A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison

The Liberator, 1st Edition
William Lloyd Garrison

Last night, I was discussing with my sister Dawn the relaunching of the website for the Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ), a herculean task, made overwhelming by the unwelcome appearance of an old foe -- colon cancer. Another old foe -- perfectionism -- has also reared its ugly head, leading to delays in the re-framing of this vital communication tool, which enjoys a world-wide audience. As a teacher, I see perfectionism as the enemy of the good, the root cause of "a Nation at Risk," the outsourcing of American jobs, and the collective funk our Nation has fallen into. I made a case for good old fashioned American pragmatism, largely in jest.

The cancer has brought an added sense of urgency to my dad's mission. Dad first responded enthusiastically to The Capitalist Manifesto in the early 1960's, which led him to connect Senator Russell Long, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Louis O. Kelso, leading to the passage of laws that made the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) a reality. Dad has made it his life's mission to spread a vision of economic justice founded on principles of justice articulated by Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer Adler, and later enhanced after Fr. William Ferree began making his monthly pilgrimage to our home from the University of Dayton, driven by William Schirra during the early 1980's, while I was attending Georgetown University. This humble collaboration led to the founding of CESJ and audiences of my Dad with President Reagan and the Pope. While I attended Georgetown University, our home was often filled with luminaries like Father Andrew Morlion, who had been the go between President John F. Kennedy and Premier Kruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. At one celebration, I sat next to Lawrence Kohlberg for an entire dinner, and Dr. Kohlberg invited me to a "Conference on School Climate and Governance" at Harvard University, attended by educators from inner city schools. I stayed at Kohlberg's home, and was greeted by Larry and Anne Gilligan.

Feelings have been a little raw lately with the reappearance of the cancer. I have always dealt with stress by laughing, highlighting things to be thankful about, and getting into character. I always manage to turn serious matters into a joke. When I am at my funniest, that is when I am most effective in communicating serious messages.

I quipped, "What ever happened to the 'Happy Revolution'? " Like an orator, I declared: "CESJ has lost its sense of humor. You need to embrace imperfection. You need more wine and cheese parties. Social justice, by its nature, is a messy affair." I recommended, largely tongue-in-cheek, that in the relaunch of the website, CESJ should relaunch with an inspirational editorial written in the tone of William Lloyd Garrison from the first edition of The Liberator, a classic piece of writing channeled four score years later in Letters from a Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King.

Once, I was substitute teaching for a Special Education Teacher and the students had an activity which involved a reading William Lloyd Garrison's First Edition of The Liberator and small group responses. Students were reading round-robin, with no expression, which felt to a trained ear like fingers across the chalkboard. I stepped in: "You've got it all wrong." To model the proper tone, I read aloud the way Garrison had intended, paused, and asked students to continue on their own. The entire class protested and begged me to continue. With faux modesty I continued.

While Dad slept on the Peter Danko chair, Dawn, Mom, and I, with great humor, discussed a project with a realistic chance of guaranteed funding. The money is waiting -- the proposal just needs to be written. If CESJ builds it, the money will flow. Dad awoke from his slumber to the sound of hope! Hope is, indeed, the greatest medicine.

As I walked out the door, I shared a final joke: "You need to include section on your website dedicated to comedy: call it Poetic Justice."