“You do not have a constitutional right not to be offended.”
There are way too many universities--think University of California President Janet Napolitano with her words that will be not used or worries of micro-aggression--that have abandoned free speech in hopes of sparing the snowflakes of this college generation. They have stilled the robust debate of ideas that once took place on college campuses.
The secretary of state and national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration spoke Saturday to a gathering of Transforming the Bay with Christ at the 3 Crosses church in Castro Valley. The gathering brings together faith leaders from around the Bay Area. Rice is a member of Menlo Church in Menlo Park.
She also challenged those attending as well as her students with the comment that if you are comfortable in your surroundings routinely, you are not challenging yourself. For students, she bluntly said that life is tough so let’s start practicing being uncomfortable now. For Christians, she said look how Jesus lived and who he associated with—do the same outside with people outside of your comfort zone.
The theme of the day was unity. Dr. Rice started her address by asking whether it was an oxymoron to seek unity through diversity when diversity is all about how we are different. The diversity in our culture has allowed more sub-sets of identities that she could imagine.
Couple that with today’s technology and media and we can tailor what we hear exactly to what we want and never be exposed to different ideas. Those silos take away any connections other than with people who think like us and are like us.
She contrasted that with the life of Jesus who spent his life mixing with people unlike him. Dr. Rice said that every life is precious to God and belief needs to be the foundation of everything we do.
She said we have three callings:
• At home, to provide the compassion and care to people who need it. Government can do a lot, but not this. She harkened back to French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville who observed the strength in America in voluntary associations to do good. That can be the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, your local non-profit or the churches—all formed to serve others voluntarily.
• Take that same compassion and care into the broader world, all focused on every life has value. She related a story from the Bush Administration where they were considering whether to invest $15 billion in Africa to slow the AIDS epidemic. Dr. Rice told about how her mother died of breast cancer at 30, but was diagnosed at age 15. Those fifteen years so her mother got to see her graduate, hold her first book, and see her as a Stanford professor were simply priceless. Giving African children more time with the moms would be equally so. The president made the decision saying to whom much is given, much is expected. Do it.
• The third calling is speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Addressing the faith leaders who may feel isolated in our post-Christian society, she encouraged them to consider Christians in China, Iraq or Egypt with continued persecution and worse. We are blessed to have the freedom to worship as we choose and express our opinions freely.
She encouraged the leaders and her students as well to turn their attention outward and focus on others. The question changes from Why do I have so little? To why do I have so much and what should I be doing with it?
Dr. Rice emphasized that talking is fine, but it’s action that’s important. She encouraged people to find a common goal, amid their diversity, and then act together.