By the time you read this message, summer will have already waned and we’ll be in the thick of autumn. Cooler weather, colorful flora and a return of wool to our daily attire come with the transition from one season to the next.
Fall is a cherished time of year for me. Observing people walk from the crisp outdoor air into our institution, most of them eager to learn, engage with faculty and rekindle friendships while forging new relationships never grows stale. On the outskirts of town, farmers harvest their crops and prepare their fields for planting next spring’s seeds.
“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower,” writes the French philosophical novelist Albert Camus, and I couldn’t agree more. Camus was not only depicting nature’s beauty bestowed by God’s hand but also providing a metaphor for what any educational institution should seek to aspire. The flowering of our efforts to perpetuate virtuous living and promote ordered liberty stands in contrast to the gray landscapes of statist enterprises.
The seeds we planted nearly 30 years ago in Grand Rapids have sprouted, boasted colorful petals throughout the years and matured into an international presence. Today Acton is an internationally recognized cornucopia of great ideas and a source of faith-based social and economic critiques of collectivist ideologies and political cronyism.
Fall is also the season of our state and national elections. Our airwaves and mailboxes are littered with campaign literature that alarmingly indicates a resurgence of big-government advocacy. Young politicians are unseating elders from their own party with promises of free college tuition and health care, for example. These propositions are unsettling.
What this indicates to me is that many of our educational institutions have failed not only their students but also the greater society they were intended to benefit. It also means the Acton Institute is more relevant and necessary today than when it was conceived. Some may consider this fall’s recent turn of events as the harbinger of what Shakespeare might have dubbed a winter of discontent. However, I challenge readers to adopt Shakespeare’s battle cry as expressed by his Henry V: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!”