TOLEDO, Ohio—Nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas was the featured speaker at Emmanuel Christian School’s graduation, charging 26 seniors to “read the Guidebook” as they seek guidance and direction in life.
Earlier in the program, various speeches had begun with typical graduation salutations to “Mr. Thomas, Pastor Crawford, Mr. Flamm, members of the school committee, faculty, parents, guests, and members of the class of .” But Cal Thomas opened his address with a somewhat different greeting.
“Good morning, religious fanatics, imposers of morality, underminers of the constitution, and Bible-thumping bigots! Nice to be with you.”
“Well, what would you expect from a member of the media, right?” he added, then adopted a more serious tone.
“You have invested, and today you see the first payment of dividends,” Thomas said, speaking directly to the parents. “It is the first of many that you will hope and pray to see in the years to come.”
Turning to the graduates sitting next to him on the platform, Thomas said, “You have an obligation now to give back on the truth that you have been taught. How best to do this? Well, God has given us a guidebook. It is His Word. My two favorite books on advice on how to live are Ecclesiastes and Proverbs.”
Thomas also used his remarks to critique conventional ideas about success. “You need a good education. Why do I need a good education? So you can get a good job. Why do I need a good job? So you can make money. Why do I need to make money? So you can buy stuff. Why do I need stuff? So you’ll be happy. This is the Great American Dream. And yet, we have more stuff and less happiness than ever.”
The solution, Thomas said, is for graduates to treat the Word of God as a guidebook. “Even though you have the Internet (and my generation at your age didn’t), speeding up the process by which you receive information doesn’t make you wiser. We pursue knowledge, but Scripture tells us to pursue wisdom.”
Thomas also appealed to a life of Christian commitment for all graduates, not just those who are considering ministerial service. “There’s no such thing as full-time Christian service, if by that you mean there is an alternative,” he said. “Every follower of Jesus of Nazareth is—or ought to consider himself or herself—in full-time service to his or her Lord.”
Founded in 1967, Emmanuel Christian School is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and chartered as a non-public school by the state of Ohio. The school, which has a student body of 400, operates as a ministry of Emmanuel Baptist Church.
Thomas was invited as graduation speaker through his connection with one of the graduates, Carlton Brown, whose mother had heard Thomas speak at a conference several years ago. Standing at the back of a church auditorium, Claudia Sebree-Pressley hadn’t even known who Cal Thomas was, and she had quickly grown frustrated with Thomas’s impassioned rhetoric for Christian schools. As a single mom with two sons, she was struggling. She knew of Emmanuel Christian School and would have been interested in sending her sons, but how could she ever afford the tuition payments? So she raised her hand and asked Thomas the obvious question: “What would you do if you were in my place?”
Claudia recalls how Thomas interjected with a “Stop right there!” uttered strongly enough that “I thought he was going tell me off.”
But Cal Thomas surprised Claudia by doing something entirely different, offering to help with her tuition payments, and challenging the conference guests to join him in sending the boys to a Christian school. To Claudia’s surprise, many of her friends from Cornerstone Church responded right away, dumping money at her feet and funding a year of tuition. It was just the sort of jump start that Claudia and her boys needed. Today she is the co-owner of Aunt Minnie’s Food Service, a Toledo-based frozen food company. Though she has became financially independent, she stayed in touch with Cal Thomas as the boys grew up.
Earlier in March, Claudia mentioned to Pastor Duke Crawford that Thomas might be attending the graduation ceremony, the sort of passing comment that grabs a pastor’s attention.
“If Cal Thomas is coming to the commencement service, we should just ask him to speak,” Pastor Crawford said, with Thomas quickly agreeing.
“Mr. Cal Thomas is a friend of Emmanuel Christian School and has been an outspoken advocate for Christian education for many years,” Crawford said when introducing him to the commencement guests.
Thomas concluded his address by urging graduates to a more serious Christian commitment. “You are not your own. You have been bought and paid for with a terrible price. Remember that, always, and you will triumph with power and blessing and purpose and direction and a home in Heaven that is waiting and prepared for you.”
- Listen to Cal Thomas at Emmanuel Christian School (11 minutes).
- Look for our interview in the September/October issue of the Baptist Bulletin, where Cal Thomas discusses the future of Christian schools.