It was a blustery day in late April when a colleague poked his head into my office and asked, “Have you heard the news? Nicholas Wolterstorff has been replaced as commencement speaker. George Bush is coming instead.”
It was an April day, but not April 1. An e-mail bulletin from the provost confirmed that this was no joke. The president of the United States had accepted the college’s invitation, or invited himself, to send the Calvin College class of 2005 off into their future lives with the benefit of presidential words of wisdom.
Republican congressman Vernon Ehlers, a former physics professor at Calvin, had extended an invitation, we were told. But such invitations must pile up many inches deep on some White House underling’s desk. Furthermore, Ehlers’s stubborn dissent from his party’s environmental and energy policies—areas of his own expertise—cannot have endeared him to a president for whom loyalty is the queen of all virtues.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).