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John Kerry at Pepperdine: “Service and Faith”

by Pamela Leavey

The following is the text of John Kerry’s speech at Pepperdine today. Enjoy reading the speech, I’ll have more later today about the speech…

“Service and Faith”
Senator John Kerry
Pepperdine University
Malibu, California

September 18, 2006
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here. For some time, I have looked forward to this opportunity to come here to talk about my faith, and the role of faith in public life. And I’m very grateful to Pepperdine—an institution explicitly founded to shine the light of God’s truth through the service of its graduates—for giving me this opportunity.

There will always be those bent on corrupting our political discourse, particularly where religion is involved. But I learned how important it is to make certain people have a deeper understanding of the values that shape me and the faith that sustains me. Despite this New Englanders’ past reticence of talking publicly about my faith, I learned that if I didn’t fill in the picture myself, others would draw the caricature for me. I will never let that happen again—and neither should you, because no matter your party, your ideology, or your faith, we are all done a disservice when the debate is reduced to ugly and untrue caricatures.

I was born, baptized, and raised a Catholic. Needless to say, my first and formative sense of religion came from my parents, Richard and Rosemary. My mother was a Protestant but went out of her way to see that I learned my catechism, attended Church, and prepared for First Communion. Both my parents taught me early on that we are all put on this earth for something greater than ourselves. Later, I was an altar boy at my Church. My parents taught me my faith and they taught me to live by it.

I went to a high school called St. Paul’s, an Episcopal school where we attended chapel every morning and twice on Sundays in addition to the Catholic service in town which a group of us would go to. I studied religious studies and as you would imagine at a school called St. Paul’s, became more than familiar with St. Paul’s letters to just about everybody.

The Catholic church that I grew up with didn’t focus on scripture the way we do today. The Mass was in Latin. But with the Second Vatican Council, that changed. Now, revised prayers for the Sacraments and other parts of the liturgy use Biblical language almost entirely. It elevates both our practice and our understanding of our faith. And despite our continued historical and theological differences, it has helped to emphasize what unites Christian churches rather than what divides them. The long and short of it is that today we are far more “Bible”-focused and knowledgeable based on several clear principles, chief among them the centrality of Jesus.

I confronted my own mortality head-on during the Vietnam War, where faith was as much a part of my daily life as the battle itself. But I have to say that in retrospect my relationship with God was a dependent one—a “God—get me through this and I’ll be good” – relationship. As I became disillusioned with the war, my faith was also put to the test. For me, war was a difficult place for faith to grow. Some of my closest friends were killed. I saw things that disturb me to this day. Theologians often talk about “the problem of evil,” the difficulty of explaining why terrible and senseless events are part of God’s plan. In combat, you confront the problem of evil in an up-front and personal way that is hard for others to fully understand.

So, yes, I prayed hard while I was in Vietnam and I made it back, but the experience, the “problem of evil,” took some time to reconcile. When I returned stateside, I went through a period of alienation. I was inspired by the Christian moral witness of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement, Reverend William Sloane Coffin in the peace movement and other voices of Christian conscience. But still I was searching — somewhat spiritually adrift, unsure of my relationship with God and the Church.

Within the Catholic Church, we talk about being born Catholic—but as in any faith community, there’s a moment when you first consciously choose whether to fully participate in your heritage, or look elsewhere. For me that came a number of years later after the war.

For twelve years I wandered in the wilderness, went through a divorce and struggled with questions about my direction. Then suddenly and movingly, I had a revelation about the connection between the work I was doing as a public servant and my formative teachings. Indeed, the scriptures provided a firmer guide about values applied to life – many of the things you are wrestling with now today.

I remember how difficult it was to be your age – so many decisions to work out, such a tangle of choices and possibilities, whose consequences seem unknowable – and yet life-shaping. For you here at Pepperdine, it’s a time when you’re exploring your commitment to God, embarking on a journey to figure out how to lead a good life, how to translate your values—who you love, what you are passionate about, how you worship—how you translate that into the daily fabric of your existence.

One of my favorite passages from scripture, a familiar story from the Gospel According to Mark 10:35-45, sheds a lot of light for me on how to translate my faith into action.

The Apostles James and John ask their teacher Jesus if they can sit, one at his right hand and one at his left hand, and bask in his glory. They want to be seen as first among the disciples. And Jesus tells them, while they can drink from his cup and share in the baptism, the special position they want isn’t his to grant—it’s only for those who are up to the task.

