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ISSUE 120 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/10/2006

Turbine honors spirit

By Andrea Horbinski
Staff Writer

Friday, November 10, 2006

One hundred thirty-two years ago this Monday five Norwegian men gathered in a home in Northfield and signed the Articles of Incorporation for the “St. Olaf School.” This Monday we gathered in a cornfield in St. Olaf College to celebrate their idea, its continued success, and our new wind turbine. I wish I had more to say about the Founders, but all I know about them I learned from the back of my program, read at the wind turbine ceremony. And as President Anderson ‘'74 rightly pointed out in his remarks at the turbine, our focus should not be on the past, but rather on our future as that past illuminates it.

Really, I went to the turbine ceremony expecting it to be a re-encapsulation of everything I love about St. Olaf College, and I was not disappointed. Doubtless someone from Macalester or Harvard would have laughed themselves silly to see us singing “Joyful, Joyful” as we clutched our whirling pinwheels at a ceremony officiated by people wearing beanies with propellers on them, but Harvard and Macalester can keep their rankings and their bragging rights anyway.

The only real question in my mind is whether the turbine dedication, with its bevy of wind jokes and Bob Dylan references, was or was not better than last year's composter dedication, when Pastor Benson said "sh-t" in his remarks and we sang a song about compost to the tune of "“Let It Snow."” On balance, what with the beanies and the turbine itself whirling overhead, I think this turbine dedication was slightly more Olaf-y.

In any case, the St. Olaf spirit was clearly evident at both gatherings, more tangibly at the turbine dedication, when the wind twirled our pinwheels at an almost alarming rate – but, as the speakers took pains to remind us, wind is the spirit of God made palpable. It's not just the ritual singing of "Fram, Fram" (really, what does that song even mean anyway, and is there really anyone outside Ole Choir who can negotiate that octave drop in the chorus?), or Bon Appétit's traditional cookies and seasonal hot liquids. Nor is it even the spectacle of various college notables making profound comments leavened with corny puns.

Only at St. Olaf, I'm certain, do members of the community feel it necessary to take time out from the college's schedule not just to commemorate the beginnings of various environmental contraptions, but to dedicate them to the college's higher purpose, and, just a little, to rededicate the college itself at the same time.

The fact that we feel this need and act on it, I think, is the closest I can come to articulating what makes St. Olaf not just special (after all, everyone is special), but unique. Maybe there's another college where people are unembarrassed to sport propellerhead beanies around campus, but certainly St. Olaf is the only one where the dean, pastor and president of the college all did so proudly at the same time. And it's not just that they wore the beanies, it's that they, even as they did so, did not neglect to remind us to be humble, scholarly people and proponents of a new ecological revolution.

After more than three years here at St. Olaf, I still don't know that much about Norway other than the fact that they eat lutefisk there (or so they tell me). But I don't have to know anything about Norway today, really, to know that Norway 140-odd years ago must have been an interesting place to have given rise to people who could come halfway around the world and found a school that would become a college that, 132 years later, celebrated its founding by gathering in a cornfield to sing dedicatory hymns for a wind turbine. The fact that we have a wind turbine at all is notable in itself. Clearly the Founders started something good in 1874. Equally clearly, it's easier to watch it unfold, and to want to be a useful, contributing part of it than to spell it out in so many words. So what are we waiting for? Fram, fram, St. Olaf.

Opinions Editor Andrea Horbinski is a senior from Marlton, N.J. She majors in classics with a concentration in Japan studies.

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