Former Dutch Prime Minister Wins Seminary Prize

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Jan Peter Balkenende, a former prime minister of the Netherlands, was awarded the 2011 Bavinck Prize, an honor for Reformed leadership in the world.

Former Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende (Photo: Ryan Struyk)

“I’m grateful to Calvin Theological Seminary for the Bavinck award. It encourages me to continue working for a responsible society with God’s help and with you,” said Balkenende as he received the award Oct. 14.

The Bavinck Prize is awarded annually by the seminary’s Bavinck Institute for exemplifying the Reformed faith through leadership, public service, or scholarship.

 “[Balkenende] is truly a remarkable man with many fronts for which I truly admire him,” said Hans Heinsbroek, consul-general of the Netherlands in Chicago. “In the Netherlands, someone can admire a politician even though he is from a different political party,” he quipped.

The award is named for Herman Bavinck, a contemporary of Abraham Kuyper at Amsterdam’s Free University in the beginning of the 20th century. Bavinck went on to serve in public life after being named to the Dutch Senate 100 years ago.

In similar fashion, after working as a lawyer and professor, Balkenende was elected to the Dutch House of Representatives from the Christian Democratic Alliance Party. He later served as prime minister from 2002 to 2010.

“Thank you very much for stimulating us, challenging us, and giving us hope,” said Rev. John Bolt, manager of the Bavinck Institute.

Balkenende gave a brief address about the importance of a responsible society and maintaining core values.

“When we talk about responsibility, it’s not necessarily something about procedures. It’s something inside you. It is a matter of conviction,” he said.

Balkenende’s sense of humor shone through from the moment he took the podium.

“Let me start by saying thank you for the introductions. I could have sat here for hours,” he joked. Later, he polled the audience on the divisive issue of which peppermint was stronger, King’s or Queen Wilhelmina, in reference to the penchant of some Dutch people for chewing peppermints during church services.

Bolt praised Balkenende for bringing people of differing views together “in the very challenging first decade of this millennium. You did it with grace [and] the highest level of civility. . . . We in America could learn from you.”

About the Author

Ryan Struyk was a former Banner news correspondent for classes Grand Rapids South and Thornapple Valley. 

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