I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” How long? Not long, because “no lie can live forever.” How long? Not long, because “you shall reap what you sow.” How long? Not long… because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Excerpt of speech delivered at the end of the march from Selma to Montgomery on March 25, 1965 on the steps of the Alabama state capitol building.
If you have been wondering what you can do to inspire a more ethical culture, 2013 may be a wonderful year for you. As we aim to recover from the killings of innocents, political unrest, economic woes, and manifold environmental perils we are afforded opportunities to put our hands on the arc of the moral universe and help it bend toward justice. In our 137th year since the inception of the first Ethical Society we have before us a landscape of needs that resonate deeply with our core concerns and we have the wherewithal to respond effectively.
Our core concerns–that ways be found for the worth and dignity of each and all to be appreciated and activated, that people work to elicit the best of each other, that people, together, build a more ethical culture—match the needs of our time for greater respect of each other, stronger cooperation toward common goals, and more determined and sustained efforts to bring about a better future.
We are, I believe, entering a time of greater contemplation in this country, a time when differences can mean more than just a reason for conflict; a time when we can better recognize the humanity of others—even when we disagree. Surely the finger pointing and grandstanding will continue but there has been a deflation in the power of the rhetoric to incite the public.
This is a good moment for us. We are a quieter sort, on the whole, but we are persistent and consistent and we have excellent ideas for improving our relationships with each other, for instilling greater fairness into our dealings with each other, and for creating and sustaining ethical communities.
What are these ideas? There are two that are central to all that we do:
– Attribute worth to others and ourselves even when outward appearance makes that difficult.
– Strive to elicit the best of others, knowing that doing so will elicit the best of ourselves as well.
These two ideas are our touchstones for our efforts to engage others helpfully and to develop and maintain the habits that enable us to do that effectively. When these ideas inform our attitudes and behavior we can make real headway–in our lifetimes–toward a more peaceable, joyful and sustainable culture.
It takes more than a good idea or two to make things happen—we must act on them, we must call upon them to inspire us in our work, we must remember them in times of frustration and despair.
The time is right for action and for us, in Ethical Culture, to come together to work, to build and to sustain a more ethical culture.
“May the humanity that is within every human being be held precious. The vice that underlies all vices is that we are held cheap by others, and far worse, that in our innermost soul we think cheaply of ourselves.”
— Felix Adler
— Bart Worden