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“Dream with Eyes Open,” Bishop Peter Weaver Tells Graduates

Baccalaureate address suggests path in a sad world

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Methodist Bishop Peter Weaver, Boston University Commencement 2013 Baccalaureate Service

Bishop Peter Weaver gave the 2013 Baccalaureate address in Marsh Chapel Sunday morning. Photo by Cydney Scott

In the five weeks since the Boston Marathon bombings, graduating seniors have witnessed the cruelties of the world even as they dreamed of their impending future in it. That weaving of sorrow and hope shows the need for “dreaming with eyes open,” BU’s Baccalaureate speaker told Sunday morning worshippers at Marsh Chapel.

Bishop Peter Weaver (STH’75), former leader of New England Methodists and a former University trustee, borrowed that quote as the theme of his address from Elie Wiesel (Hon.’74), a Nobel laureate and BU’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities. Weaver interpreted Wiesel’s phrase to mean that wishing for justice and peace must be accompanied by hard work and honest recognition of worldly impediments to them.

“To dream with eyes open,” Weaver told graduating seniors and others in the audience, means that “dreams without deeds are simply daydreaming—and deeds unrooted in dreams can simply be a way of sleepwalking through life.”

Delivered with a practiced preacher’s precision—undulating between energetic and emphatic and solemn and low-toned—Weaver’s talk suggested that to understand what he meant, his listeners take the MBTA to Boston’s neighborhoods, where the work of justice must be carried out. One of those neighborhoods is Dorchester, “where eight-year-old Martin Richard talked of coming to BU and held up his dream on a blue poster board: ‘No more hurting people. Peace.’” (A picture of the boy and his sign ricocheted around the world after his murder by the Marathon bombers.)

The bombings also took the life of Lu Lingzi (GRS’14), remembered by Weaver in a line borrowed from her parents’ memorial tribute: “We want to encourage others who have Lingzi’s ambition and dreams and want to make the world a better place to continue moving forward.”

Weaver recounted how he attended last year’s Baccalaureate service and afterward heard a senior tell his family that graduation was “a dream come true. His dad responded, ‘So what’s your next dream?’” Weaver’s listeners laughed, but the bishop said, “It’s a good question….This has been an institution that’s never been content with mimicking others. Its history has been about dreams nurturing action.”

Indeed, one of BU’s founders, Isaac Rich, turned his fortune over to build the school of his dreams before it had buildings, faculty, or students, Weaver said.

In the video above, Bishop Peter Weaver delivers the Baccalaureate Address to the Class of 2013. Photo by Cydney Scott. Video by BU Productions

Weaver has spent a lifetime practicing what he preached in his address. As a pastor and bishop in Pennsylvania and New England, he led congregations’ efforts to care for homeless women, AIDS patients, the poor, immigrants, and victims of natural disasters.

He joked about his surprise at being chosen as Baccalaureate speaker over another of this year’s honorary degree recipients. “Morgan Freeman is here,” Weaver said, “and he has been God—twice.”

The service struck a more sober note, as Brother Lawrence Whitney (STH’09,’15), the University’s chaplain for community life, prayed not just for the graduating seniors, but for the half dozen members of their class who died in the last year in various accidents and crimes. He asked consolation for their families “as we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

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Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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