College of St. Scholastica Graduation
Senator Becky Lourey
College of St. Scholastica
Fall Baccalaureate Commencement
December 18, 2004 - Noon
It is a tremendous honor to be here with you today. Commencement is truly a beginning. One could think of this moment as the completion of your work, the attainment of your degree, the last step in your intense, exhausting dedication and pursuit of knowledge. But it isn't - it is a commencement because you have completed your preparation for a new chapter in your lives.
And I get to share this moment with you! And I get to do it here, at the college you have chosen, the College of St. Scholastica whose guiding principles are based on the Benedictine Values.
Values I hope I am living by - the values of Community, Hospitality, Respect, Stewardship, and the Love of Learning.
Another reason I feel a close connection to this institution is its strong commitment to health care -- an area of St. Scholastica excellence.
Those of you who have chosen a career in health care will be meeting a huge future need.
As many of you know, health care is my greatest public policy passion. As the population of this region and the entire nation ages, we face ever-growing health care challenges. We can worry, wring our hands over the situation -- declare that it is out of control - but it is who and where we are, so we must devote our efforts to meeting the need and do so in ways that respect both the care giver and the receiver.
I know you feel passionately about the dreams you are pursuing. Your lives almost certainly will be much different after you leave here. Most likely, you will discover new and very different circumstances. You will face wonderful opportunities. But, in the hard times, you should remember the important principles instilled here at St. Scholastica -- acceptance and tolerance, the progressive Catholic tradition of seeking out peace and justice. In short, the moral compass so vitally important for a strong society.
And may you all find - wherever you are - a place to retreat as beautiful as this campus. A place of natural beauty and solitude like your Valley of Silence. I'm sure many of you have used this special place of quiet and solitude.
You will need a place where you can pull your wits around you as you face the challenges of life today, challenges you are already dealing with.
I grew up in the 1950s, was a young adult in the 60s, and you probably won't be surprised to learn that I really loved being involved in the social movements of the times -- racial equality, peace, and women's issues. Let me tell you about a man named Kevin Phillips who actually helped Richard Nixon get elected in 1968 -- a pretty conservative fellow in those times.
He isn't a typical conservative now, though.
Mr. Phillips sees our nation as a plutocracy. That means wealth and money have overpowered all that we do. We have a fusion of money and government not only taking control over both political parties, but the dynamics of our politics. It even controls our culture. This view comes from author Kevin Phillips, a man who hasn't abandoned his earlier convictions, but who feels our society is greatly endangered by how we have evolved over the past two or three decades.
Now, I hope that all of you graduating today will prosper financially in your future endeavors. That's one reason for a college education. But I also hope you will fight the temptation to pursue success by bowing to the plutocratic norm. It is a distant cry from those Benedictine Values: sharing responsibility to create and support community; hospitality that creates a welcoming atmosphere; respect that values the dignity of all work; stewardship that provides wise and respectful use of all material and monetary resources; and the love of learning that transmits the treasures of human culture to new generations.
The following verses were engraved on the wall of Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta, and are widely attributed to her. However, these verses actually were written by Kent Keith in a motivational booklet for high school counselors published while he was a 19-year old college student in 1968. There's that year again. Trust me, I'm not caught in a time warp.
For good reason, these words are quoted far more often today than they were in the late 1960s. They are known both as "Anyway" and as "The Paradoxical Commandments."
People are often unreasonable, illogical,
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, People may accuse you
of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some
false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone
could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
I wish all these attributes upon each of you, as you set off on a new course to your future. We live in a challenging world, and it takes a great sense of commitment to hold onto the core values that bring us true happiness. And whenever you need to, reflect back on all the good thoughts you are taking away from your years spent at the College of St. Scholastica.
Perhaps you'll think of the solitude in the Valley of Silence -- or whatever it was that made you happy there.
Your college Vision Statement includes a lofty goal for you as you reach out beyond this campus "committed to serve and to transform the world."
I wish you strength, happiness and true joy in this mission. Thank you for inviting me to share in your significant and inspiring achievement on the day you set forth from this time and place.
My friend, Ann Wright, says this is a good topic to mull over. First, do we have to fight? Next, who are we fighting? We should be talking instead. This scare tactic presumes and articulates that our enemies hate us:
1. For our freedoms
2. For our way of life
3. For what we are
Not so; it is occupying their country, it is trying to take their stuff. We now have over 700 bases in more than 130 of the world's 191 nations (and that is not even counting the mercenary private contractors of Blackwater). My son said repeatedly, "Mom, we are occupiers over here." And at his funeral, 8 officers came to my husband or to me, each privately, and asked us to do what we could to stop the privatization of the Army.
