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Davis Journal

The tale of two college speeches

Jul 12, 2022 02:56PM ● By Bryan Gray

Cyclops is on vacation, attending a son’s wedding in Italy.  This is one of his favorite columns, first published in 2005.

Those concerned with the current state of education in Utah could only shudder after reading a local newspaper last week. Students at one Utah university were “treated” to two different speakers on Nov. 16.  One speaker exemplified the soulful embodiment of everything our college students should aspire to achieve.  And the other speaker, well, let’s just say he was an embarrassment. 

I was fortunate to hear Rev. Carl Wilkens in an appearance sponsored by the university’s chapter of Amnesty International.  

Sent as a missionary to Rwanda, Wilkens risked his life to shelter and feed children in an orphanage during the horrific 1994 genocide that killed 800,000 ethnic Tutsis.  

“For me, there was no other choice,” he said. “If you’re going to live for others, for your fellowman, your life will be full of risk. But the bigger risk is living for yourself alone, because what kind of life is that?”

Amid the beheadings and senseless torture and massacres, Wilkens alternately praised and cursed God.  But his efforts, including the determination to “find a semblance of kindness in even the most evil and wretched attacker,” ended up saving hundreds of innocent children.

He urged the students to look beyond obtaining personal wealth and material goods. Real satisfaction comes not from a bank account, he said, but from service to others in need of help.

Wilkens spent the entire day speaking at multiple student gatherings.  For his work, he was paid $900 – and his airplane fare wasn’t included.

Oh yeah, and that other speaker…that same day the university wrote a check for $6,000 for an “important” lecture by actor Dennis Haskins whose only notable role was as the principal (Mr. Belding) in the TV sitcom “Saved by the Bell.”

We’re not talking about a major icon in pop culture. We’re not talking about I Love Lucy, Archie Bunker, Muhammed Ali, or Bob Dylan.  We’re not talking about an entertainment program that changed society or made a groundbreaking statement.  No, we’re talking about one of seven bit players on a relatively short-lived TV comedy that catered to adolescents.

And what bits of wisdom did “Mr. Belding” offer to our future leaders?  He told of giving “Zack” his first razor and gave the lowdown on “Slater’s” dates.

While Rev. Wilkins told of saving a child from having his tongue sliced out, the other speaker was bragging about beating Bugs Bunny in the ratings.

For the record, Rev. Wilkens drew about 500 students. Figuring his $900 fee, that comes to about $1.80 per student.  “Mr. Belding” on the other hand, drew 160 – about $37.50 per student.λ