Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Republican speakers not wanted

Republicans haven't felt too welcomed on the speaking circuit lately. Last week, V.P. Cheney faced protests when he delivered the commencement speech at BYU, and locally many of us have been voicing our complaints about Cleary University's decision to pay controversial Anne Coulter $30,000 to speak at the school's Economic Speakers Luncheon Series this fall.

(I side with those who oppose her appearance, but after a multitude of letters, calls and
posts to blogs asking the school's president to reconsider, Cleary President Tom Sullivan decided to stick with Coulter. He claims the goal of the series is to: "enrich the community by hosting speakers who can share a broad spectrum of business, social, political, intellectual, and cultural experiences." I'll leave it up to you to decide if Coulter "enriches" anyone but herself.)

Moving along, President Bush is scheduled to give the commencement address at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA next week and the decision is drawing disapproval from a most unlikely source - the college's former president, Maynard Brennan - who gives very principled reasons why the president is unsuitable:

Mr. President: This place is not your place
St. Vincent College should not host a leader who has exhibited values antithetical to its mission
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
By Maynard Brennan

On Friday, May 11, President Bush is scheduled to give the commencement address at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. To honor the leader of this country would seem a unique opportunity. However, President Bush and his administration have so often violated Christian, Catholic and Benedictine teaching and tradition that I firmly oppose this distinction. Let me explain.

For 35 years I was educated and lived the venerable Benedictine life. I maintain the Benedictine spirit as essential and defining for my life journey.

Four years ago, I was heartsick when President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq. At that time I endorsed the words of Pope John Paul II as he opposed this ill-fated, immoral adventure. I was pleased that in 2005 the leadership of Benedictine men and women, 2,357 strong, issued the Benedictine Peace Statement: "We believe that violence does not yield peace. We are concerned about the military and political ethos of our own country where justice is defined on the basis of our self-interest rather than on a consciousness that we are part of a common humanity."

I am disturbed that my alma mater will place before graduating seniors one whose leadership and administration have violated and ignored this exhortation. Recently, during his Easter greetings, Pope Benedict XVI continued the criticism: "Nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees."

In addition, while Mr. Bush served as governor of Texas, 152 people were executed. On at least five occasions Pope John Paul II wrote to Gov. Bush requesting clemency for individuals on death row. Mr. Bush rejected these requests, as well as one made to him during his presidency. This shows Mr. Bush's outright disregard for contemporary Catholic moral teaching.

Mr. Bush calls himself a born-again Christian; he quotes the Bible; conservative Christians form his political base. Yet, in Matthew 25 we read that Jesus identifies with the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the imprisoned. This gospel further challenges us: If we do not care for the least and the lowest, we cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Has Mr. Bush led us to care for the powerless and the marginalized? The numbers of poor, homeless and imprisoned people in this country continue to rise. The gap between the rich and poor grows exponentially: According to the most recent figures, the top 1 percent of Americans -- whose average income was $1.1 million a year -- received 21.8 percent of the nation's income. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 37 million Americans, or 12.6 percent of our population, were living in poverty in 2005. I cannot forget the many pictures of American poor struggling for survival after Katrina. Many continue to suffer so many years later.

Certainly our country needed to respond to the horror of Sept. 11, 2001. Subsequently, we broke the back of al-Qaida and took military action to eliminate the Taliban in Afghanistan. Imagine what would have happened if the United States had then focused on building hospitals and training Afghans to heal their own people. Imagine what humane gospel values would have been seen if we had improved the irrigation system, thus bringing clean water to isolated villages. Those pictures would have been broadcast throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Instead we invaded Iraq, a country with many revered Muslim holy sites, making us seem to many as the latest incarnation of Western domination or even crusade. Extreme fundamentalists in Afghanistan are making a fearsome return. Our actions have become the best recruiting tool for terrorists.

When I was president of St. Vincent College, I was proud to stand before the graduates and encourage them to engage the world with wholesome gospel values. A commencement speaker is a living example of such virtue, sending graduates forth with vision and hope. I have serious misgivings that President Bush can fulfill this exalted role. How can a man whose administration has been so tainted by incompetence and corruption be a worthwhile role model for young people?
Note to Cleary University: Book Maynard Brennan in the future and I'll buy a ticket to hear him speak.


abi said...

That's a great statement Brennan made. I wish more Christian leaders would speak out like that.

And aside from the moral points, he makes a great practical point about Afghanistan. If we had spent the hundreds of billions of dollars there to build up the place, rather than in Iraq busting up the place, we would have reaped enormous goodwill in the region.

expatbrian said...

George Bush is no more a Christian than Castro or Putin is. Christians don't behave like criminals, killers and traitors, they behave like Christians. Nicely thought out and worded post but you sound like you're getting very stressed. Come on over to my blog...I got some feel good stuff up for just what ails you.

Crystal (clstal) said...

I found your blog while googling for the "Stone soup story" that I remembered from my MI grade school upbringing.

Now that I'm here, I've enjoyed your thoughtful political commentary! Thanks!

Kathy said...

Abi, I liked what Brennan said about Afghanistan too, and that's why I included nearly the entire editorial. I think he echoes the sentiments of a majority of people like me who shake their heads at the hypocrisy of leaders like Bush. He could have handled the situation so much differently if greed and power had been taken out of the equation.

Expat, very perceptive observation about me being stressed out! I've had a terrible cold that has zapped my energy and put me off schedule, which has in turn increased my stress level. I'll definitely drop in on your blog. I could use some feel good stuff about now.

Crystal, hi neighbor, and thanks for stopping by. Did you see the "Stone Soup Legend" link on the right near the top? I've always like that story because it represents to me how teamwork and sharing can solve problems and benefit all of us.

Praguetwin said...

For some reason, when a man of the cloth outlines Bush's transgressions it carries a lot more weight.

Thanks for the link, btw. You've been reciprocated. See ya around!