Berea College President Larry Shinn had a “simple” message to incoming freshman Thursday.

“It’s a gift to be simple,” Shinn said, quoting a Shaker song. “It’s a gift to be free. It’s a gift to come round where you ought to be.”

This “Simple Life” themed convocation, given at Phelps Stokes Chapel, addressed sustainability and simplicity.

“As we realize that more and more of our natural resources are not sustainable, we also must realize that the extent to which we lead our lives under stress are not sustainable either,” Shinn said.

Shinn stressed that the unique missions, goals and significant resources of Berea College, while a benefit, may also lead to more stress as faculty and students live up to lofty ideals.

“We see such greatness in this university and in ourselves that we feel, sometimes, that we fall short,” Shinn said. “In order to have a manageable life, we all must be able to have a sense of sustainable well-being.”

Shinn also stressed that a balance between work, home, study and finance must be given attention.

“One of our mission statements at Berea is to have a reflective and effective life,” he said.

Oftentimes too much emphasis is placed on wealth, consumerism and product, he added.

“The United States is 4 percent of the world’s population, but we use 25 percent of the world’s resources,” Shinn noted. “We cannot afford to consume so much.”

Shinn said the current average debt in an American household is $20,900, almost double the amount it was 10 years ago.

“As young people, these trends will become more important to you as time goes on, but you must aware of them now,” Shinn said. “A simple life may not be so simple after all. We all have unique challenges. We can’t legislate what is a simple life. Instead we must all shape our lives as individuals in a way that makes us happy with the things that really matter.”

Heather Harris can be reached at or by phone at 624-6694 or 893-2341.

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