When the other ten disciples heard about James and John’s request, they were angry. And so Jesus gathered them all together and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to be first among you must be servant of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This is the third time Jesus’ disciples have misunderstood the nature of their discipleship in the Gospel of Mark. And I suppose you could say that James and John are trying to become the first political appointees in the New Testament—trying to get special favors for their proximity to power. But Jesus responds with an essential lesson. He contrasts greatness in the Kingdom of God with Roman political power. While greatness in the Roman Empire is based on brute force—lording it over those less fortunate for the worst possible reason—simply because you can, greatness in the Kingdom of God is based on humble service, on being servant to all.”

Those lines in Mark had a profound impact on me: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” Well, I consider public leadership to be a form of Christian service and an expression of my faith. I believe the most important teaching of the Gospels is that it is not enough just to say one believes in Jesus. Believing in Jesus requires action—it requires a bona fide effort—commitment to live in the example of Jesus and nowhere in my judgment is the expectation of service more clearly stated than in Matthew 25:34:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

So it is important for me to share with you how we might move from the example of Jesus as a servant into addressing the pressing needs of our time. The Catholic Bishops in their 2004 election guide provided great spiritual wisdom and guidance as they set forth a series of questions about expectations in public life.

I think they are questions any Christian needs to wrestle with:

1. After September 11, how can we build not only a safer world, but a better world—more just, more secure, more peaceful, more respectful of human life and dignity?

2. How will we protect the weakest in our midst—innocent unborn children? How will our nation resist what Pope John Paul II calls a “culture of death”? How can we keep our nation from turning to violence to solve some of its most difficult problems—abortion to deal with difficult pregnancies; the death penalty to combat crime; euthanasia and assisted suicide to deal with the burdens of age, illness, and disability; and war to address international disputes?

3. How will we address the tragic fact that more than 30,000 children die every day as a result of hunger, international debt, and lack of development around the world, as well as the fact that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be poor here in the richest nation on earth?

4. How can our nation help parents raise their children with respect for life, sound moral values, a sense of hope, and an ethic of stewardship and responsibility? How can our society defend the central institution of marriage and better support families in their moral roles and responsibilities, offering them real choices and financial resources to obtain quality education and decent housing?

5. How will we address the growing number of families and individuals without affordable and accessible health care? How can health care better protect human life and respect human dignity?

6. How will our society combat continuing prejudice, overcome hostility toward immigrants and refugees, and heal the wounds of racism, religious bigotry, and other forms of discrimination?

7. How will our nation pursue the values of justice and peace in a world where injustice is common, desperate poverty widespread, and peace is too often overwhelmed by violence?

8. What are the responsibilities and limitations of families, community organizations, markets, and government? How can these elements of society work together to overcome poverty, pursue the common good, care for creations, and overcome injustice?

9. When should our nation use, or avoid the use of, military force—for what purpose, under what authority, and at what human cost?

10. How can we join with other nations to lead the world to greater respect for human life and dignity, religious freedom and democracy, economic justice and care for God’s creation?

I believe these questions can be gathered around 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.

The first and perhaps most obvious common challenge is to take practical steps to address global issues of poverty, disease, and despair.

The cares of the poor and the troubled should be the focus of all our work. Today extreme poverty shackles one sixth of the globe’s population, one-fifth lack access to safe drinking water. Here in America twenty one percent of our children live in poverty. Eleven million under 21 don’t have health insurance. Thirty thousand children worldwide perish each day because of hunger and disease attributable to poverty.

A few weeks ago, we passed the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. And, amidst the howling wind and rushing flood waters, you could practically feel Americans’ emotional recognition—our shock—at just how far we still have to climb to fulfill our Christian responsibility to care for the worst off among us. Jesus told us “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me,” but when the great flood of our time came, we weren’t ready. Interestingly, the most rapid and effective response came from the faith community, but as a country, we left people to die on rooftops and in hospital beds. The failure should sting and it should shame all of us, but it should also bring a renewed sense of mission: We’ve lapsed in our covenant between the people and the government, between rich and poor people and between rich and poor countries, that nobody should be left behind. No American, no country, no human being.

You – each of you — can do something about this and get involved in a multitude of ways including joining something like the ONE Campaign. And for those who ask the inevitable question, ‘why does that matter to me here at home as a citizen of our country?’ With the right political leadership, we can end extreme poverty in your lifetime if we commit the resources to do it.

Evangelical Christians have honored the best traditions of Christianity and of patriotism in tirelessly fighting to end the genocide in Darfur. I’ve often referred to the words of the Epistle of St. James 2:17: “faith without works is dead”—and Christian work in Darfur—day in and day out to make sure that “never again” isn’t just a convenient lie we tell ourselves to sleep better at night- is the embodiment of that Christian—of that American—ideal.

