An interesting aspect of college is the array of speakers that will inevitably grace your school throughout the years that you are there. Here at Wabash, we get many impressive speakers that come to talk, an accomplishment that many schools our size may not get to boast about. This past Monday we had Peter Storey, a professor emeritus of Duke University and former president of the Methodist Church of South Africa. Peter Storey fought against the apartheid in South Africa and was Nelson Mandela’s chaplain while he served his imprisonment on Robben Island.
Storey’s talk was entitled “Making a World of Difference”. He spoke of helping each other when we see injustice, or just something that needs to be done. One of the things he mentioned was the creation of suicide helplines, the first of which was Lifeline, instituted in Sydney, Australia in 1963. Storey brought the first suicide hotline to the US in California in 1966. He says that, in order to make a difference, you have to know what matters most.
An interesting thing about Storey, and his talk, was the way he approached knowing how to know what matter the most. In his life, he found that following Jesus Christ led him to know what mattered most. However, he seemed to suggest that learning what matters most doesn’t have to come from belief in Jesus, or any God. This was a breath of air, because many preachers will try to tell you that the only way to know what matters most, or what is right, is through their god. It was nice to listen to such a humanistic man speak about helping the world.
I had a couple of qualms with his talk, though. A part in which my eyes almost flew out of my head from rolling so hard, was when he began harping on my generation: “The generation of right now has much too much in common with the Gatsby, self-indulgence era of the twenties. Self-serving, narcissistic, etc.” All this was is “good ol’ day” talk; as if people haven’t always been self-serving, narcissistic, and self-indulgent.
Another part that I thought was odd was an anecdote about a person being crushed by a military vehicle as they tried to save a family’s house from being torn down. Peter Storey made this seem like a logical, selfless act. I disagree with this, wholeheartedly. I think that the person who risked their life for someone else’s home is senseless. Why would you sacrifice something as finite as your life, for something like a house? A house can be rebuilt; you cannot be rebuilt once you are dead. I suppose that this is just a philosophical difference that I have with some people. Assuming that this person was religious, they probably believed that they would live on forever in their respective afterlife. I can look over these small disagreements, though, because the message of Storey’s talk was well-intended.