I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me here today to talk. I’d also consider it an honor and a privilege not only to speak to you, but to speak to the audience that you have worldwide for your programs.
Ladies and Gentlemen.Today we are confronted with an unprecedented opportunity to change the essentially conflictual nature of man’s existence on earth. Never before in the history of mankind have we been more connected to each other.The airplane, the internet, the smart phone have nearly eliminated all barriers of time and space. We can chat with someone half way around the world by simply dialing a number on the telephone. We can learn about other peoples, other cultures, other religions simply by typing a few words on our computer. We have facetime, we have facebook, we have Twitter and so on as a further means of communication.
Yet none of this may matter.
As long as we continue to pursue our personal desires and interests without consideration of the interests and needs of the greater community, man will continue to live in a permanent state of conflict with fellow man. This pertains as much, if not more, to nations as it does to individuals. As long as nations focus only on their own self-interest – you can call this nationalism, without consideration of the interests of others, mankind will continue to live in a state of war. War and its terrible consequences in terms of loss of human life, national treasure, and human deprivation will continue to characterize man’s existence on earth.
To quote the nobleman Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…."
The question we must therefore ask ourselves is: how can we move beyond this outrageous, yet enduring, state of existence. Indeed, is it even possible? Does the very nature of mankind doom humanity to a perpetual state of conflict.
It is my personal belief indeed we can. I believe we can move beyond history, where war has been not just as Louis XIV inscribe on his cannons – the final resort of kings, but has become the final resort of nations and sub-national groups. By this, I do not mean that all conflict, violence, wars can be avoided. I do, however, mean that, as a rather common phenomenon of history, conflict among peoples and nations can be and must be greatly circumscribed. There are no winners in war – violence begets violence, hatred begets hatred, selfishness and arrogance are communicable diseases that too often lead to conflict.
But the world will not change on its own. Differing points of view will remain a permanent feature of the domestic and international landscape. Differences of view exist at every level of human endeavor – within families, among friends, within and among organizations, clans, tribes, and of course nations.
Indeed, differing points of view are a natural feature of human existence. I cannot imagine a less creative environment than one in which we all shared the same background, the same experiences, the same culture, the same beliefs, the same traditions. How, terribly boring that would be. So it is quite natural that differing points of view will continue to emerge among people, as well as among differing communities and nations. The differences are the essential essence of human existence, the spice of life, the foundation indeed of all creativity, and the fuel of human progress. Differences, however, can often lead to violence and war. It is in our ability to reconcile differences that mankind moves beyond what Thomas Hobbes called the state of war.
So what will it take. As a minimum I would like to briefly mention what I consider to be 5 essential requirements, to move from where we are today essentially in a conflict conflictual world.
A recognition that no man is an island. That we are all, as you have heard today so often dependent on each other for our well-being. We live in a world of individual and national globalization. Thus, what each of us does and more importantly how we go about doing that can and will in fact determine the future of mankind. Working together we can forge a more promising future.This does not mean compromising our values out of weakness or a temporary amnesty born of feelings of disappointment and revenge. It means distilling out of our differing truths a larger and more just truth.
Nearly 20 years ago a colleague of mine Joseph Joffe, editor and publisher of German weekly Die Zeit wrote an article titled “Who’s Afraid of Mr. Big?” – of course, meaning the United States – the sole surviving superpower at the end of the Cold War.
His conclusion was that despite all of its flaws, and he noted many in this article, since the United States had invested in the public good and here he mentioned such efforts as the United States efforts to establish the United Nations, The International Monetary Fund, the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade, the World Trade Organization, the United States has advanced its interests by serving the interests of others. Therefore, he concluded, the world was not afraid of Mr. Big. This is indeed a model for individual, as well as international behavior.
Do unto others as you wish done unto you.
All of this will require leadership, not just at the top, but at the bottom, as I used to tell people, it’s not just a leader at the front of the table. The leader can be the least noticeable person in the rear of a room.
A new breed of leaders will be required, men and women of all creeds, races, ethnicity, sexual orientation and so on who are prepared to listen before they speak, to engage in dialogue, to acquire the requisite knowledge, Leaders who seek to truly understand and analyze before they decide, who have the moral courage to do what is right not what is expedient, the humility to recognize that they are not always right, and the integrity to slavishly commit themselves to speak the truth.
This morning you have heard Robby Wells announce that he is running for the presidency of the United States of America. We are now entering a period where we will have to choose leaders at the national and local level. How will they measure up in terms of advancing the cause of humanity.
Ladies and Gentlemen: The choice is yours – choose wisely.
Thank you so much for the opportunity.