Christians like Rick Warren are also working to fight AIDS. How can we sit idly by when this plague of our time sweeps across the world? How can we not do everything in our power to make sure that our life-saving treatments are spread far and wide to those in need? There are forty million cases today, and last year 3 million people died from AIDS. Jesus did not “heal the sick” only if they had the money to pay for it, only if they could afford antiretroviral drugs—no, he sought out people in need. And we need to do the same today.

A second common challenge arises from the deep concern virtually all people of faith are enjoined to maintain toward sustaining and protecting God’s first creation. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians 10:20 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything on it.” The Prophet Isaiah (66:2) says, “has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?”

These days we face problems on a biblical scale—floods, storms, plagues, the destruction of entire cities. And it is my belief that confronting manmade climate change is, in the long run, one of the greatest challenges we face.

Evangelicals talk about “creation-care” — that any damage that we do to God’s world is an offense against God. God called us to be stewards of the earth and its creatures, and since most of the climate change problem is human induced, its’ pretty clear that we haven’t done that good of a job. The warnings are loud and clear for all to see—rising waters, melting caps, storms of ever-greater proportions, and ironclad scientific evidence. Surely this is an issue where people of faith can come together and demand action. I can assure you, when I cast a vote in the Senate on environmental issues, I try to act as a steward of the earth.

A third area where we can find common ground is on one of the most emotional cultural issues of all: abortion. Obviously the issue of abortion has been enormously divisive, but there is also no denying there is common ground. There are 1.3 million abortions each year in America. Everyone can agree that that is too many and on a shared goal of reducing the need for abortion in the first place. And I believe our first step is to unite and accept the responsibility of making abortion rare by focusing on prevention and by supporting pregnant women and new parents.

Even as a supporter of Roe V. Wade, I am compelled to acknowledge that the language both sides use on this subject can be unfortunately misleading and unconstructive. Unfortunately, this debate has been framed in an overly partisan setting with excessive language on both sides – none of which does justice to the depth of moral conviction held by all. There’s been demonization rather than debate. Distrust rather than discussion. Everyone is worse off for it. Instead of making enemies, we need to make progress.

What would progress look like? Many people are surprised to learn that the most dramatic decline in America’s abortion rate took place under the last Democratic administration when poverty declined, more people graduated from college, employment grew at record rates, and the economy grew at record levels. Unfortunately, the economic policies of these last six years increase the pressure on women with unplanned pregnancies to seek abortions.

In addition to focusing on policies that will prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place, I believe we should also embrace and expand a proven set of economic measures to again make significant progress on reducing the number of abortions in America. This would mean raising the minimum wage, expanding educational opportunity, giving tax credits for domestic adoptions, providing universal health insurance, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and expanding federally funded child care.

The fourth and final example of where people of faith should accept a common challenge is perhaps the most difficult and essential of all: rekindling a faith-based debate on the issues of war and peace. All our different faiths, whatever their philosophical differences, have a universal sense of values, ethics, and moral truths that honor and respect the dignity of all human beings. They all agree on a form of the Golden Rule and the Supreme importance of charity and compassion.

We are more than just Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims or atheists: we are human beings. We are more than the sum of our differences — we share a moral obligation to treat one another with dignity and respect—and the rest is commentary. Nowhere does this obligation arise more unavoidably than in when and how to resort to war.

Christians have long struggled to balance the legitimate need for self-defense with our highest ideals of justice and personal morality. Saint Augustine laid the foundation for a compelling philosophical tradition considering how and when Christians should fight.

Augustine felt that wars of choice are generally unjust wars, that war—the organized killing of human beings, of fathers, brothers, friends—should always be a last resort, that war must always have a just cause, that those waging war need the right authority to do so, that a military response must be proportionate to the provocation, that a war must have a reasonable chance of achieving its goal and that war must discriminate between civilians and combatants.

In developing the doctrine of Just War, Augustine and his many successors viewed self-restraint in warfare as a religious obligation, not as a pious hope contingent on convincing one’s adversaries to behave likewise. Throughout the centuries there have been Christian political leaders who argued otherwise; who contended that observing Just War principles was weak, naïve, or even cowardly.

It’s in Americas’ interests to maintain our unquestionable moral authority — and we risk losing it when leaders make excuses for the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo or when an Administration lobbies for torture.

