Tag Archives: freedom

Make Freedom Great Again

“If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” –John 8:36

The American narrative never strays too far from the word “freedom,” does it? I would wager that most people, when asked what makes America special or extraordinary, would venture a response replete with references to freedom, liberty, individual rights, and good old fashioned baseball. But are these deeply held principles of modern democracy in concert with the type of life-changing freedom Jesus offers in the Gospels? Continue reading Make Freedom Great Again

Who Speaks for Freedom?

Solzhenitsyn as a Gulag labor camp prisoner
Solzhenitsyn as a gulag labor camp prisoner

As the combined Core English 202 and Core History 202 class wrapped up last spring at Concordia University Irvine, one of the students suggested that it would have been useful to have had an underpinning question for the course, something to guide our investigations.  I suggested, “What is freedom?” and, as we all pondered that possibility, heads began to nod around the classroom.  It soon became apparent that many of the texts we had covered had indeed asked this question, from many angles and with a variety of answers. Continue reading Who Speaks for Freedom?

Codependency Is Not Solidarity

Huckleberry-FinnMark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn presents the nuanced issues of slavery, honor, and bravery through the eyes of a young boy entering manhood to mirror the young nation’s own understanding of these complex issues. Huck’s initial act of independence thereby establishes his identity portrayed to the audience as an independent American spirit able to conquer the horrors of oppression. Continue reading Codependency Is Not Solidarity

Turning Statues of Stone into Humans with Hearts

Pygmalion and Galatea by Giulio Bargellini (1875-1936)
Pygmalion and Galatea by Giulio Bargellini (1875-1936)

This address was delivered by C.J. Armstrong at Concordia University Irvine’s graduation ceremony on May 7, 2016.

President Krueger, it is an honor to have been asked to deliver the commencement address this year. For this I thank you. And I repeat the welcome to our distinguished guests, our honorees, the regents of our university, my fellow faculty, the parents, family and friends of our graduates. But above all my hat is off to the Concordia University Irvine graduating class of 2016.

It’s a special honor for me because it wasn’t too long ago that my hat was on here, when I walked across this stage at the Bren Center, graduating from University of California, Irvine after a lengthy study of the greatest poet ever born on earth, Ovid, who died on this very day, give or take a month or two, one year shy of 2000 years ago. You know Ovid: he’s the poet who told all those wonderful mythological stories in the Metamorphoses about people turning to stone through divine retribution or bad luck, and even a couple who change from statues into real human people. You know, like the story of Pygmalion, who didn’t like any of the girls in his class so he made a statue of a woman and prayed to the gods that he might love someone like his ivory girl; he kissed the statue and it came to life. What a story!

I might ask, what does a classicist like me, someone who reads mythology and talks to dead guys like Ovid all day long, have to share with you graduates? Continue reading Turning Statues of Stone into Humans with Hearts

The Wisdom of Solzhenitsyn








This is the fourth in a series of four essays on core texts connected to the educational goal of developing wise, honorable, and cultivated citizens.

The student with a beach ball, flip flops, and sunglasses at graduation is neither original nor clever. While the student may be excused for youthful indiscretion, when a graduation speaker is neither original nor clever it is the gravest of all commencement sins.Often times a graduation speech is a panegyric to days gone by or a story with a few ethereal Carnegie-inspired quotes that will evaporate as soon as the student receives the diploma. If what the graduation speaker has to say is so important, a student might wonder, why does it have to wait until the end of the student’s time at university? The graduation speaker is usually remembered for being very brief (very few claim this to be a problem), overly verbose, or upstaged by events beyond their control.

The commencement exercises at Harvard Yard on June 8, 1978 were upstaged by an unexpected and unpleasant cold weather front. The students, parents, and faculty that sat uncomfortably in the weather had also the sometimes jarring experience of hearing a foreign tongue echo only to be chased seconds later by a translator’s approximation. But this speaker was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famed author of the Gulag Archipelago and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, now residing in Vermont. Continue reading The Wisdom of Solzhenitsyn