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    On November 17, the Acton Institute hosted its 31st Annual Dinner at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich. Nearly 600 friends and supporters of Acton gathered together for this special event. Not only was Acton’s important work in 2021 highlighted, but the event also celebrated the legacy of Acton’s co-founders and a momentous occasion in Acton’s history: Rev. Robert A. Sirico transitioned from president to president emeritus, and Kris Alan Mauren was formally announced as Acton’s second president.  

    To set the tone for the evening, Debra Perry and Majestic Praise opened with a performance of the gospel standard “Oh Happy Day.” Mrs. Perry, a Grand Rapids native, runs her own record label and recording studio and has been nominated for two Grammy Awards. Following the inspiring song, Mauren took the stage to provide the opening remarks. He shared his excitement for the future and how humbled he was to be named Acton’s new president after 31 years of service as executive director. Later he introduced a short film that highlighted how Acton creatively responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by embracing new digital technologies. This allowed Acton to begin production on a new documentary and host many world-class conferences, both online and in person, helping the institute reach new and broader audiences. Mauren then introduced Rufus Mathew, a senior at Cedarville University and a graduate of Acton’s Emerging Leaders internship program. Mathew offered a thoughtful alumnus reflection, sharing the impact Acton had on his life, which he capped with an invocation.

    After dinner, Betsy DeVos, former U.S. secretary of education, provided a short address to honor and express her gratitude to Rev. Sirico. “Over all these years you’ve been a dear friend, a confidant, and a rock for my family in times of joy and of sorrow,” said DeVos, nodding at Rev. Sirico. “I cherish our friendship.”

    When Rev. Sirico took the stage, he first paused to recognize the movement to emeritus status as “sobering,” but also acknowledged the great benefit of having a co-founder “sixteen years his junior.” Sirico explained how this longtime partnership was both unique and the reason for his “great confidence” in Mauren’s new leadership position. Sirico then addressed the growing division in the world and the peril of trying to bridge the divide using the same tired tactics. “My point is that if we keep doing what we have done before, saying things in the same way we have said them, we cannot expect to get a different result.” In this volatile world full of political and cultural conflicts, Rev. Sirico suggested that people adopt a more “winsome” disposition and that to be successful “we must engage…and broaden our audiences with a new mode of conversation.”

    The video recording of Acton’s 31st Annual Dinner is available on Acton’s official YouTube channel: youtube.com/actoninstitute.

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    Ben Stoner works as a Development Associate for Acton Institute.  Ben was raised in Grand Rapids, MI alongside three amazing brothers and one wonderful sister.  He attended Aquinas College where he received his B.A. in Art and Writing.  After graduating from Aquinas, Ben pursued a Master’s degree at Grand Valley State University in Higher Education and College Leadership. In addition to his work at Acton, Ben enjoys studying Modern Art, creative writing, playing guitar, and traveling to new and exciting locations across the globe.