The Common Good

Ted Kennedy Meets Jerry Falwell

Fans (and critics) of either man should read this speech -- from the late Sen. Kennedy, delivered back in 1983 at the late Jerry Falwell's (now) Liberty University. It addresses the role of faith in public life -- as vital an issue 26 years later as it was then. In this long, hot summer of overheated rhetoric, both the tone and content of the speech offer much to readers today, especially these comments on how we debate moral (and, I would add, theological) issues ...

... we must respect the motives of those who exercise their right to disagree. We sorely test our ability to live together if we too readily question each other's integrity. It may be harder to restrain our feelings when moral issues are at stake -- for they go to the deepest wellsprings of our being. But the more our feelings diverge, the more deeply held they are, the greater is our obligation to grant the sincerity and basic moral decency of our fellow citizens on the other side.

You can download the speech to read in its entirety here. Here's a short clip from the beginning of the speech. (Thanks to Gary Stone for the links.) A truly gracious moment in American religious-political history:

Brian McLarenBrian McLaren ( is a speaker and author, most recently of Everything Must Change and Finding Our Way Again.

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