Along with the writing I’ve done over the years, there’s a tome I edited that draws from the annals of the premier public affairs forum in the country. Each a Mighty Voice we called it—A Century of Speeches from The Commonwealth Club of California. The words are the stuff of politics and the media, from those trying to change the game, as it were. The book came out in an election year, and radio and TV hosts invited me to glean some lessons from the past that spoke to the present or a future we hoped for—or feared. We would kick off a conversation with a recording by President Reagan or words from the speech in which FDR first proposed the New Deal, or we’d roll into the broadcast with a recording by Cecil B. DeMille or quoting MLK, Audrey Hepburn, or Bobby Kennedy (January ’68, not yet running for president) asking: “What do we stand for?” and then answering: “The liberation of the human spirit.”
Let’s talk about another fine speech—given when spring was open full throttle and a crowd gathered on the floor of the Leavey Center. The words have been carried in this magazine’s pages. They call for a university to be “a champion of environmental justice—for the sake of and alongside the poorest in our world.” The talk: the 2009 inaugural address by President Michael Engh, S.J., who asked, “What better use of our talents can there be than to engage minds, hearts, and consciences on behalf of human dignity and the common good of our planet?” Grant that, and the question follows: “Who trains the leaders we need to understand the intricacies of biodiversity and who are also equipped to discern the ethical dimensions of their decisions? Who, indeed?”
Here’s that 2009 speech: santaclaramagazine.com/Engh2009
A few months ago, another Jesuit who’s based in the Vatican made global news with a call to action on the environment. Have you read that letter that he wrote—and what did you hear in his words? A few weeks ago, he came to Washington and stood alongside the president in the Oval Office and looked out the window on America. He broke bread with the homeless. He said Mass. He spoke to Congress. He shared some food for thought. As do we.