Our Collective Responsibility

Investiture of the 14th President of Paine College
Dr. George Cleveland Bradley

September 12, 2008
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that Paine College becomes a premier liberal arts institution of higher education in the region.

Chairman Bell and members of Paine College’s Board of Trustees, I accept the challenge that has been set. The vow that I took to continue the work of the colleagues who have come before me, to lead Paine College to its next level of greatness, is one that I take with pride, honor and sincerity. I accept this responsibility with the humility that personifies the importance of educating the next generation. I also promise to engage with colleagues in the endeavors that address the ills of society.

It is our collective responsibility to address the pressing needs of humanity.

The responsibility for shaping the future and creating the kind of world that is moral, fair and just rests with us all. Paine College was founded on principles of social justice and it is through this historic calling that we will continue to fight for those whose voices are not being heard. We have the moral obligation to continue fighting until we have eradicated all forms of injustice.

It is our collective responsibility to be good stewards of the earth.

As we become more aware of our roles as citizens of the world, it is incumbent upon each of us to consider how our actions impact others in a global society. I am increasingly amazed at the lack of simple civility that no longer occupies a place in our actions. If we can not defer to the elderly, spend time talking to a young child, or introduce ourselves to our neighbors, how can we hope to find a way to share natural resources, tolerate religious differences, or solve issues of mutual concerns?

It is our collective responsibility to use our education to benefit humanity.

I am always dismayed when I meet educated individuals who do not use new knowledge, new experiences and new relationships to address the pressing needs in their respective communities. I would like to challenge organizations and individuals to not simply engage in community service, but to dedicate themselves to solving complex issues in their community. We should measure our work by what we accomplish, not by how much we do. I recognize that issues facing many of our communities, our region, this country and the world are very complex and the answers are not easy. M. Scott Peck was correct when he said, “the truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

It is our collective responsibility to work hard.

In the west we are so concerned about people feeling good all of the time that we miss the lessons that the hardships of life have to offer. I hear people say, “I don’t want my children to have to work as hard as I did.” I ask you; what is wrong with hard work? The lessons taught to me by my family are some of the lessons that I carry with me today and they are rooted in hard work.

It is our collective responsibility to pave the road with new ideas.

If we are in the business of higher education, before we can expect our constituents to support us in the work that we are doing, we must be accountable for accomplishing those tasks for which we are engaged. We cannot simply stand in front of students and advance pretentious notions. We must ensure that what is being presented through our courses is rigorous and relevant. As faculty members we must also step outside of our comfort zones and engage in activities that cause us to stretch in ways that are similar to the ways in which we are causing our students to stretch.

A president colleague once said, “give each other no rest in these four years; bother one another; pester if you will; ask the next question and try the next theory. The best minds should be formed on the hardest questions and the most rigorous study and ideas.” At Paine College we will not simply confer degrees. We will engage, and agitate until the vestiges of racism, classism and sexism are things of the past. We will not rest until we all, “love truth and seek it above material things.” For you see, that is the Paine College ideal.

The last stanza of Invictus, by William Ernest Henly suggests that our collective responsibility starts with our individual actions.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Thank you to all who love and support Paine College. Peace and blessings to you.