The Eulogy Virtues Valued in Life

This is a photo of the cover of David Brooks's latest book, The Road to Character, 2015. David Brooks has been challenging young people lately to think about more than what he calls the “résumé virtues.” His latest book is called The Road to Character, and he has been touring the country to talk about what’s more important than the many small steps we take in advancing our careers. Which matters more: what people think or say about your résumé, or what people will say at your funeral?

Brooks argues that so many of us today focus on the wrong things — on getting the next notch in our belts — when what we should be developing are the eulogy virtues. In the end, people usually don’t care about this or that promotion you earned. The bigger house you bought rarely comes up at a funeral. What matters most to people are the qualities of your character, not the quantities in your bank account.

Brooks’s message especially to young professionals and those aspiring to be them resonates with me. First of all, Aristotle noted that happiness is something that can only really be measured in terms of a person’s whole life. When we say we are happy, in everyday language, we are primarily talking about how we feel right now. What makes for a happy life, however, is not a certain number of happy-feeling-moments. We can endure great challenges for the right reasons and be happy about what we have contributed. The feeling is less the issue, however. What matters, as Brooks notes, is our character.

With a focus on professionalism today, one can certainly make a great deal more money going into any number of careers than one earns as a teacher. So some other force pushes people into that line of work. As I said in my last post, I’ve been very fortunate to feel appreciated at the University of Mississippi. Recently, a number of students added to that very kindly.

The funny thing about moving, as Annie and I soon will, is that you get a glimpse of people’s appreciation of the eulogy virtues, but without the dying part.

The logo of the University of Mississippi's Student Alumni Council.The Student Alumni Council at the University of Mississippi is a clever organization, in which current students are involved in the work of the alumni association — hook’em early, they say. It’s a great idea, actually, for networking purposes as well as for opportunities for student leadership. Yes, those are related to résumé virtues. The group is more meaningful than that, however. They organize an event each spring (though I don’t know how long this has been going on) where they recognize mentors, hosting a “Random Acts of Kindness” event. When I received my invitation, I joked to myself that I generally intend my acts of kindness to be thoughtful and purposeful, rather than random.

The event was lovely. One student at a time got up to say a few words about a mentor he or she wanted to recognize on campus with a Random Act of Kindness award. Next, two students got up to say that they had both nominated a certain professor. It was heartwarming. We do this work because we believe in it. It’s icing on the cake when people actually show you appreciation for it. When the time came, I was taken aback by three students who each got up to say some deeply thoughtful and kind things about our work together. I got a taste of the value of the eulogy virtues, without having to die, when Mary Kate Berger, Natalie King, and Rod Bridges each spoke eloquently and kindly in their explanations for their nominations for me.

I feel profoundly fortunate to have worked with great people in Mississippi. I also am more confident that Brooks and Aristotle are right. Character is the most important thing we can cultivate. The funny thing that so many people miss, however, is that attending to one’s own happiness really comes down to attending to the same for others. I can’t think of a more rewarding opportunity than to help others to shape their character.

Thank you again, Rod, Mary Kate, and Natalie (left to right in the photo)!

This is a photo of Rod Bridges, Mary Kate Berger, Eric Thomas Weber, and Natalie King at the UM 2016 Student Alumni Council 'Random Acts of Kindness' event.

 

Video: US Judge Carlton Reeves on “Race and Moral Leadership”

Now that I’m finally catching up with my grant reporting obligations, I’m returning to work from October of 2015. We snagged some nice pictures of Judge Reeves while he was here and we recorded the video of the open forum discussion we held. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves of Mississippi’s southern district caught my attention in particular with the speech he delivered at the sentencing case of a racially motivated murder in Jackson, MS. NPR called his speech “breathtaking,” and it certainly is.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves.