For me, the just war criteria with respect to Iraq are very clear: sometimes a President has to use force to fight an enemy bent on using weapons of mass destruction to slaughter innocents. But no President should ever go to war because they want to—you go to war only because you have to. The words “last resort” have to mean something .

In Iraq, those words were rendered hollow. It was wrong to prosecute the war without careful diplomacy that assembled a real coalition. Wrong to prosecute war without a plan to win the peace and avoid the chaos of looting in Baghdad and streets full of raw sewage. Wrong to prosecute a war without considering the violence it would unleash and what it would do to the lives of innocent people who would be in danger.

People of faith obviously don’t have to agree with me about how we keep America safe, how we prevail over terrorists, or how we end our disastrous adventure in Iraq. But I do hope people of faith step up to the challenge of rejecting the idea that obedience to God somehow stops when the fighting starts. We need a revival of the debate over what constitutes Just Wars and how they must be conducted, and all people of faith, whatever their political allegiances, should participate in the debate.

I lay out these four great challenges—fighting poverty and disease, taking care of the earth, reducing abortions, and fighting only just wars—as godly tasks on which we can transcend the culture wars and reach common ground. And for all the anger and fear so often expressed about the intersection of politics and religion, I believe that a vision of public service based upon serving rather than being served is ultimately a vision of hope and not despair. The Scripture says, again and again, “be not afraid.” God is not through with humanity. Shame on us if we use our faith to divide and alienate people from one another or if we draft God into partisan service. Shame on us if we sow fear for our own advantage. As God gives us the ability to see, let us take up the tasks associated with loving our neighbors as ourselves. We can take up God’s work as our own. The call of Jesus, and of every great religious leader, to everyone is one of service to all and not the pursuit of power. Each of us needs to do our best to answer that call, and help each other hear it in a common spirit of obedience, humility and love.

34 Responses to “John Kerry at Pepperdine: “Service and Faith””

  1. As a person of no faith, I find this speech awesome, particularly the second part, about what needs to be done.

    My only pb, at the beginning of point 2, the mention of “unborn children”. I know Kerry is sincerely pro-choice and I could not agree more with what he is proposing later. This is something I really wanted to hear from a Democrat. But the term “unborn children” is a code-word from the anti-choice community.

    Except that, once again, from somebody who was definitively not the target of this speech, a great, great speech. I wished Pepperdine was showing that online.

  2. As expected, Kerry delivers.

    Although an Atheist, I do have a lot of faith and I try to understand as well as respect the faith of others.

    I once came up with something that my sister in law had come from their minister. I said, no, it was me. I understand what Christianity teaches, and other than the idea of a God and accepting Jesus, I agree with the lessons.

    Give your fear to Jesus and keep your Faith in God.

    Get rid of fear and you don’t grow anger and hatred.

    ‘Sow Justice, Harvest Peace’

    Nothing will eradicate crime, hatred, distrust and violence as much as economic stability and opportunity.

    Deaths from degradation of the earth rival all others combined.

    Deaths from curable diseases and preventable illness are simply unacceptable in a world that has the resources to stop this.

    My focuses are economic, environmental, health and justice.

    I think Kerry covers them just as well.

  3. Count on the media for putting things out of context. In this except, you could think that Kerry wants to make abortions illegal.


  4. This was a great speech — I loved the personal side of it, and especially found the 4th point on war and peace particularly compelling. Although I have read this nowhere, I have long suspected that Kerry’s Catholic faith played a large role in his having to speak out against the Vietnam War. Not in a blatant way, but rather subconsciously, with the values he was brought up with. But it was never uttered anywhere. So although our “Christian” president goes on and on about Jesus, I always saw Kerry quietly carrying out his teachings as best he could throughout his entire public life.

    On the abortion issue, I’m with Mass that “unborn children” is simply not accurate; however, Kerry was actually quoting what the Church said. It was their words, not his. I think Kerry’s (and the larger Democratic party’s) approach on abortion is the only moral one. Making abortion illegal would be too cruel to women and would only give the Mafia another cottage industry. However, he talks quite similarly with Hillary who made that “tragic choice” speech back in 2005. Where Kerry is on FAR higher moral ground was the war and peace section. He’s not just talking — his actions back up the words.

  5. Thanks, Beachmom. I did not realize he was quoting the Catholic Church’s word. This obviously change a lot of things.

    The part that I liked a lot (and I dont remember Hillary making the point) is the aspect about increasing minimum wage and creating better and more affordable healthcare would make abortion more rare (she may have said that, I just dont remember). I am particularly sensitive to that because many people simply do not seem to realize this part.

