodruff, Bishop Dean Davies for their attendance, and then he gave special attention to the graduates and their families.
President Tanner mentioned that students from 25 different states and 25 different countries were represented that day. He asked the graduates to stand based on the unique characteristics that may apply to them, such as: If they were the first to graduate in their families or If they worked to support themselves in college. The number of known languages, etc. He ended the series of questions by stating it was important to know “who our graduates are, who they represent.”
After President Tanner spoke, the graduate speaker, Emmalee Buss, a new alumna from Wyoming, began her speech by discussing her love discovering scientific fun facts. How she loved acquiring information, but how it may not be the funnest activities for everyone.
“I have learned that the acquisition of information and facts is not what this college experience is about,” said Buss. “Are we defined by our degrees? Are destinies determined by the amount information our brains retain from classes? If so, we can all agree that we can only get so far in life.”
Earlier, Tanner spoke of two important quotes he wanted the graduates to remember. He said, “Character is higher than intellect,” and “not a mind without a soul.” He expounded on both.
He said, “It is important to develop a bright and educated mind and it’s even more important to cultivate an upright and compassionate soul. I often tell my kids that goodness is better than greatness. Only those with great souls are truly great. Not a mind without a soul.”
Buss in her speech asked, “So what is it that college should be about?” She quoted Martin Luther King Jr. to answer the question. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.”
Buss continued with her own words, “How did we develop character here as college students at BYU Hawaii? Are we teachable? Can we recognize when were wrong and accept correction from others? Are we determined and hard-working? Do we see a task and finish to the end? Can we develop positive relationships with people of different races, ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds? Can we discuss controversial topics, see and understand another’s point of view? Can we stand up for what is morally right? Do we look for ways to help and serve those around us, as well as those back in our communities?
“As we strive to answer yes to these questions, …We develop character. This is what our college experience has been about.”
Speaking of character, President Tanner told the story of a man and his extremely bright son as he spoke of the importance of the soul over the mind. He quoted, ‘A heart I need for a son. A soul, I need for my son. Compassion, I want for my son. Righteousness, mercy, strength to carry pain, that, I want for my son, not a mind without a soul.’
He continued, “I believe brothers and sisters, that if God looked down on you graduates today, He might say the same thing. Is he pleased with your academic accomplishments? Of course. Does he value your intellect? Certainly.
“The glory of God is intelligence, but I believe Father in heaven… wants much more from you, than a trained mind. He wants your hearts. He wants your souls, full of compassion and righteousness, mercy, with strength to suffer and carry others.”
From the Board of Education and Board of Trustees, Mark B. Woodruff, Assistant to the Commissioner and Secretary to the Church, spoke of unity and importance of working together to help everyone. He said “for some, this is the end of your education. The solid foundation that has been established for you here at BYU-Hawaii will give you the momentum to move forward toward additional accomplishments, in your homes, your communities, and church.