Why Ships Sink

David Brooks’ column today ends up being about the Chicago teachers’ strike. But what interests me most is his opening overview of the two tracks of our modern economy. Here is what he says: Modern nations have two economies, which exist side by side. Economy I is the tradable sector. This...


Where Have All The Men Gone?

For years I’ve sat through anguished discussions about why more women than men are going to college. A lot more in fact. In most colleges and universities these days the numbers are at 60% women, sometimes creeping even higher. We used to think this was a phenomenon of the Christian campus,...


Cutting College Costs?

In his acceptance speech for the nomination of his party in Charlotte last night, President Obama made glancing reference to reducing college tuition, pledging to “work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next 10 years.” This is an echo of his State...


The Monster Under The Bed

Ego is the curse of good leadership. I have come to believe, out of a lot of painful experience, the ego is a monster under the bed waiting to pounce on leaders, waiting to eat them alive, waiting to suck the life out of worthy ideas. Here then is my advice to leaders: Don’t let your ego get hold...


Let Us Show The World Our Shine

I have been thinking again these days about  the notion of joy. We all want the gift of joy, don’t we? And it sometimes seems like a gift, not something we can conjure up. And so I have been asking myself: Well, what then is the source of our joy? What must I do to live joyously? And why does joy...


May I Disagree With David Brooks, For Once?

  I usually agree with most of what David Brooks writes in his twice-weekly column in The New York Times. He is one of my hero-commentators. I love his balance. I love his consistent insight that politics is understood through culture, not the other way around. After two visits to my campus, at...


The Road Ahead: My Advice To Our Candidates

I find myself wanting to say some things to our presidential candidates. I offer this advice, of course, for what it’s worth, which, considering the price, isn’t much. First, I want to say what our candidates surely know: We have some very real problems in our world, and those problems...


A Nation In Decline?

So many writers these days are talking about America as a nation in decline. I am one who happens to feel there are some dangerous signals of such decline. For all of my usual instincts toward optimism and hope and opportunity, I am troubled these days, fearful about the future. Most of our broader...


The Paradox Of Particularity

Great writing grows out of the specific content of a writer’s life. I believe the same could be said of leadership. The writer’s instincts are guided, in the best of writing, by the axiom that the more particular the story, the more universal the message. This is tricky business, to be sure,...


Put Out Into the Deep, Part 3

My Last Commencement Speech Philip W. Eaton, SPU President June 9, 2012 On June 9, 2012, SPU President Philip Eaton delivered the Commencement address at Seattle Pacific University’s 2012 Commencement exercises. His Commencement address is being published here in three parts. You can also read...


Put Out Into the Deep, Part 2

My Last Commencement Speech Philip W. Eaton, SPU President June 9, 2012 On June 9, 2012, SPU President Philip Eaton delivered the Commencement address at Seattle Pacific University’s 2012 Commencement exercises. His Commencement address is being published here in three parts. You can also read...


Put Out Into the Deep, Part 1

My Last Commencement Speech Philip W. Eaton, SPU President June 9, 2012 On June 9, 2012, SPU President Philip Eaton delivered the Commencement address at Seattle Pacific University’s 2012 Commencement. His Commencement address is being published here in three parts. I want to thank Dr. Congdon...


A Walk in the Garden Alone

Along with two billion Christians around the globe, I enter this Holy Week reverently, expectant, full of awe and hope. This season in the life of Christians is charged with meaning and mystery. It is a poignant time, a time of immense curiosity, a time of profound sadness and expansive joy. We...


How to Go About Changing Our Behavior

In his weekly column last week, David Brooks takes up the question of how, if at all, we can change our behavior. This is often a theme of Brooks, as it is with many writers of our day who feel something is out of whack and needs changing. The question we often ask is whether we can change what we...


Plant growing through crack

Good News for a Bad News World

We are all yearning for good news these days: good news that our dismal economy has begun to bottom out, that once again we are creating new jobs; good news that Europe and America have begun to live within their means; good news that school reform is beginning to get real results, building lives,...


