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Speech to the UMC Annual Conference
June 2013

Thank you, Reverand Alexander, for your very kind words. And thank you Bishop Holston, for this opportunity to be introduced to the South Carolina Conference.

I imagine it is unusual for someone named Nayef Samhat to become the president of Wofford College - there are not a lot of "Nayef's" in this world, but surely it is a measure of the fine stewardship of the College of Benjamin Wofford and the times we live in.

I am delighted to be here at the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, representing Wofford College, and joining new colleagues, Colleen Keith of Spartanburg Methodist, Beth Dinndorf of Columbia College, and Henry Tisdale at Clafin University, as we partner to address the challenges of and advance higher education within this Conference and in South Carolina.

It is not possible to stand here and express my enthusiasm for the future of Wofford College and liberal arts education in America without recognizing the historic and special ties between the United Methodist Church and Wofford.

The pursuit of a liberal education at Wofford respects, embraces and advances the core principles of the United Methodist Church - diversity, tolerance, inclusion, justice, and service to the community. This is a progressive and humane engagement with the world in which we live, fostering in young women and men a sense of empowerment, to follow John Wesley's urging: "Labour that, as far as possible, they may understand every single sentence which they read.... and question them continually on every point.... By this means they will learn to think as they read: they will grow wiser and better every day".

It is this necessity for students to understand so that they may question, that captures the essence of the educational enterprise; an enterprise that nurtures not only knowledge and its application to explore the complexities, novel and enduring, of our social and natural world, but also nurtures a larger sense of citizenship and civic responsibility that is the foundation of community, a community that in our consciousness and in our materiality is at one and the same time local, regional, and in this 21st century, global. We share experiences, emotions and bonds with peoples that no know boundary lines, that transcend language, race, and faith. We share a common humanity. And it is in this sense of commonality that we find the inspiration and aspiration for a future defined by progress, justice, and emancipation for all. In the preparation of our children for the tasks and opportunities ahead we are all united and committed.

And our work in this critical endeavor, the education we offer to those who will advance our collective imagination and our experience, simply could not be whole without the continuing support of this Conference, and in particular, support for the Senior College Scholarship Fund, which provides access for students to higher education and all that that opportunity creates for transforming their lives and ours. I thank for that assistance.

I thank you for your support.

And I look forward to working with you in the future.