I recently had the real pleasure of spending some time at the WAMC studios with Garrison Keillor who is, of course, an immense star. He’s very tall and shows some wear and tear around the edges. He has tremendous intellect and he is sardonically funny. As you know he has the “Writer’s Almanac” every day and I love the show, it’s so interesting; a little bit of history, a little bit of poetry and he always provokes thought. Every once in a while he likes to push the envelope and if it involves something naughty it can present radio problems for us but so far we’re still breathing. You know those poets, always crossing boundaries.
For Americans, military matters are rarely considered. After all, without a draft, less than one-half of one percent of the nation has any direct involvement with military issues. The Congress is in a similar state largely unaware of military concerns as a Chinese wall has been erected between the military brass and the civilian leadership that makes decisions about its future.
Let me lead with a question – Is the threat of environmental catastrophe ringing from every pulpit and ethical organization in the country? If not, why not? The Bible records many prophets and the price of ignoring them. Surely making clear the moral and religious imperative of preventing catastrophe is a basic function, a duty of the clergy.
Those prejudiced political power brokers, now trying to hang a liturgical lock on this nation’s spiritual inception, as a Christian entity, had best beware of history’s recurrent habit of self-correction…much like proof that appears to be surfacing, now. For starters, let’s not forget the Native American tribes who were here, when the Holy-Roller "conversionists" first set out to "civilize" the “savages” who helped them survive the rigors of this untamed land, they’d come to conquer. The Amerinds’ own religion taught them to respect and preserve what nature had provided but their fortune-hunting Christian conquerors were determined to despoil. One hesitates to contradict historic errors that have (for some) become part wish-prejudiced and nationally accepted misstatements…but when facts surface, despite repetition to the contrary, truthful contradiction must intercede, like it or not.
We hosted a conference on Alzheimer's disease at the College last week, inviting a distinguished group of physicians, researchers, caregivers, advocates and policymakers to discuss the ethical and legal challenges of diagnosing and treating those with the disease.
Some of us remember having to sign loyalty oaths. In the language of the U.S. Supreme Court, one had to swear that he or she had not “advocate[d] the overthrow of government by force, violence, or any unlawful means.”
In 1920, some fourteen years before she spoke these words to members of the U.S. Congress, Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote them at the start of the second part of her prize winning poetic masterpiece, “A Few Figs From Thistles.” She had come to Washington, D.C , to urge Congressional support for legislation to give women equal rights with men in all facets of learning, earning and political determination, which they still lacked. It’s taken eighty years since, for that deprivation to be successfully addressed and signed into law by our current President, Barack Obama.
The nation’s success hinges on the skills and knowledge of its people. Over the past century, the United States had advanced to the world’s leading nation – in terms of technology, finance, and in the broad accessibility to education. But in order to maintain its advantages in entrepreneurship, technological prowess and civic engagement, the nation must continue to invest in its future generations.