Rick Steele

Profound Truth, Clear Sentences, Such Joy

Last week I received a note from my dear friend, Professor Rick Steele, one of the stars on what has become such an extraordinary faculty of the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University. Dr. Steele is my go-to guy when I have questions about theology or church history, in part because he is...


Pyramids

Fretting Again About Splintered Culture

I am still fretting about the fact that we don’t read or watch the same things. The same books? Are you kidding? The same TV shows? Not likely. We don’t even watch the same news. I continue to ask the question how a culture can cohere when no one is paying attention to at least somewhat similar...


Steven Pinker - The Better Angels of Our Nature

Are We Less Violent Than Ever?

Stephen Pinker, the Harvard professor who a few years ago famously and fiercely opposed anything having to do with “faith” in Harvard’s revision of its core curriculum, has written a new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. The book has become much-quoted and...


Saying Merry Christmas Downtown

I have become subversive. I have begun to say Merry Christmas in downtown Seattle, on airplanes, in the grocery store. I have no need whatsoever to be offensive to my Jewish friends, to Muslims, or to the ardent secularists who seek to control our public language. But I find myself puzzled why...


Call It the Starbucks’ World

We live in a very splintered society. Call it the Starbucks’ world where everyone orders up exactly their own pleasure: “I’ll have a tall, no-whip mocha” or “give me a grande, whole-milk, no-foam latte.” It’s very cool, of course, but it is a whole new phenomenon that has sunk into our...


A New Starting Point for Thought

What follows is an excerpt from my opening convocation speech this fall at Seattle Pacific University called The Upside-Down University. I am talking here about the deeper contributions the Christian university can make for our time of disintegrating culture. I think this applies to thinking...


Upside-Down Leadership

I have been speaking and thinking a lot lately about what kind of leadership we need in our world today. We live in turbulent, troubled times, and we are crying out for leaders to step up to the challenges we face — economic, social, cultural challenges — challenges that are perhaps...


How Can We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Foreign Land?

This is the question the Psalmist asks. This is the question for all Christians in our post-Christian world. This is the question I ask myself all the time. Last week I ran into a wonderful little Psalm that speaks so beautifully to this challenge. By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept as we...


On Prayer and the Nation

A couple of weekends ago, in Houston, Texas, a group of organizers staged a huge rally to pray for our nation. Governor Rick Perry of Texas, one of the organizers of the rally, called out the reasons, as he sees it, for prayer at this time: “discord at home . . . fear in the marketplace . . ....


Our Leaders Are on Vacation?

“The world is falling apart, and our leaders are on vacation,” a friend of mine said with disgust and frustration. Financial and economic indicators plunged precipitously that day, and we were searching for answers. Where have all the leaders gone, we asked. Shouldn’t our leaders be on call to...


Is Our Culture Going to Make It?

So many people lament these days about something missing in our culture, something lost, something perhaps never to be retrieved. We seem to be wandering around a bit bewildered. We seem to be carrying around a map of reality that no longer points out where we are or where we should be going....


Signs of Fatigue in the Culture

When recently asked what he was reading, Mick Jagger said he had just picked up Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel Freedom: “It’s not really my kind of thing,” Jagger said, “but everyone was talking about it so I thought I’d have a look.” I’m not sure why the book is not Mick Jagger’s...


Engaging the Culture in a World Out of Whack

I have always felt that Christians must stay tuned quite intensely to what’s going on in the world. This is part of what we call our signature commitments at Seattle Pacific. But sometimes when we look out across the landscape of our society, we sense something is out of whack, or at least out of...


The Problem of Pain and God’s Good Assurance

“It is what it is” — I have so often found myself using this phrase. We all use it from time to time. I suppose it is something like saying “roll with the punches,” or perhaps “let the chips fall,” or “stuff happens.” It feels good to use this phrase. It implies that I’ve got...


Leisure as a Foundational Principle?

