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Freedom and Choice in a Democracy

 September 5 - November 10, 1992                                 Washington, D.C.



The dramatic pace of change in recent times manifests the power of the basic human drive to be free. Often, freedom movements have defined themselves in terms of "liberation from"--from colonialism, from totalitarian, from prejudice. This evokes passion and upon success triggers explosive joy. The achievements of the last 50 years have been marked by three such celebrations of hard fought freedom: the end of the Second World War, the establishment of newly independent nations and the opening of the Berlin Wall.

Each such victory, however, brings with it new and even greater challenges. Surviving oppression required noble fortitude and forbearance, but "freedom for" a life that is fully human requires a yet broader and deeper range of virtues. To live freedom requires forgoing blind self-affirmation in the name of privacy and choices which disregard their effects upon others. The building of a truly human community cannot be achieved without truth and justice, love of one's neighbor and magnanimous civic concern, creativity and even genius in the classical sense of that term.

This is the new challenge raised by freedom in our days: no longer to be creatures of a state, a system, or an ideology, but to create out of the very stuff of freedom itself those structures, traditions and commitments which will enable a people:


(a) to make decisions about their future and their relations with others which mobilize the free efforts of all in a cohesive, subsidiary and creative manner;

(b) to develop local and national policies for the promotion of human life in the spheres of health, education and culture, of employment, business and politics;

(c) to engage as full and free participants in this process of decision making, implementation and fulfillment all sectors of the population, and indeed all persons, even those presently marginalized.


The issue of freedom and choice are central to the human challenge at this point of transition. If the next century is to experience new levels of democratic life new a more rich notion of freedom itself must be elaborated. Our philosophy must grow with and through the new and dramatic affirmations of liberation toward the articulation of new modes of human life worthy of free peoples.

To respond to this challenge it is necessary to combine the rich experience of the various cultures and the technical insights of the various sciences in a creative effort to deepen present wisdom and trace out new pathways for the coming century. This is be the work of the seminar on "Freedom and Choice in a Democracy".





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