By Daniel Chick
When Dr. Michael Dwaine Greene, Georgetown College’s recently installed 24th president, visited campus for the first time in July, I attended the forum available to students and the public at large. My first impressions were ones of trepidation. He seemed to embody the worst qualities of two former candidates for the same position: he rambled, answered “I don’t know” quite frequently, and generally seemed unimpressive. I was genuinely surprised that the selection committee had spent so much time on one candidate, and that the one candidate was him.
Specifically, I explicitly asked his feelings on the inclusion of a sexual orientation and gender identity clause into the College’s nondiscrimination policy, which required simply “yes,”or “no,” and why as a response. His answer came nowhere close to either of those options—instead, he opted for a generalized statement of “we should treatwith kindness.” As a gay man, I couldn’t help but focus on what wasn’t said in his response. Sure, it’s a hot-button issue and as a candidate, it may not be the most politically deft option for him to address it definitively. I understand that concern; what he didn’t say, however, is seemingly what illustrated his worldview. Now that he is Georgetown College’s president, this is an issue he will be required to face. I’m frankly not comfortable with the level of ambiguity going into such a commitment.
I write off these concerns, at least for the time being, as remnants of the fear of crises that plagued this college community during the 2012-13 school year. Immediately after Dr. Greene was announced as the only candidate for the presidency of the college, I sensed imminence behind what would become essentially a coronation from the Board of Trustees. Thusly, I force myself to keep a mindset of cautious optimism. After all, I want to like Dr. Greene from a personal sense. He seems personable and enjoyable to be around. He has an aura of warmness and genuineness that seemed sorely lacking with our prior administration.
After having the privilege of attending Opening Convocation and experiencing Dr. Greene’s keynote address, my cautious optimism seems quite justified. I’m still not comfortable with the ambiguity surrounding his first days in office. However, I could not ask for a higher quality address from anyone to begin the 2013-14 school year. Dr. Greene knocked the speech out of the park. The tree metaphor—you can wrap your arms around a tree and start climbing, or plant a seed and wait for it to grow—was profound. And it made sense! Nobody left Opening Convocation wondering why such a story was told, and it was relevant to the problems we face as an institution. He further inspired the convocation mass by saying, “Don’t expect God to do for you what He gives you the ability to do for yourself.” One could not ask for more stirring words to be spoken.
I love Georgetown, and I only want what’s best for this amazing institution. I still hold some concerns for what a Dr. Greene presidency will bring to us. For the time being, though, I am happy to hold such cautious optimism for the future of Georgetown College. We all take this next step together, and it’s up to all of us to make it work.