In a previous post I talked about how we have built a culture obsessed by work. Recognizing the historical American devotion to a strong work ethic, and the good things that come from hard-working, productive lives, perhaps we have overdone it. At times we act as if there is nothing but work. As a...


Swan

Letting Go Of Work

I have been thinking about how one lets go of work. Let me say first that I love my job. I believe that a strong work ethic is essential to a productive, meaningful life. But, unfortunately, we so often get ourselves tangled up, either working most of the time, or thinking about our work when we are...


The Christian University Has Something More to Offer

In their recent, much-noted indictment on the failure of higher education in America today, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa point out that “the future of a democratic society depends upon educating a generation of young adults who can think critically, reason deeply, and communicate effectively.”...


A Crisis of Value

Readers responded in remarkable numbers to my posts on building better K-12 schools in America. Thank you for your energy and ideas. I plan to write much more in the weeks and months ahead about this enormous challenge in our midst. In tandem with the K-12 crisis of educating our young people,...


Blame and the Future of Education

I got lots of comments on my last post on the crisis in our schools. I was encouraged by the commitment and passion of so many people out there, those who are in the trenches as teachers and administrators in our schools. I sensed their own frustrations about what gets in the way of building better...


School children from Camden, New Jersey

Education Is Where We Love Our Children Enough

In The New York Times on Sunday, April 10, 2011, Jonathan Mahler has an interesting article about the “deadlock” that has settled into our debate about school reform in America today. Either we are for teachers’ unions or we are not; either we favor charters schools or we don’t; either we...


Demaray Clock Tower

Leaders Speaking Out

Several years ago, John T. Casteen III, then president of the University of Virginia, made a statement that has haunted me in my own leadership. Because of certain constraints, he said, university presidents, and many other leaders as well, cannot (or believe we cannot) take the kinds of principled...


On Solitude One More Time

Several weeks ago I mentioned an article by William Deresiewicz called “Solitude and Leadership.” The article was adapted from a speech Deresiewicz gave to the plebe class at the Military Academy at West Point. It appears in the spring issue of The American Scholar. Because I’ve been...


university

The Distinctive Culture of a University

Our society is constantly trying to measure the distinctions among colleges and universities. U.S. News and World Report has made a fortune on its annual publication ranking our institutions. People watch these things. Most presidents talk about how these rankings don’t matter, until their school...


A Universal Yearning for Freedom

A week ago two essays appeared in separate newspapers — The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times — suggesting much the same thing: The desire for liberty and freedom seem to reside universally in people all across the globe. Both authors, Michael Novak and David Brooks, acknowledge that...


We All Need Solitude

I found myself remarking to a colleague and friend the other day that “I am absolutely overwhelmed at the moment. There is just flat-out too much to do. I can’t even find time to think.” My friend graciously tried to find those things I could just “let go.” Not an easy task, but necessary...


Can We Really Multitask?

Each year in late December David Brooks gives out what he calls the Sydney Awards for the best magazine articles of the year. I always love this column. I think I am attracted to his recommendations in part because Brooks is attuned to the power of culture, as I try to be. One award winner this year...


Putting Out Into the Deep

I serve on the national board of the National Association Of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Over the last four days we were back in Washington, D.C., trying to sort out how best to navigate our way in private higher education through the turbulent waters of dramatic political change...


A Way of Being Human We Never Imagined Before

In his latest book titled After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, the great N.T. Wright says that what the disciples discovered in Jesus was “a way of being human which nobody had ever imagined before. This was a way of generosity and forgiveness, a way of self-emptying and a...


What Might Be the Lessons From Chile?

We are still groping to understand the extraordinary sense of triumph as each of those 33 Chilean miners was brought to the surface in their banged-up, little tube. There was so much that could go wrong, from the first days that the miners were discovered trapped a half a mile beneath the surface,...


Parthenon

What Happens When the Culture Collapses?

In her weekly Saturday column in The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan alerted me to an amazing article on the economic crisis in Greece. The article is written by Michael Lewis and appears in Vanity Fair. The discovery of this crisis took place with breathtaking speed: “Last October,” Lewis...


