We have just passed the 20th anniversary of the terrorist assaults on the United States. That episode was a transformative event in American history. In many ways we are not the same nation we were after the attack that we were before.
Since 9/11 we have engaged in two wars—and lost. Many thousands of lives have been lost and more than $7 billion spent. The “war on terror” has changed our national priorities and policies. It also has raised questions about America’s purpose and what it means to be an American. It has evoked a mindset that encourages the use of force and looks more favorably on authoritarianism at home and abroad. It has also greatly altered our nation’s standing in the world and how we are assessed by others.
My address will explore these issues as they pertain to our understanding of what it means to be an American and our role among nations.
Dr. Joe Chuman recently retired as the Leader of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, a community he served beginning in 1974. Since 2008, he has been a part-time Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. As an activist, Dr. Chuman has worked on behalf of human rights and civil liberties and in opposition to the death penalty, as well as on many other progressive causes. He founded the Northern New Jersey group of Amnesty International in 1974, and currently serves as president of the Bergen County Sanctuary for Asylum Seekers, founded by the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County. This coalition of religious and human rights organizations provides services for asylum seekers released from federal detention.
Sunday Platform is our most important and long-standing community event. These gatherings educate, stimulate personal growth, inspire reflection and action, and strengthen our community. Sunday meetings usually begin with music, followed by greetings and a talk given by a Society Leader, member, or guest. Platforms cover a variety of topics that reflect current events, pressing social issues, and Ethical Culture philosophy. A collection basket is passed and money is shared between the Society and a charity selected for that day. While contributions are always appreciated, Sunday meetings are free and open to the public. Each Sunday meeting is followed by a luncheon and social hour.