Are you pondering the meaning of “moral imagination”? Obama used the phrase in his Tucson memorial speech last week, but many philosophers and social thinkers have used it before. Edmund Burke, the 18th Century Anglo-Irish statesman, author, and philosopher, may have been the first. (Burke, by the way, supported American independence.)
Tucson wasn’t Obama’s first use of the phrase. The first was his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Achieving peace and prosperity in the world, he said then, requires “the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there is something irreducible that we all share.” In Tucson, he added empathy to his definition of moral imagination. “Let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imagination…sharpen our instincts for empathy, remind us of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
This week in OurValues.org, we will explore the meaning of “moral imagination.” Today—the day we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy—we ask this question: How did King express it? Since Obama first used the phrase in his Nobel speech, I looked to King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964:
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land.”
As our nation observes the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day—do King’s words still ring true for you?
Please, “Comment” below.
(Originally published at www.OurValues.org)