John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman and the Soul of the University

I recognize it has been some weeks since I have been active on the blog. I am truly sorry about that. So many things have pressed in on my time and attention. In late August, I was determined to finish the final draft of my book, which will be coming out in the months ahead (more on that later)....


Broken People and the Problem of Community

It was warm in Seattle last night. This is the season for the long evenings in our northern part of the world, and finally we are getting a taste of summer. I decided to go for a walk in downtown Seattle. People had come out of their winter caves and were strolling through the late summer light and...


Colliding Maps

Choosing Our Stories Carefully

I have written and spoken at length about a comment made on my campus some years ago by the late, great Jewish novelist Chaim Potok. Potok said that day that “we live in a world of colliding maps.” We all construct our maps of reality out of the bits and scraps of information we have been given...


King James, the Big Decision, and What to Do About Character

The over-hyped LeBron James circus is finally over. We can all take a deep breath now, a sigh of relief, and get on with our lives. We know, we know, where the 25-year-old King James (he also has a tattoo on his back proclaiming himself the “Chosen 1”) is going to play basketball next year....


Team USA plays Ghana in the 2010 World Cup

Soccer and the Meaning of America

I begin writing these reflections on Saturday morning several hours before the United States meets the Black Stars from Ghana in World Cup competition. I have the delightful opportunity to gather with some of my kids and grandkids over burgers and stuff to watch what is billed as an incredible...


Video: A Message to Friends

Watch this brief video of President Philip W. Eaton. He shares some of his thoughts about responding to our challenging economic times, and what lies ahead as SPU strives to become even more effective and responsive to the needs of our world. [vimeo]http://vimeo.com/10600981[/vimeo]


Can Politics Ever Provide the Solutions We Need?

I am sorry I’ve had to be away from the blog for a few weeks. I have been writing tons of things — including the last draft of my book — and just not able to spend my Saturday mornings lately in this special reflective time. I hope we can pick up where we left off. I’ve been thinking about...


One Final Note on Character, Part IV

One Christmas Eve a couple of years ago, as we began a joyous dinner in our home with our whole family, I opened our time with a blessing for our meal. I gave thanks for our family as we gathered together to celebrate the baby Jesus on this sacred evening in the Christian calendar. The next day we...


On Character and Education Again, Part III

When I was a young faculty member some years ago we often engaged in some fairly intense discussion about the role of the university in the life of the student. Some of the old assumptions needed to be challenged, to be sure. “The Times They Are a-Changin,” the great Bob Dylan reminded us so...


On Teaching Character, Part II

Last week on the blog I was reflecting on the profound discouragement we all feel as we witness, on an almost daily basis, eruptions of ugly scandalous behavior in our midst. “What in the world is going on here?” we ask. “Doesn’t it seem to be worse than it used to be?” “And why is it so...


Can We Actually Teach Character Anymore?

It’s Saturday morning, my time for catching up on things, for some reading and reflection. I’ve been on the road so much lately, I have not attended to the news as carefully as I would like. But the news this morning is depressing. There is no better word for it. Washington seems locked in an...


Can We Actually Choose the Stories by Which We Live?

I have written and spoken at length about a comment made on my campus some years ago by the late, great Jewish novelist Chaim Potok. Potok said that day that “we live in a world of colliding maps.” We all construct our own little maps and stories of reality out of the bits and scraps of...


My Top Five (Or 10) Book Lists

I have put together a list of My Top Five Books. I have also included a list of My Top 10 Books of Literature. Personal, eclectic, even eccentric as any such list must be these days, nevertheless, these are great books, books that have hugely influenced my life and my thinking about things. I hope...


The Reverend Martin Luther King, Suffering, Hope, and Haiti

Over the last few days, we have been assaulted with the horrifying images of bodies being dumped into trucks, images of people not only without shelter but also without water, images of desperation and suffering beyond belief — and we have experienced that numbness that comes with helplessness. ...