  6. But it gives the quote about him supporting Roe v. Wade. To me that’s the end of the story. If you support Roe v. Wade then you support abortion rights. What he was saying was if you reduce poverty, you automatically will reduce the abortion rate.

    Just as another aside — I liked Kerry speech while Barak Obama’s faith speech kind of annoyed me. Kerry showed his religious colors while not putting people down who might not agree, in general, or in the Party, in particular.

    My BIG complaint about that article — it didn’t talk about the BEST PART of the speech, about war and peace.

  7. You’re right, Mass — I think Kerry linked more aspects of poverty and no health care with abortion better than Hillary.

    You know what else is a good idea — if Democrats come out with a program to help pregant women out who want to put their babies up for adoption. That would get HUGE support — I live in Pat Robertson land, and people would like that a lot.

  8. I’m back! Need to get some food into me and collect my thoughts – there are so many. YvonneCA met me at the Angelides rally which we both managed to miss, but did see JK. The speech was so. Very moving. Q&A after wonderful too.

  9. I have never heard Sen. Kerry give a speech like that in 24 years of public life. That must have been amazing to see. Wow! It is immensely personal and invokes the tradition of the Catholic worker’s movement and of the Justice movement that exists today. (Particularly in regards to South America.)

    That was an extraodrinary speech. When people aks how Sen. Kerry has changed and what would be different about another run, point ’em here. He is more willing to pull these amazingly personal things out and discuss them. Wow! There are a lot of people in Mass who thought there was a case, sometimes of, ‘still waters run deep’ but, oh my. Well done.

    What was that like to sit through and to hear something so personal. I found parts of the first Faneuil Hall speech to be talking to something else, something deeply, deeply held and almost felt unable to write about it. Did this come across like that?

  10. Tay Tay, et al

    I’ll have more tomorrow. It’s hard not to want to write a personal response to such a personal speech. I have a lot to say and it’ scoming together slowly.

  11. As usual, Kerry hits the nail on the head. A true leader of the people is one who serves all. His last paragraph says it so clearly and beautifully, and contrasts with the philosophy of the power and money driven “leaders” we now have to contend with. Somehow all the work and words of this thoughtful leader have to be heard by everyone. A full hour interview with a thinker and listener like Keith Olbermann would bring Kerry’s essence to light for thousands. Time to badger Keith again!

  12. Excellent, this I was happy to read.

  13. I am VERY disappointed in this speech, as it shows a further move to the Right and an attempt to curry favour with Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics.

    Any time a politician starts talking about “reducing abortions” what they mean are more restrictions on abortion. Abortion is being made illegal one restriction at a time, and as such is practically unavailable in many states.

    The easiest way to “redcue abortions” is to make contraceptives and sex education widely available.

    Nowhere in his speech is this solution mentioned. This speech has solidified my view that should Kerry run, I will NOT vote for him, and I will actively campaign against him. We do not need any more Vichey Democrats in power.

  14. Kelvin Mace

    After the speech there was a Q&A period and Kerry addressed these issues. The speech was not a “political” speech, it was a personal speech that Kerry was invited to give by Pepperdine, particularly the Dems at Pepperdine, both students and faculty.

    There was no pandering unless you believe that Dems have no faith and by into the notion that there are more conservatives that are Evangelicals, than Dems. The fact are that there are more registered Dems that are Evangelicals and we are losing the vote, because we address their concerns. Kerry was very, very specific, he would not vote differently on choice, he will fight to protect it.

  15. I am Christian woman and I didn’t see anything wrong with the speech. Some non Christians may feel uncomfortable, but at least Kerry is open to talking about it.

    Good luck Kelvin Mace in finding that dem canididate that meets all your needs.

    It’s always funny how all the attacks seem to happen everytime that Kerry opens his mouth.

  16. Kerry supported choice BEFORE Roe, and this speech shows he has no intentions to ever either ban or restrict abortion. What he was offering were more choices for women. I just read a story in the paper of parents abducting their 19 year old daughter trying to force her to have an abortion. That sickens me to no end — we are the pro-choice party meaning we want to given women as many options as possible, including their right to terminate a pregnancy, but to act like there aren’t moral questions involved here is to simplify a deeply emotional issue. JK would never pander to a group, sacrificing his values in the process. There was absolutely NO judgmentalism in his speech whatsoever. It was a great speech.

  17. Kevin

    Kerry is not talking about restricting abortions, but about avoiding that a woman needs an abortion, by avoiding unwanted pregnancies, and by helping families who want children but cannot afford it.

