Inauguration Day/Martin Luther King Holiday

The rock group by the name of the Rascals recorded “People Got To Be Free”, their most enduring hit, in the tumultuous summer of 1968. [1]  Martin Luther King died that spring, at age 39.  Barak Obama was just turning 7.

The words of this song ring true today as they did in the 1960’s.  They were, no doubt, influenced by the life and death of King.  They easily influenced our future President, Barack Obama, as they influenced so many of his generation.  These are the words.

All the world over, so easy to see!
People everywhere, just wanna be free.
Listen, please listen! that’s the way it should be
Peace in the valley, people got to be free.

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[2]

As stated so eloquently in the song, “Peace in the valley people got to be free.”  Happy second term, Mr. President.

[1]  Written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigate, members of the Rascals.

[2]  The statue was inspired by the slave revolts in Cuba in the early 1800s.

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Have You Voted?

Have you voted.  I have!  I feel really good about it.  I smiled at all of the other early voters as though we have a special bond.  We do.  Whether we agree on all of the candidates, we all understand the importance of voting as an essential element in our Constitutional rights and freedoms.  Our respect as voters for our nation and our democracy ties us more closely together than any of our differences.

If you haven’t voted yet, take the time to do so now.  You will feel better for having done so.  Then wear your “I Voted” stickers as a reminder to your family and friends to vote.  And don’t forget, at the end of the day we are all in this together.

The Mighty and the Almighty–Diplomacy and Faith

In my quest for greater understanding of the role of faith in government and diplomacy, I have focused on two books.  Senator John Danforth’s Faith and Politics and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s The Mighty and the Almighty.  Senator Danforth is a lifelong Republican.  Secretary Albright has been a Democrat since college.  Both are Episcopalian.  Each served as Ambassador to the UN.  Both advocate that people of faith should be active in government.  Both believe it is essential that there be respect for diversity both within the Christian community and that this respect must extend to those of other faiths and philosophical beliefs.

I focused on Senator Danforth in an earlier post.  Now I will focus on Secretary Albright.  She was born in Czechoslovakia.  Her father was a diplomat.  She was a child when Adolf Hitler was in power.  She emigrated with her family from Czechoslovakia to the United States after communists seized power in her homeland.  Educated at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, she received her PhD from Columbia University.  Raised Catholic, she converted to the Episcopal faith and, as an adult, came to learn of her Jewish heritage.  Appointed United States Secretary of State during President Clinton’s administration, she served with great distinction from January 1997 to January 2001.

Her unique family history and academic and professional experiences give her a unique perspective on the subject of her book, the role of faith in international diplomacy.  Because of her childhood experiences, she also has special insight into what a privilege it s to live in a free and democratic society.

Secretary Albright’s book is dedicated to “those of every nation and faith who defend liberty, build peace, dispel ignorance, fight poverty, and seek justice.”  Secretary Albright weaves this dedication, and her personal family history, into a scholarly but easily readable narrative of the role of faith in the earliest years of colonial America, through the founding of the Republic and through to the challenges of international diplomacy in a nuclear age.

She discusses separately and together the roles of religious belief and morality.  Her definition of what is moral as essentially that which “we associate with good:  life, liberty, justice, prosperity, health, and peace of mind.”  She describes these characteristics as the opposite of “death, repression, lawlessness, poverty, illness, and fear.”

She worries about the dangers and challenges resulting from the increase in religious passions throughout the world.  She shares the wisdom of religious scholars that effective diplomacy requires that government leaders become more knowledgeable about the faiths and cultures of the countries with whom we interact.  She believes such knowledge is essential in our endeavors to work toward reconciliation rather than toward armed conflict.  Even as she identifies herself as an optimist, she worries “the prospect of a nuclear bomb detonated by terrorists in purported service to the Almighty is a nightmare that may one day come true.”

The Mighty and the Almighty is a goldmine for those who want a brief history of the role of religious conflict on the founding of some of the earliest American colonies, about the religious perspectives of our first four Presidents, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  Because there is no way to do more than touch the surface of the issues raised by Secretary Albright.  It is wonderful material for further posts.