Five Traits of a Great Leader

I have been thinking and writing lately about leadership. I don’t usually write about this topic, in part because I think there is too much writing and perhaps too little of the actual doing of leadership. I also think leadership cannot be a topic about itself. Leaders lead a cause. Real leaders...


The Hammer, the Train Set, and the BB Gun

Our vivacious, ever-so-verbal, 2-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Esmee, told Santa Claus the other day that she wanted a yo-yo and a hammer for Christmas. Oh the marvel of a child’s imagination this time of year. Should Santa comply, I’m a little worried about what that hammer might do around...


It’s Not That Easy Being Green

Kermit the Frog once said so eloquently, “It’s not that easy being green.” Sometimes you’d like to be something nicer, like red, or yellow or gold or something much more colorful like that.” Sometimes you’d like to stand out, says Kermit, “like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in...


Video: Are God and Santa Claus Neighbors?

Watch President Eaton’s new video on the biblical imagination and God’s “grand, sweeping story.” httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5Z9C1adJqk


Is This the Season to Be Worried?

I am worried. I am worried that people are worried. I am worried that people seem to have lost a sense of optimism. I know that can seem such a sweeping statement, so sweeping as to be inane. Things change, and maybe we are in a downswing of mood, but things will be looking up again soon. You know,...


Video: Where Joy, Mystery, and Beauty Meet

President Eaton braves a Seattle rain in his newest video that explores where joy, mystery, and beauty meet. httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doOUlUeSKJM


Ashton Kutcher’s Got Four Million Followers

A few of my students have given me a bad time for ragging on texting. For the most part respectfully, they have said, “President Eaton, come on now, texting is the rage. The communication is fast, very fast. The connection is direct, immediate. We’re all carrying our iPhones and BlackBerrys,...


Is There Anyone Anymore Who Will Tell Us How to Write Well?

William Strunk? E.B. White? The Elements Of Style? Does anyone remember those names? Does anyone anymore recognize this little book as one of the shaping forces of good writing for the last 50 years? I dug into the library in my study to find my copy of this great little book; I discovered I...


People of Faith and the Presumption of Pluralism

I’ve been delighted by the amount and quality of the responses from so many people to these blog posts. Frankly, I am quite amazed. I come away from these comments realizing that people want to engage. People want to be thoughtful about their lives and about the shape of the world. People want to...


What Does It Mean to Separate Faith and Culture?

When John G. Roberts was nominated in July 2005 to become the Chief Justice of the United States, there was a flurry of deep concern among politicians and in the major media that he was a devout Catholic. Why should this be a concern, we might ask. Judge Roberts and his wife, both of them apparently...


Found at Starbucks: A Latte and a Big Idea

Watch President Eaton’s newest video about his conversation with a Starbucks barista on the topic of text messaging. Are we in danger of losing our ability to read and to write sophisticated text? httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYyx9R3K9ig


Lincoln Spoke for Two Minutes and Changed the World

This last week we did a lot of reading and talking together on campus about the great Abraham Lincoln. Transformational leadership was our topic, and Lincoln was our model. We hosted my longtime friend, Lincoln scholar and biographer Ron White (Ronald C. White, Jr.), as our keynote speaker for the...


Deep Nerves on Health Care

The debate over health care in America seems to have touched some very deep nerves. The struggle is pitched as a great partisan divide between those on the Left, who want to provide more government assistance to those without health insurance and those caught between the cracks of transition; and...


In My Absence

It has been a few weeks since I’ve been able to write a post for this blog. I am sorry. I have missed the conversation and the chance to reflect on things from my study on Saturday mornings. Actually, my Saturday mornings have been full of writing on speeches and such to open the academic year at...


Video: Why Community Matters

Watch President Philip W. Eaton’s newest video describing why the best learning takes place in community. He includes thoughts on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book, Life Together. httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwlHaaY2QIQ


Our Hour Upon the Stage

It seems like a lot of people are dying these days. I had that thought this morning as Sharon and I watched the funeral mass in Boston for Senator Ted Kennedy. And I found myself thinking about the lives that have stepped off the stage in the last few months and years: Bill Buckley, Ronald Reagan,...


