The president is at the podium as the applause subsides. He looks across the array of faces before him, a gathering of many of the most powerful people in the country, and he speaks.
“Ladies and gentlemen I come before you today with a different message. Not what you would expect at this forum where normally you hear a litany of problems and proposed solutions. I am one of a long line of presidents who have delivered those easily forgotten messages.
“Today I intend to talk about love and how that noblest of all virtues should inform us as leaders of this great country. Love is what ultimately creates the obligation to act with compassion and understanding toward one another. It is the source from which truth, justice, mercy, and wisdom flow.
“It should be at the heart of governance and be reflected in the policies and programs we establish as we struggle with the problems that beset us. We undoubtedly will have differences of opinion, but so long as “love thy neighbor as thyself” is our common ground, we can agree on prudent public policy.
“Regardless of whether or not you believe in God or what kind of God you choose, we all value love. We want to have it and need to give it. Too often our virtues are distorted. Love becomes only love of self. In that form it can be self-destructive as we seek only to satisfy our own needs. Examples of this shallow, narcissistic love abound in today’s culture.
“As important as it is, you almost never hear the word love used in political campaigns. It makes us uncomfortable; we don’t want to confront it. It’s as if it has no place in the day-to-day operation of government or business. Instead, we prefer self-interest, partisanship, rancor, and gridlock. Love is viewed as personal; it has no place in institutions wedded more to special interests than the common good.
“It’s as if love is a Sunday thing, something to be ignored as impractical the rest of the week. It has no place in the public square when we consider immigration, health care, gun violence, human rights, economic fairness. or the environment. I believe it should be at the core of all policy considerations.
“The ultimate impact question is: ‘How does this policy promote or distort the concern we should have for one another as we grapple with the problems of the day?’ In the balancing of often competing special interests, are we considering how to best serve the public interest? If love is considered, the answer is clear on many contentious issues.
“If we love one another, we provide food, health care, education, and shelter for all, regardless of their circumstances. We promote tax policy that assures economic fairness. We provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. We try to curb violence by enacting sensible gun control measures.
Instead of fighting about everything, we ask how, by our actions, we can best manifest our love for each other. Not everyone will agree on how that can be accomplished, but to the extent that becomes an issue, it provides a common ground for us to meet our responsibilities.
“Love of self is something we rarely forget. There is plenty of that around here. It’s love of others, often those we consider unworthy, that is difficult. It is not up to our neighbors to earn our love; it is what they are entitled to by virtue of our shared humanity. That love has been lost, trampled, and ignored for too long in our deliberations.
Tonight, I propose to bring love to the table. Let us at least try to include it in all we do. Let it be evident in our deliberations and our policies.
“My message is simple. I am not asking for your support on any particular policy. I am only asking that we all look at those issues that come before us in a new light. That all matters be considered within the context of our mutual obligation to care for and do the best we can for the people we serve. Not just those who support us or contribute to our campaigns, but to the so-called ‘least’ of us. The depth of our love will be measured by what we do for them.
“Remember the old anti-war chant: ‘All we are saying is give peace a chance.’ Well now is the time to give love a chance. Thank you and good night, and may God bless the United States of America!”
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.