Letter to/article in The Villanovan, December 5, 2003
Wednesday evening November 12, 2003 in the Connelly Center Cinema, the Peace and Justice Center awarded their annual Adela Dwyer - St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award to Voices in the Wilderness, cofounded by Kathy Kelly in 1996. Richard Juliani of the Sociology Department gave Kathy a terrific introduction that he took great care to prepare to get it right. This was followed by the most inspiring talk I have heard in the past 20 years that I have been a part of the Villanova University community. A talk that, while grounded in the recent violence directed by the US against Iraq, really cut to the heart of our place in the world as Americans and our responsibility that comes from living in comfort derived from consuming about 5 times our proportional share of the world's resources (by population). She talked about crossing the line, of risking our comfort to stand up for ideals that trace their way back to the establishment of Christianity. I admit, I have not been brave enough to take that risk as she has done for decades now. I argue, discuss, write letters and emails, send money, vote (!) to support the ideals that I hold about making the world a better place, but I have been unwilling to cross the line and risk my comfort. Kathy revealed herself to be a brilliant orator with a homespun storytelling style that put her convincing message across in very human terms.
The Connelly Cinema was only a third full by my rough estimate. I saw one other faculty member (and his wife) in the audience who was not one of the "usual suspects" associated with the P&J Center. I saw no staff that I recognized. The few non-student adults there appeared to be cohorts of Kathy from her organization. A few students not directly associated with the Center were probably convinced to attend for a class, but even if this were not the case, they were pretty few in number for a campus with some 4 or 5 thousand undergraduates. I recognize that faculty and staff have lives outside of their jobs, and that often it is difficult to make it back to campus in the evening, but we are not just any university, we are a university with a sense of community that is associated with the some aspects of the Catholic church but extends to all those who share certain common ideals. This annual Peace Award, as Richard Juliani pointed out, is important because we live in a time when there are few real heroes and this is a way of connecting with them and sharing what makes them as ordinary people do extraordinary things. The Villanova community should be more aware of it and try to support the event by coming out in much larger numbers as they did last year in the Villanova room where attendence was inflated by the controversial prize winner Noam Chomsky and many classes whose professors required their students to attend, resulting in an overflow which prevented my own entrance to the room. But I viewed the videotape along with only one other very disappointed Villanovan who was also next to me in the cut off line. No one else seems to know about this tape. These lecture events are also terribly important for our undergraduates who are entering a complex world that our media and political establishment increasingly feeds to us through the lens of a false comic book language.
The videotape of Richard Juliani and Kathy Kelly exists and can be shared! A copy can be borrowed from the library periodicals department desk for viewing. While not live, the inspiring content and message is powerful and will survive its reduction to the small screen from real life. Other videos from the past are also available and a web page listing the recipients of the Peace prize can be consulted under the Peace and Justice Center site. I hope this cry in the wilderness is heard. Good things don't happen by themselves. They need our help.
department of mathematical sciences