Some months ago Ambassador James Nolan gave the commencement address to the Class of 2000 at Saint Anselm's Abbey School in Washington, DC. Ambassador Nolan was himself a member of the St. Anselm's Class of 1950. He began by noting that, when he had started to prepare his speech, he had felt a little timidity. But then he realized that no one --- absolutely no one --- from his graduating class had the slightest recollection of the commencement address which they had all sat attentively through fifty years ago! This, the Ambassador said, gave him the courage to proceed. (^_^)

Amb. Nolan discussed a number of geopolitical issues which have emerged over the past half century, and speculated on the issues which the graduates would be facing in decades to come. He talked about the collapse of Great Powers such as the USSR, and the legitimacy of intervention in the internal affairs of other countries.

But the key question which the Ambassador raised hit much closer to home. The ranks of the US military services are increasingly filled by young recruits from the poorest segments of American society, largely members of racial and ethnic minorities. Is this right? Should a nation deliberately delegate responsibility for its national defense to what is essentially an underclass? Is it moral to pay people to risk their lives doing jobs which the rich and well-educated avoid?

We all delegate some activities. Bosses assign tasks to subordinates. General practitioners, in medicine and every other endeavor, refer customers to specialists with appropriate expertise. Division of labor is essential to economic efficiency. At a more fundamental level, almost the entire animal kingdom uses sexual differentiation to maximize reproductive success; females and males tend to pursue distinct strategies, with goals that can harmonize or conflict. And diverse species occupy different ecological niches in the web of life.

But can a nation, dedicated to freedom and justice, remain thus dedicated while assigning its dirty work to an unprivileged subset of the population? Ambassador Nolan asked the graduates of St. Anselm's to think about that. Perhaps we all should.

Tuesday, October 17, 2000 at 20:55:58 (EDT) = 2000-10-17

TopicProfiles - TopicJustice - TopicSociety

(correlates: TwoDreams, BeingThere, SuspensionOfDisbelief, ...)