Some say we are living in very challenging times. The combination of a global economic crisis, continuing war and instability across the middle east, and the growing issues of worldwide environmental concerns at times seem more than any one person or nation can handle. I commented in a recent post (see Anton Ego’s Order) that what we all seem to be missing is a bit of “perspective”. When the news gets bad enough, that “perspective” seems harder and harder to find. It’s in that spirit that I wanted to share a few quotes of inspiration that I hold onto. These words are separated by almost 45 years, but they give us encouragement not just to be naively optimistic about the future, but to have a view, a sightline or a “trajectory” to our hope.
Over the past number of years, I (along with so many across the world) have often turned to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a source of inspiration. One speech that I have often turned to is his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech of December 10th, 1964. The following are a few paragraphs from that speech:
“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him.
I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.
I believe that even amid today’s motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.
“And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.”
I still believe that we shall overcome.”
I have tried to use the idea of “isness” vs “oughtness” often in my work and personal experiences, trying to keep my mind clear that just because something “is” a certain way doesn’t mean that they “ought” to stay that way for the future!
The following quotes are current, very current! They are from a townhall meeting that our President Obama held in Istanbul today! The themes of “opportunity” and “hope” ring through his comments and his Q&A session. I have selected a number of comments that he made across the townhall meeting that connected squarely with the idea of focusing on the “oughtness” not the “isness” of our world.
“America, like every other nation, has made mistakes and has its flaws. But for more than two centuries we have strived at great cost and sacrifice to form a more perfect union, to seek with other nations a more hopeful world. We remain committed to a greater good, and we have citizens in countless countries who are serving in wonderful capacities as doctors and as agricultural specialists, people — teachers — people who are committed to making the world a better place.
We’re also a country of different backgrounds and races and religions that have come together around a set of shared ideals. And we are still a place where anybody has a chance to make it if they try. If that wasn’t true, then somebody named Barack Hussein Obama would not be elected President of the United States of America. That’s the America I want you to know.
Simple exchanges can break down walls between us, for when people come together and speak to one another and share a common experience, then their common humanity is revealed. We are reminded that we’re joined together by our pursuit of a life that’s productive and purposeful, and when that happens mistrust begins to fade and our smaller differences no longer overshadow the things that we share. And that’s where progress begins.
So to all of you, I want you to know that the world will be what you make of it. You can choose to build new bridges instead of building new walls. You can choose to put aside longstanding divisions in pursuit of lasting peace. You can choose to advance a prosperity that is shared by all people and not just the wealthy few. And I want you to know that in these endeavors, you will find a partner and a supporter and a friend in the United States of America.
And as I said in my opening remarks, I think the most important thing to start with is dialogue. When you have a chance to meet people from other cultures and other countries, and you listen to them and you find out that, even though you may speak a different language or you may have a different religious faith, it turns out that you care about your family, you have your same hopes about being able to have a career that is useful to the society, you hope that you can raise a family of your own, and that your children will be healthy and have a good education — that all those things that human beings all around the world share are more important than the things that are different.”
My desire is that we don’t hide our heads in the sand, like an ostrich ignoring the “isness” of today. The issues we are facing ARE significant and challenging for ALL of us on this planet! My hope is whether we find our inspiration from Dr. King, President Obama, or some other source, we all must try our best to keep our minds focused on the “oughtness” of the future and turn our actions towards creating a future where the “oughtness” eclipses the “isness.”