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25th Anniversary Retrospective

Jeff Ringer
Kennedy Center director

In November 2008, we had the pleasure of hosting an anniversary program and dinner in recognition of the Kennedy Center’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Our keynote speaker was Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who presided over the creation of the center in 1983 as BYU’s president.

We also welcomed President and Sister Samuelson, International Vice President Sandra Rogers, and Academic Vice President John S. Tanner, along with other members of BYU’s administration. Elder Robert S. and Sister Dixie L. Wood were also in attendance, as was our special guest His Excellency Husain Haqqani, Ambassador of Pakistan to the U. S., who had addressed the campus community earlier that day.

Finally, although David and Lenora Kennedy are no longer with us, their four daughters and their husbands and some of their children and grandchildren were with us that evening. We are thankful for their continuing interest in and support of what we do at the Kennedy Center.

I hardly imagined twenty-five years ago as Elder Holland presided over the inauguration of the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies that I would later stand as the director while we celebrated the silver anniversary of the center. During that evening’s program, we debuted a short film created by those who had known David Kennedy personally. You will find a DVD copy of a broader compilation enclosed with this issue of Bridges. We want our alumni and the next generation of students to know why we’re so proud to carry the David M. Kennedy name at his center. My association with the center began while I was a student. In fact, in one way or another, most of my adult life has been associated with the center—as a student employee, as a graduate student, or as an administrator. I recognize that fact could suggest an appalling lack of professional ambition on my part. But for me, the Kennedy Center has always seemed like home. As I look back over the last twenty-five years, I’m proud of the hundreds of international dignitaries we’ve hosted, the thousands of students who have earned Kennedy Center degrees, the tens of thousands of students we’ve helped study abroad, and the millions of dollars of money we’ve provided to faculty to help pursue quality international research. Most of that credit, of course, goes to those who preceded me as directors: Stan Taylor, Spencer Palmer, Ray Hillam, Lanier Britsch, and Don Holsinger. As proud as I am of what we’ve done, I realize there is so much more we can do. BYU’s great comparative advantage continues to be the significant international language and cultural experience of our students. That advantage is largely a gift to us as a result of missionary service. With our partners on campus, we must continue to find ways to build on that advantage as we attempt to make the slogan “the world is our campus” a reality. At the conclusion of his inaugural remarks twenty-five years ago, Elder Holland said the following: Perhaps no other university in the world has on its campus the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty experience in the international arena that BYU has. In the development of the David M. Kennedy Center, it is imperative that we capitalize on the now tens of thousands who do now, and will yet, spend long periods engaged in direct interaction with people in all accessible nations of the world through the far-flung missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We would miss one of the unique and most readily available natural strengths of this campus if we did not build upon this breadth of experience, upon the foundation of genuine love for peoples with whom both students and faculty have lived, and labored, and spoken in their language. We must now build a university superstructure in which we better understand the history, culture, and institutions of these people and by which BYU will move into the forefront of the world as an informed facilitator of international understanding, communications, and peace. Twenty-five years later that remains our challenge—and we are fully committed to meeting it as we look forward to the next twenty-five years.

Remarks from the 25th Anniversary Celebration

Cecil O. Samuelson, Jr.
President, Brigham Young University

I think that with Elder Holland’s optimism and his impressive vision of what could happen, things have been even better, have been remarkable, with the lives that have been blessed, students who have been educated, and friendships that have been made. Tonight it’s my great privilege to thank all of you as we reflect for a short period on the past. And I think even more important now is that we look forward to the future, recognizing that we live in a world that becomes more interesting by the day and recognizing that perhaps there has never been a better time for this university to play a significant role in educating our students, to make friends around the world, and be a positive influence for good. I would suggest that the David M. Kennedy Center at Brigham Young University is one of the jewels in the crown at this institution and is one of the most important institutions for increasing peace and understanding throughout the world, and we express our gratitude to you. I’m anxious to hear from Elder Holland and to hear his reprise on not only what has happened but what he sees happening. I would say that we at the university are so grateful for our sponsoring organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the tremendous support, encouragement, and guidance it has given us in these activities. We feel it is a great privilege to be involved in this tremendous worldwide endeavor. Thanks to all of you again for your part in this. Thank you for your faith in those who began this endeavor and for your faith in those who continue to serve. We’re grateful for you and grateful for all that you do. I pray for the Lord’s richest blessings to be upon all of you, upon this university, and particularly upon the David M. Kennedy Center, the Kennedy family, and all who do this important work. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Quorum of the Twelve

