Inauguration Highlights President D’Souza’s Goals for King’s

King's College students, faculty, staff, and guests stood as Dinesh D'Souza proceeded down the aisle of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on December 2, 2010. He took his place on the podium, ready to accept his commission as the fifth president of the King's College.

Chairman of the Board Andy Mills welcomed everyone to what he called an event of celebration and anticipation. There were hymns, invocations, and key addresses. Student Body President Pam Dodge challenged Mr. D'Souza, "Build this institution on the rock. Depart not from that identity of the truth of Christianity and your faith," she said, referring to Matthew 7, "lead, and we will follow."

Alumnus John Spier ('78) reflected on his experience at Briarcliff Manor campus and the challenges he faced staying connected with the school after graduation. But a call from then-President Stan Oakes, he said, revived his interest in, and commitment to the school.

"There is no better unifying passion for alumni than a compelling vision," he said. He then invited the King's community to "rally behind the leadership of Dinesh D'Souza."

Next President Emeritus Oakes told his story: Afflicted with a brain tumor in 2007, he began to look for someone who could "take true ideas about God, money, power into the world." He said he went through his list of friends and stopped when he got to Dinesh D'Souza's name. "I knew the search was over," Oakes said.

Chairman Mills led the board members, staff and faculty, students, and general audience in responsive readings and then formally installed D'Souza as president.

D'Souza accepted the pledges, replying that he was grateful for those who had brought the college to this point and that he would do everything in his power to take the college to the next level. He recounted how his connection to King's began in 2007 when President Oakes offered to host the first debate between D'Souza and leading atheist Christopher Hitchens. When presented with the proposition to preside over the college, he admitted he was surprised because the position was so different from anything he had every done before.

"It hit me that King's was the biggest, best idea in American higher education," D'Souza said in his address.

The idea of a Christian college was not new, but D'Souza said that King's was different in that while other Christian schools shelter students from the big issues, key debates and culture, King's does not. Instead, King's "gives and equips students with the tools and language necessary to defend beliefs in an understandable way."

D'Souza highlighted events in his life which he believes prepared him for "the challenge at hand" referring to his new role at King's.

He came to America as a foreign exchange student in 1978, first attending high school in Arizona and then pursuing his undergrad at Dartmouth, where he majored in English, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1983.

Raised Catholic, D'Souza only had a rudimentary 'crayon Christianity' understanding of his faith. He was not prepared for the secular atmosphere at Dartmouth.

Some have had concerns about D'Souza's official religious affiliation, but he recently wrote in a personal reflection that he considered himself a born-again Christian in 2002.

"I do have a Catholic background and draw from a Catholic intellectualism, but [have been a part of the Protestant tradition and have attended] Calvary Chapel in California for 8 years," said D'Souza in an interview for the EST.

While at Dartmouth, D'Souza became active in conservative politics, running two conservative publications, The Prospect and the Dartmouth Review. D'Souza's support of conservative policy remains strong today.

"I gravitated towards conservative politics because it was a hard-headed way to look at the world," D'Souza said.

The aggressive style he started at Dartmouth continued during his work at The Policy Review and in the books he wrote such as Illiberal Education in which he argues against the lack of toleration of conservative views in universities. His most recent book, The Roots of Obama's Rage explores aspects of Obama's past and presents theories on possible connections between Obama's past and his political views.

D'Souza is possibly most well-known for his reputation as a key defendant of Christianity against leading atheists, among them Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

In his address Thursday night, he cast a vision of King's creating its own "A-Team," comparable to the "A-Team" of atheists that he engages on a regular basis. "Where's our A-Team?" He asked the audience. He later explained his vision of this A-Team as a sort of "elevated D.V.S. series of renown thinkers that would come to speak at King's."

In closing, he emphasized the power of institutions to last for a while, describing King's with the potential to become an institution "determined to fling itself into the debates of our time, intended not just to hold our own, but to prevail."

MiscRebecca Jacobson