A few thoughts on presidential inaugurations

A few thoughts on presidential inaugurations

My inauguration was a deeply meaningful event in my life. Both humbling and energizing, it launched me into 12 years of work as the president of Trevecca Nazarene University. In retrospect, I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve learned following my own inauguration. Here are my top 10.

  1. I stepped into a stream of history that did not begin with me and most likely will not end with me. The blood, sweat, and tears of those who have gone before me represent a depth of wisdom that I can draw on, if I’m humble enough to receive the lessons of history.
  2. Honoring those who held office before me makes me larger, not smaller. Unlike the mass executions of royal relatives in the Old Testament takeover stories, it is not necessary that I murder—with my words and actions—the friends and family of those who preceded me.
  3. Positional power is seductive on more levels that I originally knew. The trappings of inaugural power are accompanied by sinister sweet voices in my head that affirm my worst prejudices and opinions. An inaugural ceremony does not make me omniscient or infallible. Resisting these voices is the hardest work I do.
  4. An inauguration doesn’t signal a graduation from listening and learning. I need to know what I don’t know. The intoxication of inauguration tempts me to think they elected me because I could fix everything. I have found that leading a Christian university is fraught with complexity on more levels than I suspected. I’m still trying to figure it out, thus the posture of a listening learner.
  5. It isn’t about me. Yes, I am the one who was paraded down a center aisle, introduced with fanfare, had hands placed on me by holy people, pledged things in printed response liturgies, had a heavy medallion hung around my neck, and gave the keynote address. But that was all over in an hour. This enterprise was not created for me or by me, and it does not exist to showcase me. Trevecca is about those it serves, and the world they serve in the name of Jesus. As an inaugurated person, I need to get over myself quite rapidly.
  6. The work is too demanding to spend a lot of time defending myself. People are rightly suspicious of institutions and their leaders because the path to leadership is usually through the thickets of people-pleasing and favor-collecting. People assume the right to critique institutions and their leaders. I have to understand that this comes hand-in-hand with the medallion they hung around my neck. Yes, the criticism is often unfair, uninformed, and unkind. But sometimes it is dead right. So rather than living in a defensive posture, I must enlarge my soul, become thoughtful and develop a thick skin. I can be criticized without being enslaved by the criticism.
  7. It takes significant discipline to remain mission-centered rather than becoming enemy-centered. Loving one’s enemies is actually the most cost-effective way to deal with them. Their influence expires faster. Of course they don’t like me, and, of course, they said and did that. Now let’s get to work.
  8. I have to know when to take center stage and speak and when to shut up. An inauguration gives me platforms of importance, but I don’t need to climb atop each platform that presents itself. The quiet conversations and deep dives into complexity are often more needed than applause. When public presence is called for, I must be there. When the wisdom of quietness and reflection beckon me, I must be there, too.
  9. I must surround myself with people who are wiser than I am, then convince myself that they are wiser than I am. I must respect their wisdom and offer them the opportunity to contribute. I am not qualified to fill the role of a single cabinet member on our team. They are better than I am at what they do. I am neither threatened by their leadership nor jealous of it. My role is to shape a collaborative culture in which they can work together for the good of Trevecca.
  10. My inauguration does not erase my accountability. Rather, it increases it. I remain accountable to the King who was crowned Lord at his ascension to the right hand of God the Father. I am also accountable to trustees, employees, students, parents who entrust their children to us, accrediting bodies, bankers, laws, civil rights, alumni, donors, and constituents—and to my family, living and dead. While I am free in Christ, I am a slave to all. Inauguration only increases accountability.

