As they completed a new level of education, graduates of Oklahoma Baptist University's International Graduate School were urged to focus on life's inalienable rights during the OBU-IGS Commencement Saturday, March 7.
Five graduates received master of business administration degrees during the afternoon ceremony at University Baptist Church in Shawnee. They are the second graduating class for the graduate program which began in February 2007.
Beginning his Commencement address, Dr. Kyle Tresch, dean of OBU's Paul Dickinson School of Business, recited familiar words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Tresch said because they are often best-known from the Declaration of Independence, people likely attribute "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as American values versus human values. However, he pointed out Thomas Jefferson borrowed the words, ironically, from British philosopher John Locke. George Mason also had borrowed the words, which he penned into the Virginia Declaration of Rights in late May 1776. Tresch contended the values apply to the new graduates as tomorrow's leaders.
Focusing on the three inalienable rights, Tresch said life is, indeed, a precious gift from God. He pointed to both the gift of a physical life, and the potential for a full spiritual life. He cited Jesus Christ's words found in John 10:10, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
"Graduates, having completed this program, you are now equipped with skills that will enable you to pursue, even greater, the passions and the calling that God has on your life," Tresch said.
Tresch said many people, when considering liberty, most closely associate it with freedom. He referred to John 8:32, which says, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
"Knowledge for knowledge's sake is not the end goal," Tresch said. "The [Bible] tells us that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. It's my hope that you will use your knowledge and skills to make the world that you live in a better place - that the people in your sphere of influence ... are going to be touched in a positive way, not just with the skills and knowledge you possess, but with the love that you show."
Of the three inalienable rights, Tresch said the "pursuit of happiness" most often is hijacked as a sense of self-entitlement. He cautioned that a self-centered approach alters the intent of the original words. Instead, he encouraged graduates to realize that society functions best when people are allowed to prosper. To truly pursue happiness, leaders should recognize their role in empowering others to find success, Tresch said.
"We are ultimately happiest when we are helping and serving others," he said. "As you go out into the workplace, your pursuit of happiness is going to be a genuine, biblical pursuit of happiness that seeks to use your position, your skills and your knowledge to benefit and serve those around you."
All of the graduates participated in the ceremony. Anthony Cargill, from Oklahoma City, brought remarks for the graduates. Ive Drummond, a native of Cuiabá, Brazil, and Marcelo Drummond, a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who live in Shawnee, read 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 in both English and their native Portuguese. Alan Schmook, from Oklahoma City, presented the invocation, and Jennifer Thornton, also from Oklahoma City, offered the benediction.
In his remarks, Cargill encouraged his fellow graduates to always remain students by continuing to learn throughout life; to realize the importance of investing in other people; and to strive to move forward at a pace others can follow.
"My prayer for you is that you put God first, and that He will pour out blessings on your lives and put you in positions and situations that you never dreamed possible, and that when you get to the end of your life, and we all stand before God, He can look at us and say, 'Job well done,'" Cargill said.