Focusing Again on What Really Matters

I’ve been thinking lately that we just have to focus on what really matters. Right? I feel that about my work right now. I feel that about the world. Life is too short. There is too much good work to be done, too much good life to be shared. The issues in our world are too urgent. We need to clear...


Really Good Food — and Changing the World

Is it possible that cooking good food can change the world? Or that eating such wonderful food could change our lives? Sounds a little preposterous, I know, but I thought about these questions last night. Sharon and I went to see Julie & Julia last night. While I have grown so impatient with...


Summer Days With Nietzsche and Hopkins

I am taking a few days of vacation in August, and I love it. Once we get into a break like this, we suddenly realize how much we need it. I’m sure you know what I mean. But the long days of sunlight, playing catch with my grandsons, Fourth of July parades, burgers on the grill, great tomatoes and...


Living in a World of Colliding Maps

The late, great Jewish novelist Chaim Potok said on my campus some years ago that “we live in a world of colliding maps.” I think he is absolutely right about that, though I don’t always like it. What did he mean by this? In part he meant that each one of us has constructed our own little...


To The Moon And Back

I find myself imagining the hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers, managers, office personnel, and executives it took to put two men on the moon. That was forty years ago today, July 20, 1969. And then the millions of people around the country who watched in rapt attention that evening —...


Where Does World Change Begin?

I recently attended a fundraising breakfast sponsored by a fine organization in Seattle that is dedicated to bringing the best of medical technology to the health and wellness of poor children across the globe. The organization is called PATH, and as I filled out a pledge card, I thought, what a...


What’s The News Today?

The news moves fast these days. The afternoon of Michael Jackson’s sudden death, a young man on a commuter train spotted a gentleman across the aisle reading a newspaper. The young man looked up from his iPhone in shock and dismay over the death of the king of pop that afternoon and asked the...


Energized by Your Comments

I hope you are engaging with me on some of these ideas in this blog. I launched the blog because I want to carry on a conversation about some of the things that matter to me, things that matter to our world, I hope. And I am thrilled with the response. I have been energized by the number of...


Madoff in Hell

Bernie Madoff stood before the judge today for sentencing and received a 150-year sentence. We were told he would be allowed to doff his jail-issued uniform for the occasion. The judge gave permission for him to put on his cashmere-blended pants one more time, likely the last time he will ever touch...


Leading With Grace — What Really Matters

David Hubbard, longtime president at Fuller Seminary, was a towering figure for me about how to lead courageously, with conviction and clarity, and yet to lead with grace. Shortly before his untimely death, I invited Dave and Max De Pree, another hero of mine, to come to my campus and work with the...


The Encounter: Why We Need Great Teachers

A hugely important person in my life died this week. And I’ve been thinking a lot about what a professor can mean to a student — throughout life. Real education just isn’t going to happen from a computer on the kitchen table, or from massive lecture halls. Real education takes space and time...


The Biblical Imagination and the Economy? Really?

“Nobody knows. Nobody knows. Nobody knows” — this was the answer, from a smart, savvy friend of mine, to the question of where the bottom is to this awful economic freefall that seems to drag us down so painfully. He said he was quoting lyrics from an old song out of his era. Not very...


Where Does Joy Come From?

I was in Jackson, Mississippi recently, and as I sat waiting in a van outside John Perkins’ home, an afternoon rain pelted the windshield steadily. On the plane to Jackson, I had been rereading John’s amazing autobiography, Let Justice Roll Down. I came to visit again this place where a lot of...


So . . . What’s This Blog All About?

I have this intense desire to carry on a conversation about things that matter — and so I decided to launch this blog. I hope these things matter to you as well. “How presumptuous,” that was my first thought about this blog. “Really? So you think you have that much to say that people might...