Let me tell you about Ann Wright. I met her at Camp Casey. Ann ran Camp Casey. She ran a tight camp with no fooling around; the local deputies loved her. Listen to her bio:
Ann Wright retired from the US Army Reserves as a Colonel after 29 years. Ms. Wright served in Grenada, Panama, Greece, the Netherlands, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, and Mongolia. She was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2001. She resigned from the US diplomatic corps in March 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War.
She believes the papers written by the Project for a New American Century about Iran; that is why she wrote an editorial for Truthout appealing to US pilots. I will read you some pieces of that editorial starting with her appeal, and then some of the support for that appeal:
The appeal: "I appeal to the conscience of US Air Force and US Navy pilots and military personnel who command cruise missiles and pilot bombers and those who plan the missions for the pilots and missile commanders. I ask that they refuse what I believe will be unlawful orders to attack Iran."
Ms. Wright refers us back to the Nuremberg Principles:
"The Nuremberg Principles provide for accountability for war crimes committed by military and civilian officials.
"Principle IV of the Nuremberg Principles states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to an order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.
"Principal VI of the Nuremberg Principles: The following crimes are punishable as crimes under international law:
A) Crimes against peace: i. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; ii. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
B) War Crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
C) Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done, or such persecutions are carried on in execution of, or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime."
Ann goes on to say that, "Attacking Iran will be a crime against peace, a war crime. Those conducting military operations will be violating the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva Conventions and the Laws of Land Warfare. Prosecution for commission of war crimes is possible."
Ann points out that, "Accountability for one's actions is finally becoming possible under the New Congress. While refusal to drop bombs may initially draw punishment and the loss of one's military career, those who refuse will save their soul, their conscience and will prevent another criminal action in the name of our country by the Bush Administration."
She closes her editorial with a reminder: "A Reminder: The oath for commissioned officers is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic and not to a particular person or political party."
Almost two months before this editorial, Ann wrote one entitled Five Years of Infamy: Close Guantanamo which was published in TRUTHOUT on December 23, 2006. In this editorial talking about detainees at the prison in the US Naval Base, Guantanamo, Cuba (where she points out, by the way, that in a study of 500 detainees, only 5% were captured by US forces, the rest were sold to the United States often for thousands of dollars), Ann states:
"While co-authoring memos on torture, presidential legal advisor Alberto Gonzales, now attorney general, advised President Bush in January 2002 that a benefit of not applying the Geneva Conventions to detainees coming from Afghanistan, and imprisoning the detainees outside the United States, would be to make it more difficult to prosecute US personnel under the US War Crimes Act."
This administration is using its power to break our laws, and it is using its influence to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of its friends.
Let me quote from David Strand's editorial in the Aitkin Independent Age:
"The Walter Reed Hospital debacle has been found out. In their privatization frenzy, the Pentagon sought bids for hospital administrators who assist our military wounded to receive the treatment they were promised. The government employees who had the jobs were allowed to bid for the contract, and they won. So they got the job? Wrong! The Pentagon overruled and awarded the contract to a subsidiary of Halliburton. Soon the 600-person staff was slashed by more than half, and the administrative cesspool that ensued was the logical outcome. (Take that, you ungrateful wounded soldiers!)"
And on top of this, hospital personnel don't dare speak out. When questioned about Marine Jonathan Schulze' suicide, St. Cloud Veteran's Hospital spokespeople should have said, "Our budgets have been hopelessly cut by the very people who sent these veterans into war." No, they said, "He never mentioned suicide to us." Never mind he came with his parents searching for help after having been turned away from yet another veteran's hospital.
We must start feeling as afraid for a war to happen to people in other countries as we are for a war on our own soil. And it starts with us. Susyn Reeve, author of "Choose Peace & Happiness" leaves us with this advice:
" ..... violence is all thoughts, words and actions that fail to honor our divinity as children of God and our inter-connectedness as a global family." She adds it is easy to identify violence out in the world but, "It is our ability to see and acknowledge the practice of violence in our ordinary daily activities that provides us the greatest opportunity to transform and transcend our judgments and prejudices. It is our fear-based judgments that serve as the starting point for us to commit acts of violence. Until each of us can truly free our minds from beliefs that separate and divide the human family, we will continue to practice violence."
Long time Holocaust survivor and prisoner in bestial concentration camps where his father, mother, brother and wife died or were sent to gas ovens, Victor E. Frankl describes for us in his book, "Man's Search for Meaning" the ultimate freedom that is the ability to "choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances".
Frankl, a man who faced fully the forces of evil, died hopeful that we have the capacity to transcend our predicament and discover a guiding truth.
We are connected to one another - and the truth we must discover is BETTER WAR NOWHERE!!!!!