Dear Partners in Peacebuilding,
We are deeply anguished by recent events. The outpouring of pain, frustration and anger expressed by so many emanates from those who have long-suffered the scourge of intolerable discrimination and injustice. Our thoughts and prayers are for families who have lost loved ones, for those who labor to right wrongs and bridge divides, and for the strength, wisdom and love to heal our communities and country.
We hear the resounding voices of peaceful protesters and honor their right to demand the attention of our leaders and nation. We recognize that, most importantly, we must endeavor to listen and understand, and that doing so requires us to pause, reflect, grapple with uncomfortable realities, and search our consciences.
Addressing the serious challenges facing our nation requires moral leadership. Such leadership is principle-based and brings people together, rather than exploiting controversies for political advantage in ways that further divide. In earlier times of great crisis, leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. drew on the moral compass of our founding ideals to call the nation to a major course-correction.
The central premise of the American ideal is that all are created equal, and endowed by the Creator with unalienable rights. To be an American does not require any particular racial, religious, or ethnic background. America is about an idea, about principles that entail freedom of thought and action, freedom to achieve prosperity and happiness. It is an idea that resonates deeply within the human soul and is why millions are still seeking to come here and remain.
Understandably, many are deeply frustrated that our nation has not lived up to its ideals. Indeed, the American story is also the human story; throughout human history, people have glimpsed lofty ideals and pursued truth, beauty and goodness only to be derailed by moral failures. Our nation has serious flaws, and the American experiment is a work in progress. But our strength is that our founding ideals infuse our national conscience, evoking us to strive continuously toward a “more perfect union.”
Our nation is at a critical turning point; the anguish of this moment can be the impetus for enduring positive change. That requires taking action. While legislative and policy changes are necessary, they are not the most essential. Laws and regulations can restrict behavior, but cannot compel us to respect each other. The most important laws are of the moral kind, as in “love thy neighbor, as thyself.”
That every person has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a self-evident truth. Every human being has intrinsic value endowed by God, and as such we all share the same spiritual heritage. All people – beyond all differences of ethnicity, race, or station in life – belong to the human family. We are one human family because we originate from the same Source; we are one family under God.
May “we the people” seize this moment to come together, starting person to person. If we strive to see and treat each other as a brother or a sister, we can spark a great awakening that can heal our nation and benefit the entire human family.
James P. Flynn
Alan J. Inman
Executive Board Member