    Nothing wrong about that, and many women who are pro-choice agree with that (none of us wants to have an abortion). Actually, what you suggest is done to reduce abortion is part of what Kerry offers in this speech.

  18. I was extremely impressed with John Kerry’s Speech yesterday here at Pepperdine. I was in the front row literally 6 feet from his podium. Reading the words to the speech don’t give it justice and I hope Pepperdine puts it up soon. It was extremely refreshing to hear a politician from either side of the aisle talk quite candidly about the issues and also about himself. One thing the articles haven’t mentioned were the questions posed by 4 student reps and 1 faculty member. One question to Sen. Kerry asked what he thought about President Bush’s attempt to change the Geneva Convention to allow more fierce interrogation of detainees. His response was strongly vehement that America will not and should not condone torture. The other question posed by Pepperdine Great Books Professor Paul J. Contino, asked the Senator about abortion and whether he would cosponsor the Elizabeth Caty Stanton Bill proposed by Elizabeth Dole in an effort to provide funding for programs for young women that become pregnant and feel they have no options other than abortion. Kerry’s response was that his staff is carefully looking at the wording and that if the wording checks out he wouldn’t have a problem supporting a bill for education and prevention of the conditions that make abortion appealing to women.
    Lastly, another thing the news articles failed to mention was that Pepperdine is southern california’s bastion for conservativism! Being an undergrad here, this speech was very controversial because most of the student body are naive republican conservatives who do not want to hear anyone else’s point of view. I am a Republican however I supported Kerry in 2004 because I believe in making educated decisions based on observation and facts NOT based on candidates my party tells me I need to vote for. I believe John Kerry to be a great orator and American. He should be applauded for coming into the heart of the beast and standing his ground. Also, a good side note, Dean of the Pepperdine Law School, Kenneth Starr was also in attendance.

  19. Faith, Politics and Values

    Democrats don’t talk much about faith. It’s not that they don’t have faith and values, because truly the very foundation of what Democrats are about is all about faith and values. It’s different sort of faith and values than th…

  20. MalibuWave

    Thanks for taking the time to come here and share your thoughts with our readers.

    It was a great speech, I had the feeling that it resonated with much of the audience. The media, as usual leaves so much out, the Q&A was great. Well thought out questions and Kerry’s responses were very good.

    John Kerry is a great orator and a great American. It was very heartening to see the love and respect for him after the speech at the Young Dems reception.

  21. This was an invitation that should have been declined with the explanation that faith is a private matter and not one open for public discussion. The only people who publicly made a big deal about their faith and how they prayed were the Pharisees, and the world has enough Pharisees running around as it is.

    Lecturing the faithful about their Christian duty is the responsibility of RELIGIOUS leaders, not POLITICIANS. The main reason we are in the mess we are in right now is that we have a “president” who thinks he’s the freakin’ Messiah!

    You don’t stop the destruction of the separation of Church and State by injecting more religion into the debate.

    I voted for Kerry last time, as I has no choice. He disappointed me and lived down to all my expectations. Worse, he threw in the towel the day after the election rather than fight and raise Hell about voting irregularities in Ohio.

    Now he tells me he will “kick the Swift-Boaters’ asses”, and that Ohio had problems, all while making mewling noises to conservative Catholics.

    Kerry’s motto seems to be “If challenged, I will not fight. If elected I will appease the Right.”

    David Allen

  22. Kelvin Mace

    Who are you? Kelvin Mace or David Allen?

    You totally miss the point that this is a free country and people do have a right to speak about religion. Like it or not faith is deciding factor for voters to determine their values.

    The Bush campaign got that and exploited that, while there are more registered Dems who are members of evangelical churches than Republicans.

    Kerry spoke very plainly and very clearly and HE DID not alter his position on any of the issues. Furthermore he stated as he has many times, that his job is to make policy and he DOES NOT let his faith enter into policy decisions.

  23. David, Kelvin or whoever you are.

    Kerry was smart enough to know that he could not win Ohio. His concession was the most delayed since the outcome could be accurately projected and communicated quickly. (Gore conceded ’00 and then retracted it)

    In case you haven’t noticed, none of the court cases so far have been won. The problems Ohio ’04 will never be solved by recounts – he had promised to be sure the votes were counted and they were.

    There is no way to challenge an election on the basis of votes not cast. Votes that may have been switched by voting machines that do not have accurate, if any, records. Not cast because voters left long lines and waiting periods to vote due to misappropriation of voting machines (which was determined that summer and never reevaluated when it became apparent that there was a huge increase in voter registration). Voters who arrived to vote and found their registration had never been registered (probably due to a dumpster filing) or had been purged for spurious reasons.

