Dinner raises funds for WJB Opportunity Program
April 27, 2009

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It was a night for celebration, for appreciation, and for encouragement as Bryan College hosted its second annual William Jennings Bryan Opportunity Program dinner April 16.


President Livesay, left, and Michael GersonVice President for Advancement Blake Hudson reported that some $110,000 has been given or pledged for the program for the coming year, more than doubling the amount raised a year ago.


More than 225 friends of the college heard President Dr. Stephen Livesay and students say “thank you,” and were encouraged by Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, to consider how they live out their faith.


The WJB Opportunity Program allows Tennessee students from families with less than $35,000 income to attend Bryan with tuition expenses paid through a combination of financial aid resources. At the dinner, Andrew Zimmerman, a sophomore mathematics and Christian Thought major from Grandview, Tenn., said his personal heritage and the Bryan heritage will dovetail in whatever vocation he enters. “This education, these degrees are not just so that I can get a job and support myself and raise a family, but they are so I can actively minister to people. It’s the heritage of living out the gospel.


“It’s true when they say that we literally would not be here without the scholarship support. I want to thank you for that.”


Dr. Livesay said 29 students benefitted from the William Jennings Bryan Opportunity Program this academic year, and the college sees a greater need to assist academically qualified students with limited needs.


Mr. Gerson said that William Jennings Bryan is one of his heroes. “No other American political figure has been more principled, more influential, and more unfairly reviled. He placed the needs and hopes of common men and women at the center of American politics, and he did so as a direct expression of his Christian faith.”


Mr. Gerson said Christians are at a “searching moment concerning their duties as citizens.” Evangelical leaders are moving from a “narrow set of social and moral issues, particularly abortion and family issues,” and are beginning to address matters such as AIDS and human trafficking.


“This combination of moral conservatism and social activism is the evangelical tradition,” he said. “The new evangelicalism is not trading moral conservatism for social justice. It is adding social justice to moral conservatism.”


He challenged the audience to understand that, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, “we make a large difference in the kingdoms of this world. It is the salt that preserves the whole, the light that reveals the entire landscape. This is the kind of vision that can change a country.”