Comments

  1. Gary Lee Parker says:

    As I pray for our churches in America and the rest of world, the words of Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, accompanied by all the angels, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. 33 The ‘sheep’ he will place at his right hand and the ‘goats’ at his left.
    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, 36 I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 The King will say to them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!’
    41 “Then he will also speak to those on his left, saying, ‘Get away from me, you who are cursed! Go off into the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels! 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 a stranger and you did not welcome me, needing clothes and you did not give them to me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick or in prison, and not take care of you?’ 45 And he will answer them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you refused to do it for the least important of these people, you refused to do it for me!’ 46 They will go off to eternal punishment, but those who have done what God wants will go to eternal life.”
    come to my mind as well as Keith Green’s Rendition of this Text: And when the Son of Man comes
    And all the Holy Angels with Him
    Then shall He sit on His glorious throne
    And He will divide the nations before Him
    As a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats
    And He shall put the sheep on His right
    And the goats on His left and He shall say to the sheep
    Come ye, blessed of My Father inherit the Kingdom
    I have prepared for you from the foundation of the world
    For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat
    I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink
    I was naked, and you clothed Me, I was a stranger
    And you invited Me in, I was sick, and I was in prison
    And you came to Me, thank you, enter into your rest
    And they shall answer Him, yes, they shall answer Him
    And they’ll say, Lord, when? When were You hungry Lord
    And we gave You something to eat? Lord, when were You thirsty?
    I can’t remember and we gave You drink?
    Huh, when were You naked Lord, and we clothed You?
    And Lord, when were You a stranger and we invited You in?
    I mean, we invited lots of people in Lord
    I could never forget that face
    And Lord, when were You sick and we visited You?
    Or in prison, and we came to You? Lord, tell us?
    In as much as you did it to the least of My brethren
    You’ve done it unto Me, oh yes, as much as you’ve done it
    To the very least of My brethren, you’ve done it
    You’ve done it unto Me, enter into your rest
    Then He shall turn to those on His left, the goats
    Depart from Me, you cursed ones, into everlasting fire
    Prepared for the devil and his angels
    For I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat
    I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink
    I was naked, out in the cold, in exposure and you sent Me away
    I was a stranger, and I knocked at your door
    But you didn’t open, you told Me to go away
    I was sick, racked in pain upon My bed
    And I begged and prayed, and pleaded that you’d come
    But you didn’t, I was in prison, and I rotted there
    I’d prayed that you’d come, I heard your programs on the radio
    I read your magazines, but you never came, depart from Me
    Lord, there must be some mistake, when?
    Lord, I mean, when were you hungry Lord
    And we didn’t give you something to eat?
    And Lord, when were you thirsty, and we didn’t give you drink?
    I mean, that’s not fair, well, would You like something now?
    Would one of the Angels like to go out
    And get the Lord a hamburger and a coke?
    Oh, You’re not hungry, yeah, I lost my appetite too
    Uh, Lord uh, Lord, when were You naked?
    I mean Lord, that’s not fair either Lord
    We didn’t know what size you wear
    Oh Lord, when were You a stranger Lord
    You weren’t one of those creepy people
    Who used to come to the door, were You?
    Oh Lord, that wasn’t our ministry Lord
    We just didn’t feel led, You know?
    Lord, when were You sick? What did You have, anyway?
    Well, at least it wasn’t fatal, oh, it was?
    I’m sorry Lord, I would have sent You a card
    Lord, just one last thing we want to know
    When were You in prison Lord?
    What were You in for anyway?
    I had a friend in Leavenworth, enough
    In as much as you’ve not done it unto the least of My brethren
    You’ve not done it unto Me in as much as you’ve not done
    It unto the least of My brethren you’ve not done it unto Me
    Depart from me and these shall go away into everlasting fire
    But the righteous into eternal life
    And my friends, the only difference between
    The sheep and the goats, according to this scripture
    Is what they did, and didn’t do[Written by Keith Gordon Green • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group]

  2. Jonell Shelby says:

    Thank you for this wisdom Dr. Boone.

  3. Lane Loman says:

    Thanks for your insightful remarks that extend beyond TNU.

  4. Don Dunnington says:

    Thank you for the wise and insightful reflections on leadership—and thanks, too, for living, acting and leading in ways that reinforce what you have shared here.

  5. Incredible insights with endless applications. You are a gift to TNU and the Kingdom.

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