    I am a life long Unitarian-Universalist and have put up with the high decible level of Trinitarianism in our society all my life.

    I resent the accusation that atheists and secular humanists do not have ‘higher values’ or believe in morals or ethics.

    Our constant fight is to recognize that these ARE important in life – which certainly includes politics- and that freedom of speech and freedom of religion go together.

    Pepperdine has every right to issue the invitation and there is no reason Kerry should avoid it because he is a politician. We have had plenty of religious leaders talk about politics. Do you think Rev Martin Luther King Jr. should not have fought for civil rights? Should we let the Falwells, Dobsons and Robertsons speak freely without any countering ideas? I think this was to the benefit of all of us – well, maybe not you and a few others.

  24. […] ber 20th, 2006  From a transcript of a remarkable speach by John Kerry entitled Service and Faith "I lay out these four great challenges—fighting poverty and disease, taki […]

  25. Finding Common Ground: Senator John Kerry Describes the Unifying Potential of Faith in Public Life

    On Monday, John Kerry delivered a speech on “Service and Faith,” to a standing-room-only audience in Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre. In the speech, which I wrote about here earlier in the week, Kerry “shared his per…

  26. Observers Say Kerry Has Shown Democrats a ‘Third Way’ to Discuss Religion and Public Life

    John Kerry’s speech, ‘Service and Faith,’ at Pepperdine University on Monday is still making headlines nearly a week later and some observers are saying that Kerry’s speech has “shown Democrats a “third way” o…

  27. More thoughts on the Pepperdine University Speech:

    The speech at Pepperdine University was excellent. It was about religion, and how religious belief and training fit in to how we and our country behaves in the world. As many have said, it was the story of the Senator’s very personal journey of faith, and how time and life experiences have shaped his beliefs and values.

    He then took questions from a group of both Democratic and Republican students at the university. As usual, he was great…articulate, thorough, caring…all the things we here know John Kerry to be. One of the best answers he gave…I think to a question about how we get the world back on our side: ” No torture.”. He also talked about how he didn’t do enough to prevent the Republicans from ‘caricaturing’ him in 2004. He seems to have decided that if the media is going to skewer him…it might as well be the REAL Kerry getting in trouble, not the caricature

    In every answer Kerry gave…to any question/subject…he focused on uniting the country. This is why I believe the country needs him, whether they know it or not.

    Pepperdine Young Democrats’ Reception

    After the speech, we walked down to a reception held by the Pepperdine Young Democrats. It was held in a large room with a terrace and great view of the Pacific Ocean.

    These students obviously loved John Kerry, and were SO excited to have him there. When the Senator entered the room, he made a few remarks and then took a few more questions from the students. Most of it was pretty routine, and Kerry did well, as usual. He talked some about public education and said K-12 schools were broken. As a public school teacher, I was very interested in what he had to say. He expressed concern about children not having the support to get them ready for school (everything from health care to child care, etc.) and said that teachers have such a struggle with 30+ kids in a class and often only 5 or 6 do their homework. I was glad to hear that he understands how it really is, and I am confident he will work to make things better.

    Some of the Young Democrats at Pepperdine were quite upset with Bush policies and asked Kerry about impeachment. He essentially said we have too much on our plate that we must focus on to do that (you know, war, the economy, re-uniting the people…things like that). And besides, it would just really anger half the country and prevent us from ever moving forward. I REALLY like that he is so focused on uniting the country.

    Monday was such an uplifting day for me because I came away with the sense that John Kerry has felt and understands that seismic shift that so many of us have been experiencing during the last six years. He has been addressing these concerns from the beginning. He is correct, I think, to speak out clearly on every issue that stands in conflict with our patriotic values as Democrats. He did this in every event on Monday. The theme I heard, loudly, was unity. Whether he was talking about religious issues (even abortion), war, education, impeachment, he always emphasized that anything that promotes divisiveness in our country is not good for the country. From his words it was clear, he seeks to bring us together as a nation. That is the hopeful message I took home with me on Monday evening. And I’m still floating on air !

  28. But we need to be even more enthusiastic about defending our values in this election and standing up for President Bush’s record. Our efforts are working, despite the tens of millions of dollars Democrats are spending through their shadow groups to defeat our President. And who are they trying to elect? John Kerry, a man who:

    -Voted at least SIX times against the ban on partial birth abortions;

    -Voted to allow federal money to distribute morning-after abortion pills in America’s schools;

    -Voted against requiring parental notification for a minor child’s abortion;

    -Voted against the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, joining only 13 other Senators;

    -Pledged to nominate ONLY those individuals to the Supreme Court who would uphold Roe v. Wade.

