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I have always wanted to be a part of an audience in which the speaker ends by leading an a cap­pella version of “Amazing Grace.” I think the expe­rience of singing that hymn with my fellow class­mates, con­gre­gated together for the last time, would be a moment to cherish.

Eric Metaxas had the same idyllic vision, and at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast he con­cluded his message by leading Pres­ident Barack Obama and 3,500 others in the first verse of “Amazing Grace.” As I watched on YouTube, the camera slowly zoomed out from the podium, the song built as voices joined his, and by the time the blind can see, nearly everyone in the room had risen to their feet. The room was charged with raw feeling — a rare and special moment. And Metaxas, in his strong but slightly off-key voice, created it. His ability to create mem­o­rable moments like this is what would make him a phe­nomenal com­mencement speaker for Hillsdale College.

I first encoun­tered Eric Metaxas in my spare half-hours with every child’s favorite veg­etables, Bob and Larry. While his “Veggie Tales” scripts have brought laughter and the Gospel to children for more than a decade, the popular historian’s gripping biogra­phies of William Wilber­force and Dietrich Bon­ho­effer have inspired people around the world. They tell the stories of two men’s uncom­pro­mising belief in the sanctity of human life. Wilber­force fought the British gov­ernment for the liberty of black slaves and Bon­ho­effer fought the Third Reich for the lives of Jews. Today it is dif­ficult for us to under­stand the mindset of a world that believes it is acceptable to enslave people based on skin color or to exter­minate an entire race as sub­human.

But Metaxas, in his enor­mously suc­cessful speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last year, drew attention to the fact that the horror of the Holo­caust is not buried in some remote and irrel­evant past. It hap­pened only a moment ago. And the same tidal wave of col­lective thought that allowed so many to remain com­fortable in silence then, allows people to grow com­placent on behalf of the unborn today. Voicing his con­vic­tions in the presence of the most pow­erful pro-choice politi­cians in the world (Pres­ident Obama, Vice-Pres­ident Biden, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi), Metaxas showed his own will­ingness to defend the dignity of all persons, “unto the least of these.”

Not only does Metaxas’ mission involve the fight for the basic rights of a human being, it also involves the cul­ti­vation of life and liberty into the pursuit of hap­piness. In his lecture series “Socrates in the City,” Metaxas said, “The object of life is not pros­perity, as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul … and you reflect that maturing of the soul when you care more for other people than yourself.” This “maturing of the soul” is at the heart of Hillsdale’s own mission. When giving the tes­timony of his con­version to Chris­tianity, Metaxas said that it was his encounter with the Great Books that launched his journey in the dis­covery of truth and meaning. Lit­er­ature, he said, is a “window into human nature,” and it is part of Hillsdale’s mission to get its stu­dents to see through that window.

Along with Eric Metaxas’ char­acter and depth of con­viction comes another char­ac­ter­istic that undoubtedly qual­ifies him for the job. He is, to borrow Woody Allen’s words, “quite funny.”

The day he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, Metaxas had a problem. It was his wife’s birthday. And, being a smart husband, he knew better than to let it go unac­knowl­edged. But she was shy, and he also knew better than to throw her under the spot­light while on national TV. His solution? Announcing it was his wife’s birthday, but ges­turing to Pelosi sitting next to him on the stage. Judging by body lan­guage, I’d say the joke didn’t go over quite as well with her as it did with the audience. Although he had clued her in on the joke pre­vi­ously, she clearly didn’t care to take advantage of this opportune comic moment.

Maybe I can’t blame her, but still, anyone who has the pluck to call Pelosi “sweetie pie” on national tele­vision is a worthy can­didate for any college com­mencement address.