Bush at Calvin College: two random thoughts

While surfing around this morning, I came across a pseudo-blog at the Washington Post called “White House Briefing,” and I read Friday’s story about W. being the commencement speaker at Calvin College this spring. The writer, Dan Froomkin, answers the question “why Calvin College?” by pointing out that Calvin is “a highly regarded center of evangelical intellectual thought.” I suppose that’s true, but Calvin is also in Grand Rapids, which is smack-dab in the middle of Michigan “Bush Country.”

Anyway, two unrelated thoughts occur to me this morning. First, I’m pretty sure Calvin didn’t so much invite Bush to come speak, and I don’t think it was the result of Republican alumni per se; I’m pretty sure what happened is the White House said to the folks at Calvin “hey, guess what? W. is going to give your commencement speech.” That’s pretty much what happened here at EMU five or six years ago when Bill Clinton was the commencement speaker. As I understood the process back then, EMU was pretty much told Clinton was going to be speaking; it wasn’t so much that anybody at EMU asked him to come.

Second, I have a very different memory of Calvin College. This must be close to 20 years ago now, but my friend Troy and I had a mutual friend of ours from Cedar Falls named Ann (just friends, btw) who ended up going to Calvin College. I don’t remember Ann as being particularly religious– she was one of the “theater kids” at my high school– so I don’t know why she ended up out at Calvin, and I honestly have no idea why Troy and I would have shlepped all the way from Iowa out to Grand Rapids (other than just to go on a roadtrip), but shlep we did. I don’t remember a lot of evangelical intellectualism on our visit; instead, I remember meeting Ann’s friends who partied their asses off, seemingly 24 hours a day.

Of course, as I think about it, maybe there is a relationship to college age drunkenness, evangelical intellectualism, and W.: maybe Calvin (and other religious colleges) is considered such a “religious center” because, through an environment that fosters debauchery of the youth, it’s really building students who have something to repent for. I mean, isn’t that what made W. into an evangelical Christian, a youth of cocaine and drunk driving? It’s a kind of reverse psychology thing.

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