I remember, from when I was a very young and inexperienced new university president, sleepless nights and long walks and wondering what we ought to do and what we ought to become and what budgets would allow and all the things that presidents worry about—all the things that administrators worry about at universities. It was very, very early in my administration that I remember wrestling with many, many requests. President Oaks had warned me. He had said that they were going to roll out every used car in the county, and they were going to park it in my parking lot and they were going to say, “Wouldn’t you like to buy this?” We had every department and every college and every agency in the university who had hopes and dreams. That’s what universities are for, and clearly there were more things hoped for and sort of pleasantly requested than we had any ability to fund. So I was praying and pleading and talking to a lot of people and listening about what we could do—what were the next steps for BYU with the budget we had and the circumstances we were in. I knew we couldn’t do everything. A little mantra I developed out of some self-defense was that we couldn’t do everything and no institution could, but what we chose to do, we would do very well; we would put our heart and soul into it. And in the period of asking that question about what those rare choices would need to be, I felt like the single most natural strength we had was this remarkable international complexity and experience, which Jeff alluded to in his remarks. It came to me early and strong, and I’m willing to think by appropriate inspiration that perhaps no traditional undergraduate institution—perhaps no graduate institution, but certainly no undergraduate institution—in the country could match the experience that our students and the faculty who taught them would have had then and would continue to have for decades to come in the international arena. I knew that we needed to do more to play to our strengths. What we could do, we would do, and what we should do, we would do. It seemed a natural fit. And this became the earliest priority I had in the first months of those earliest years. I can tell you where we were when the Kennedy Center was born. I was walking with Martin Hickman, Ray Hillam, and Spencer Palmer. I did a lot of slumming in those days as a president, and we were walking between the Smoot building and the corner of the Jessie Knight building—I don’t remember why that sticks in my mind, but I can tell you exactly where we were talking on the sidewalk. In the course of the conversation, one of them said, “Shouldn’t we have a center? Shouldn’t we bring this together? Isn’t there a way to get our arms around this?” because we had interests quite literally across every department and college on campus. And that just seemed to hit the right note and to strike the right bell, and I think to the extent that we could identify a moment, at least in my memory of it, that’s when the Kennedy Center was born. So the only thing I want to say tonight by way of reminiscence is that it has been, as President Samuelson said, very, very gratifying to me to believe that was a good thing to do then and to see that it was a much better idea than I knew it was, than we all knew it was.

Truman G. Madsen, (now deceased) emeritus professor of religion and philosophy, and Elder Holland enjoy a lighter moment.

All that the center has done, all that BYU continues to do internationally, all that the Church now does, is so much more than what we were doing in 1980, 1981, and 1982, when all of this was starting. How much more the Church is doing, how much greater the need is, how much more experience all of you now represent than anything we had then or anything I thought we had then: missionaries who have come and gone, countries we’re now in, languages we now speak, frontiers we’re pursuing, doors that are opening that were not open then, and countries and languages we were not yet entering or speaking. So it has been more than fulfilling, more than gratifying, to see the propriety of this and the rightness of it blossom into what it is. And that is only a precursor to what the university will continue to do, what the center will continue to do, because of what the Church must continue to do. And there will be a lot of other things you’ll do; you’ll do a thousand other things that aren’t so directly related to the Church, we realize that—lots of services for lots of reasons across the broad range of academia and scientific contribution—but I have a very vested interest now in what you’re doing for the Church and in what will matter continually and increasingly and in wonderfully important ways for all the decades that lie ahead of us—farther than any of us can see and probably undoubtedly farther than any of us will live to see, all that BYU has meant for these generations and, therefore, can mean for so many in the future. But so be it, and on to the next generation. I love you for doing what you’ve done: making an old-timer stagger back onto campus and be thrilled and more than gratified to see friends and associates striving together in a cause that was good then and is even better now. That little conversation between Martin, Ray, Spencer, and myself almost instantly (I think before our walk had even taken us down toward the library) made it obvious that David Kennedy’s name would have to be the name on the center for all the reasons that you’ve just seen, more than could be put on the screen: for all that David meant in faithfulness and devotion, in professional development and contribution. That remarkable governmental and international career of his that started in Chicago, took him to Washington, and left him ending up in Salt Lake City. These highlights are among my sweetest memories at BYU (and I have a lot of regalia with all my sweet memories at BYU, but these are special), and those around the Kennedy Center will always be significant to me. For the reasons I’ve just said, they will continue to be more special to me than most things on the campus, love it all as I do, because of what we at the center are trying to do, what we’re commissioned to do, and what we’re obligated to do—what, with heaven’s help, we will do around the world in the name of David M. Kennedy, which we take to many places. Though it’s not a well known concept and not an easily understood religion, there are still places like that in the world, but go to those places we must, and talk to those people we will, and I’m thrilled for what the university and the center will continue to mean in this large and wonderful way. All, again, continuing on under the wonderful name of David M. Kennedy. It’s been fun to see these pictures and to think on the love that we had for them then and what we will have for them forever. I leave my blessing on your work, literally a blessing that you will be the very best at what you do, that you will be entitled to the help of heaven, and that you will be as professionally honed and perfectly trained as you can be and as you can help students be, that this baton will keep passing, and that the torch might be lit and perpetuated until this work is finished—the great, great work that sponsors BYU and has made it the light of learning and the center of faith that it is. I love you and love this institution, this place, these acres and what they mean in my life. Thank you. I leave that blessing and my faith and my testimony with you, my love for you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.