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Article updated: 5/7/2011 7:48 PM

Beamer speaks of significance in ordinary lives

Graduate Student Jon Hughes, center, looks back as he and other graduate students prepare to enter the Edman Memorial Chapel for commencement exercises at Wheaton College.

Graduate Student Jon Hughes, center, looks back as he and other graduate students prepare to enter the Edman Memorial Chapel for commencement exercises at Wheaton College.

 

Daniel White dwhite@dailyherald.com

Daniel White dwhite@dailyherald.com Graduate Students like Heath Annette, center, prepare to enter the Edman Memorial Chapel for commencement exercises at Wheaton College.

Daniel White dwhite@dailyherald.com Graduate Students like Heath Annette, center, prepare to enter the Edman Memorial Chapel for commencement exercises at Wheaton College.

 
Daniel White dwhite@dailyherald.com At left, Mwari Muthaura, along with other graduate students, celebrate following commencement exercises at Wheaton College.

Daniel White dwhite@dailyherald.com At left, Mwari Muthaura, along with other graduate students, celebrate following commencement exercises at Wheaton College.

 
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Lisa Beamer spoke at Wheaton College's Graduate School commencement Saturday afternoon as who she is today -- a Wheaton College graduate and an ordinary, suburban mom from New Jersey.

But people may know her as the wife of Wheaton College graduate Todd Beamer, who on Sept. 11, 2001, famously confronted terrorists aboard an airplane, saying, "Let's roll," and thwarting one aspect of that day's attacks.

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Beamer made only brief mention of her time in the limelight, saying she was "plucked from obscurity" into a brief span as a public figure, then returned to relative obscurity in her roles as a mother and Christian.

She told graduates they soon may become ordinary, too, but in a good way, if they use their lives to bring Christ's redemption to others.

If graduates can give evidence of how they are assisting others and shining a light of love where none exists, Beamer said their ordinary lives can have great significance.

"Your good answers will surely be the mark of significance, even in an ordinary life," she told graduates receiving master's and doctorate degrees Saturday afternoon in the college's Edman Memorial Chapel.

Beamer mentioned a Bible story in which a young, wealthy man refuses to give up his riches to follow Christ and encouraged the graduates not to repeat that man's mistakes.

Her speech didn't dwell on the past, or mention the recent news of Osama bin Laden's death, which was exactly how Wheaton College President Philip Ryken wanted it. Ryken, however, devoted a sentence to the recent progress in the war on the terrorists that took the life of Todd Beamer and so many other Americans.

"The news out of Pakistan reminded us of everything we wish we could forget and losses we wish we could recover, including the lives of three Wheaton alumni who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," Ryken said.

Along with Todd Beamer, Wheaton College graduates Jason Oswald and Jeff Mladenik also died during the terrorist attacks.

Graduate Ryan Hovis said he appreciated hearing from someone as future-focused as Beamer on his commencement day.

"In light of recent events, I think it was especially touching to hear her," Hovis said. "It was especially exciting to hear her talk about charging us to go forward and living a life that's worthy."

Beamer said her speech about the ordinary activities in the future of many graduates -- taking care of kids, shuffling them to sports practices and doctor's appointments, doing laundry, stopping for coffee -- was not meant to be deflating, but realistic.

"Don't be dismayed to see your life turn to ordinary soon enough," Beamer said.

It was a message Hovis and his graduating class of about 200 took to heart.

"It was very heartwarming to see her come and talk to us and give us a picture of life," Hovis said.

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