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President’s Address at HJI Commencement

Dr. Thomas G. Walsh

To our esteemed members of the graduating class of 2024, congratulations. You make us proud. You’re the best!

I listened to a speech delivered by our Founder, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, a few days ago in Munich, Germany. About 2500 members of Family Federation, along with many others from all walks of life, had gathered. During her speech, she proposed to the audience that we were living in a “golden age,” a great time to be alive. Perhaps she meant, as Dickens wrote, “the best of times, and the worst of times,” for she is deeply aware of the contemporary challenges our world is facing.

With this in mind, I believe she was telling us it’s the best of times to overcome and solve the worst of times. It made me think that, if you want to change the world, you graduates are here at HJI at the right time and in the right place.  

I hope we can all work to make our HJI name more than a slogan, and that each of you, as HJI alumni, will dedicate your lives to “peace and public leadership” with a heart of hyojeong. 

Our dedicated HJI faculty and staff have done their best to provide you with a high-quality education, including mentorship to help assure your success as students, citizens, and members of the human family under God, our Heavenly Parent.  

You graduate today not simply as technicians or members of some elite intelligentsia, but rather as persons who have matured, gaining spiritual insight, and the needed wisdom to discern and navigate successfully through the competing social, cultural, and spiritual currents of today’s complicated world. You are now better equipped to help transform the “worst of times” into the “best of times.”

HJI has a covenant with its Founders, our board of trustees, our accrediting bodies, and the state of New York. The diploma that you received today is an expression of that covenant, indicating that you have succeeded as a student in your respective academic programs, and that we too, as faculty and staff, have succeeded in faithfully serving our mission and institutional goals.

I know that I speak for our trustees, faculty and staff, and alumni in saying that we deeply appreciate and remain committed to the vision of our Founders who established this school 49 years ago. They came to America as immigrants in 1972, committed to doing whatever it would take to preserve and strengthen what is best about this country. That commitment included their determination to establish a seminary, and one day a university that would contribute greatly to the providential mission, to build a world of lasting peace. Shortly after their arrival in America, they founded the Unification Theological Seminary, now known as HJI; that was 1975.

HJI Faculty, Staff, and Board of Trustees

They persevered, through the good times and the bad. No matter what, they always provided the necessary encouragement, inspiration, and support that sustained this institution and allowed it to provide a rigorous, broad, challenging, and horizon-expanding education that forms character, enriches the mind, and inspires the heart.

Studying at HJI, then UTS, was certainly a transformative experience for me, and for my wife, Lynn.

In her memoir, Mother of Peace, Dr. Moon spoke about the various schools she and her husband co-founded. She wrote as follows:

“The purpose of all these schools [including HJI], is to ensure increasing numbers of talented young people who know God’s heart have access to education to support their commitment to creating a peaceful world.” 

There’s not a person associated with HJI who does not long to see this school, and its graduates, rising up to meet the needs of not only our Family Federation community, but also those of the wider society and world.

Our HJI community manifests a deeply rooted aspiration that was there no doubt with Plato’s Academy, where Aristotle studied; the University of Bologna where Dante and Copernicus studied; the University of Paris where St. Thomas Aquinas and Jean Calvin and Francis Xavier studied; the University of Erfurt in Germany where Luther studied; Cambridge University where Newton studied; University of Konigsberg where Kant studied; University College London where Gandhi studied; Boston University and Morehouse College where Martin Luther King, Jr. studied.

That aspiration was also there when Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and the University of Chicago were founded. Indeed, the University of Peace in Costa Rica, and the UN University itself.

The aspirations of HJI are as grand and noble as are the aspirations of our Founders.

In particular, at this time, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon is making a great effort to strengthen the various academic institutions associated with our wider movement, and HJI in particular.

Sometimes there is a kind of despair when we compare our aspirations to the disturbing realities—political, economic, cultural, and social—we see everywhere around us.  

When I studied at Vanderbilt University, I had the good fortune to work with a professor named Alasdair MacIntyre. At that time, he had written a book entitled After Virtue, which argued that the philosophies of modernity had reached a kind of dead end, attributed to a rejection of the Aristotelian and Thomist synthesis that sought to blend faith and reason, and affirm communitarian traditions and practices. He called for a “new St. Benedict” to come forward who would lead a new awakening, inspiring men and women to see through the idols of our contemporary world, its false gods, opening a way to a recovery of a God-centered and reason-centered worldview.

I do feel that our western world, and perhaps, in fairness, our entire world, has reached or is reaching some dead end—hopefully not a World War III. Populist nationalism is on the rise across the globe. Progressivism seems to be faltering, as it becomes more apparent. Religion or faith-based institutions have often cast their fate with either the left-leaning or right-leaning trends.  

At the times when secular authorities lose their moral compass, it is necessary for religion to provide some kind of third way or some innovative alternative to the unappealing options that currently hold sway in the wider world. I believe we are at such a critical time in human history.

Dear graduates, make us proud of your accomplishments, your achievements.  

For our part, we pledge that we will continue to work to make you proud of what is happening at HJI.  

HJI’s greatest days are still to come. 

Your greatest days are yet to come.  

Onward, upward. Let’s work together to fulfill the hope of all ages, a world of lasting peace.