From time to time, we like to think what we do will live on in memory. Whether it be a small gesture of an individual or the corporate event of a larger conglomerate, we tend to magnify the importance of our actions. As we look in retrospect, however, we find what we thought was of major significance is now a fun, quirky fact even our friends forget.
Calvin College is no exception to this rule. On this week’s features page, we consider the expected memory of Calvin College with the reprinting of an article published exactly 51 years ago; an article in anticipation of the arrival of the then-Queen of the Netherlands, Queen Juliana Wilhelmina. As we find ourselves reading the selected article below, we are given a glimpse into what our Calvin community thought we would remember and are met with the fact that we have indeed forgotten. As you read the article below, I encourage you to reflect on how we anticipate what we form into memory and the certainty with which we do so.
“What Will They Think” January 8, 1952
Next Wednesday an honor will be bestowed upon Calvin College, for on this day our campus will be host to perhaps the most official and internationally representative group ever to visit Calvin. This is an honor, in the first place, because Calvin, in view of its curricular recognition of Dutch language and Dutch culture, has received an acknowledgement which is not to be lightly disregarded. Of all the larger and more prominent colleges and universities, the royal party is going to visit Calvin.
It is an honor in the second place because the Queen of the Netherlands, one who receives the full respect of all Holland, one who is a personal guest of the President of the United States, and her royal party will be on our campus.
It is an honor in the third place because a delegation from our nation’s capitol will be present. The State Department, Secret Service, along with press representatives, people who probably have never heard of Calvin College, will visit our campus.
It is an honor in the fourth place because State officials, people such as the Governor and his delegation, people who might be vaguely acquainted with Calvin will be present.
And it is an honor in the fifth place because on Wednesday, Calvin will occupy the center of attraction in the city of Grand Rapids. We shall be visited by Mayor Goebel, his associates, city and press reporters and photographers, the police department, church and school representatives and many others, not to count the many people of Dutch descent in the city whose eyes will be trained on Calvin College. Consider then, in the light of the foregoing, the honor, the distinctive honor to be bestowed upon our school.
Now I realize that the visit of the Queen has been met with a variety of attitudes at Calvin. Some of us think it rather foolish to bother so much about a person who is only a “figurehead”. Others treat the matter rather indifferently. Others have become very enthusiastic about the visit. Now it is not my intention that ALL of us should be enthusiastic over the Queen’s visit. But I would like to ask that all of us be keenly aware of the honor, not only the international, but also national, state, and local honor which has been bestowed upon us. Wednesday morning Calvin College will be in the limelight. By Wednesday afternoon reporters will have sent the story of the Queen’s visit to Calvin over the national, and perhaps international press wires. What will they write? Wednesday morning Calvin College will be visited by approximately 300 international, national, state and local officials and representatives. By Wednesday afternoon they will have an impressions of our school. What will it be? You understand the significance of the day for Calvin. In contrast to the pomp and glory customary to a Queen’s visit, the ceremony at Calvin will be one in which she, and all those with her cannot help but sense the fact that Calvin is a Christian college. In contrast to the cheering masses which so often hail a Queen, the representative 300 must be able to sense a student body, a body of Christian students.
What in conclusion? Simply this:you may be excited, in-different, or what you will; that’s not important. But it is important what you recognize the scope and extent of the honor to be bestowed upon our college. Realizing this, our campus and her students must be at their best, for it will be our opportunity to prove that we can be worthy recipients of royal honor, that we can be the refined, cultured, respectful, Christian students that the occasion demands us to be. Remember this: Wednesday afternoon it will be all over. What will they write? What will they think? What will their impressions of Calvin College, a Christian college?
Bill Van Dyke