    Perhaps you have never been involved in the political realm before. And while I am not necessarily imploring that you to get out (at least today) to work precincts and run phone banks, I am asking that you at least have an open mind to John Kerry’s campaign of deception
    In 1984, Kerry Said He Would Vote Against “Any Restrictions On Age, Consent, Funding Restrictions, Or Any Law To Limit Access To Abortion.”

    “I am Catholic and have personally always believed life begins at conception, but I have never believed that that is something that should be translated as a matter of faith, an article of faith, into everybody else’s behavior for those who don’t share that faith …” (Sen. John Kerry, Campaign Event, Des Moines, IA, 1/9/04)

    Kerry Has Voted At Least Six Times Against Banning Partial-Birth Abortion. ***
    Kerry Voted To Allow Federal Money To Be Used To Distribute Morning-After Abortion Pill In America’s High Schools.

    Kerry Has Voted At Least 25 Times In Favor Of Using Taxpayer Dollars To Pay For Abortions In United States.
    Parental Consent

    Kerry Has Voted At Least Three Times Against Requiring Parental Notification For Minor’s Abortion.

    In 2003, Kerry Voiced His Support For “Population Control Efforts Around The World.” There is no outlawing of a procedure necessary to save a woman’s life or health or a poor womans choice and there are no more cutbacks on population control.(Sen. John Kerry [D-MA], Remarks At NARAL Pro-Choice America Dinner, 1/21/03)

    In closing listen closely to John Kerry’s words from the begining of my comment and now at the end…..

    In 1996, Kerry Complained About Senators Voting Against Their Professed Religious Ideals. “Sen. John F. Kerry, speaking at a Roxbury church, complained yesterday that some of his fellow senators profess Christian beliefs while voting in ways that contradict those ideals. Addressing the congregation of the Twelfth Baptist Church, Kerry said he often feels torn at Senate prayer breakfasts as he meets colleagues who seem to lack compassion in public life. ‘To be candid, I struggle when I sit next to someone who says they’re born again, but votes against child care, votes to cut 12- to 18-year-old kids off Medicaid,’ Kerry said.” (Michael Grunwald, “Kerry Tells Congregation Votes Should Match Faith,” The Boston Globe, 10/21/96)

    And Called On Politicians To Run Their Life “In A Christian Way.” “After a few remarks about the apostle Paul, Kerry decried the ‘difference between the rhetoric and the reality’ in politics, urging politicians, ‘Run your life in a Christian way.’” (Michael Grunwald, “Kerry Tells Congregation Votes Should Match Faith,” The Boston Globe, 10/21/96)

  29. If you censor my comments what does that say about you as a Democrat ?

  30. Jesus,

    The name just gives me the willies!! First of all, I will let you sit in the mod que and think about what you say. If you think provoking someone will get you attention, then you have missed the mark. If you think your views are common and taken in by the majority, then again, you have missed the mark.

    If you think being an idol worshipper makes you worthy of due respect or special attention, then again, you have missed the mark.

    You come off as one of the many that think just because someone is a Democrat, they are godless. I beg to differ with you and your like minded drones. I have no problem with GOD and I believe in him. It is the radical elements and the torture for GOD types that make me angry.

    So if you choose to admire someone like Bush and company that wish to torture people and call it GOD’s will, then by all means, do it. But don’t expect me to follow suit. You F’ckin Hypocrite!!!!!!!!

  31. “Jesus”

    This a privately owned blog and the owner of this blog reserves the right to moderate comments.

    The owner of this blog also agrees 100% wuth Senator Kerry.

  32. I think George Carlin put it best when he said something to the effect that the GOP is VERY concerned with human life in the womb, and between ages 18-25 (aka – military age). If you don’t fall into these categories, their policies show that they have very little or no respect for life. Katrina’s the perfect example. They spend so damned much of their time defending life in the womb (which for the most part I agree with with regards to MY own choices) and in a test tube (which the jury is still out). But when it comes to lives on a rooftop which have decades of feelings, freindships, and families then they turn their back. Respect of life IMHO starts with people who are crawling and walking, and unless someone respects those lives to me there is no sense arguing any of the above poster’s “talking points”.

  33. Oh, BTW, I know this is a staple question of mine, but………
    Anyone know where to get audio or video of the speech?

  34. […] n freedom of religion. But, as John Kerry pointed out in his speech last September, “Service and Faith,” go hand in hand. Barack Obama told the audience “that religion has a […]