News and Events
Finding Common Ground: Senator John Kerry Describes the Unifying Potential of Faith in Public Life
Former Democratic Presidential nominee Senator John Kerry shared his personal faith and perspective on the role of faith in public life with a standing-room-only audience in Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre on Monday, Sept. 18. Watch the speech online.
In a speech to Pepperdine students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the Malibu community, Kerry described his journey of faith from his Catholic childhood to adulthood. Of choosing to tell this story, Kerry explained: "I learned that if I didn't fill in the picture myself, others would draw the caricature for me."
Kerry recalled "confront[ing] the problem of evil" while fighting in the Vietnam War, and, upon returning home, feeling a growing alienation from God. His return to faith came twelve years later with a revelation about the relationship between his faith and his public work. Evoking Jesus' call "not to be served but to serve" in the Gospel of Mark, Kerry declared: "I consider public leadership to be a form of Christian service an expression of my faith."
The senator appealed to the values shared by people of different faiths, and laid out "four issues where people of faith from every background can work together with other people of good will towards public policies that contribute to the common good."
First, Kerry called for unity in fighting poverty, disease, and despair, such as that experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the genocide in Darfur, and the AIDS epidemic. Next, he recognized the global challenge to address manmade climate change, and reduce the need for abortions by focusing on prevention and support for pregnant women. Lastly, Kerry explained the challenge he considers "the most difficult and essential of all:" fighting only just wars.
He called these four issues "godly tasks," and asserted his belief that "a vision of public service based upon serving rather than being served is ultimately a vision of hope and not despair."
At the conclusion of his prepared remarks, Kerry answered questions posed by a panel of five Seaver College students as well as Professor of Great Books Paul Contino. Distinguished Professor of Political Science Dan Caldwell, who also introduced the senator, acted as moderator.
The questions addressed such topics as how Democrats can reach out to more voters, how Kerry reconciles his anti-abortion stance with his personal faith, his willingness to support the new Elizabeth Cady Stanton bill, Christian responsibility in the immigration debate, and the senator's position on the interrogation of enemy combatants.
Kerry's appearance at Pepperdine University kicked off the 2006-2007 Dean's Distinguished Lecture series. Seaver College Dean David Baird opened the event.