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Linda Livingstone: Baylor's values consistent in shifting winds of change

Linda Livingstone: Baylor's values consistent in shifting winds of change

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During this season of political tension and heightened emotions — created by the convergence of a presidential election, efforts to address racial justice and the many challenges of a pandemic — we have become more vulnerable to fear and anger. We are on heightened alert against anything that seems threatening, and we are prone to react without compassion and in sometimes regrettable ways.

Similar conditions characterized the world in which Jesus and his disciples lived. Amid the tension of being ruled by occupying Romans and deeply felt religious expectations concerning the coming of the Messiah, Jesus sought to bring healing to a conflict-filled world. Indeed, when questioned by the Pharisees concerning the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

As a Christian research university, Baylor University is grounded in these words of our Savior. The components of our strategic plan, Illuminate, are directly tied to the practice of loving God with all our heart, soul and mind. And our commitment to providing a welcoming, caring community to those on our campus, as well as to those with whom we interact around the world, is based on loving one another as a reflection of God’s love for each of us.

Ever since our founding more than 175 years ago and continuing through the ensuing generations, Baylor has profoundly impacted our students and communities around the world by focusing on excellence in teaching, service and research. We have intently maintained a unique place in the world of American higher education — a prominent research institution guided by a Christian mission rooted in the compassion and values of Texas Baptist pioneers.

Occupying this position of prominence, we have frequently found ourselves at the crossroads of religious, philosophical, social and intellectual tensions. That we continue to occupy such a place today, leaning into our commitment to embody Christ’s love while seeking truth, comes as no surprise. In fact, it comes as a confirmation that we are in exactly the right place. Nowhere is this intersection more evident than in our university motto: Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana, or “For Church, For Texas.”

In September 1969, Judge Abner V. McCall, Baylor’s president from 1961 to 1981, gave a speech in Waco Hall on the theme of “Change Within the Unchanging.” His words marked the beginning of the observance of Baylor’s 125th year. “This university is founded on the belief that only the truth proclaimed by our Lord gives real freedom and that this truth is unchanging,” he stated. “An educational program that emphasizes this truth we believe is ever modern and ever relevant to the life of the student in the university and outside the university in the future.”

Judge McCall went on to tell the audience, “It has been often said, however, that change is the chief characteristic of this age and that the rate of change is ever accelerating.” After noting the advances that were “revolutionizing the ‘knowledge industry,’” he observed, “Baylor University must continue to be flexible, changing and progressive in these areas.”

Today, Baylor continues to face the challenge of responding to evolving circumstances in the life of our nation and to developments in higher education without deviating from our core values or succumbing to the vagaries of changing political winds. This is a challenge we eagerly accept. We hold firm to the conviction that the world needs a preeminent research university that is unambiguously Christian. The world needs a Baylor.

I am grateful that during this time of great hardship throughout our state and in every nation across the globe, members of the Baylor Family continue to stand united by our long-held values as an institution and dedicated to our Christian mission to serve as a beacon of hope to our surrounding world.

Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., serves as the 15th president of Baylor University.

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