When I read it I was so moved that after a period of absorbing his deeply thoughtful remarks, I felt compelled to write to him and tell him how much what he said meant to me and to Mississippi. On a whim, I ventured to invite him, were he willing and ever able, to come talk with one of my classes, particularly on the Philosophy of Leadership. He got back to me the same day to say that he would be delighted to come. That’s the kind of guy this now famous judge is. [Video is at the bottom of this post]

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Videoed Talk on ‘Uniting Mississippi’ at USM

Liberal Arts Building at the University of Southern Mississippi.I had a great time at the University of Southern Mississippi on Friday, January 29th. After a fun interview on WDAM TV in Hattiesburg, MS, I headed over to the new Liberal Arts Building on campus, which is beautiful.

Dr. Sam Bruton in the Philosophy and Religion department at USM organizes the Philosophical Fridays program, which runs in part with the general support from the Mississippi Humanities Council. I’m grateful to Dr. Bruton, to the department of Philosophy and Religion at USM, and to the MS Humanities Council for the chance to present in Hattiesburg and the permission to post the video of my talk here. The video was first posted here on the USM library Web site.

I’ve posted the talk on YouTube here below. If you’re interested in the book, you can learn more here or pick up a copy here.

If you enjoy the talk and are interested in a speaker for an upcoming event, visit my Speaking and Contact pages.

“Justice as an Evolving Regulative Ideal”

Journal article published in Pragmatism Today, Volume 6, Issue 2 (2015): 105-116.

Photo of the top of my paper, which links to the PDF file on the journal's Web site.

Logo for Pragmatism Today.I’m happy to announced that my latest paper, as of December 2015, has been published in Pragmatism Today, the peer-reviewed journal of the Central-European Pragmatist Forum. This paper is a step in the larger project of my book in progress, A Culture of Justice.

 

Title: “Justice as an Evolving Regulative Ideal.”

Abstract:

In this paper, I argue that justice is best understood as an evolving regulative ideal. This framework avoids cynicism and apathy on the one hand as well as brash extremism on the other. I begin by highlighting the elusive quality of justice as an ideal always on the horizon, yet which is nevertheless meaningful. Next, I explain the ways in which it makes more sense to see justice as evolving, rather than as fixed. Finally, I demonstrate the value of Charles Sanders Peirce’s concept of a regulative ideal for framing a pragmatist outlook on justice. Peirce helps us at the same time to appreciate ideals yet to let go of outmoded understandings of their metaphysical status. Ideals are thus tools for regulating behavior. Each of these qualifications demonstrates that justice is best conceived of as an evolving regulative ideal.

U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves of Mississippi's Southern District Court.

Mississippi has a tortured past, and it has struggled mightily to reinvent itself and become a New Mississippi.”

This line is from his breathtaking speech delivered at the sentencing for the murder of James Craig Anderson in Jackson, MS. His speech was published on NPR’s Web site here. If you haven’t read it, you should. 

Reciprocal Goodwill Is Answer to Flag Issue

My latest Clarion Ledger piece, published December 8, 2015, 8A.

Photo of the printed version of the article.

Thumbnail photo of the Clarion Ledger logo, which if you click will take you to the Clarion Ledger's site where you can read the full article.My latest piece in the Clarion Ledger draws on Aristotle’s insights about friendship, which he called acknowledged reciprocal goodwill. We sure need more of that in Mississippi.

Click here or on the Clarion Ledger logo on the right to read the piece on their Web site.

You can also see a scan of the printed piece on Academia.edu.

“Judge Reeves speaks at UM”

Originally published in the Oxford Eagle on October 28, 2015. Republished with permission.

Image of Lyndy Berryhill of the Oxford Eagle.

Lyndy Berryhill, Oxford Eagle.

I’m grateful to Lyndy Berryhill of The Oxford Eagle, who came to our forum with Judge Reeves. She also kindly gave me permission to republish her piece on my page here. Thanks again to the Mississippi Humanities Council and to the College of Liberal Arts for their support for the event! Thanks to Berryhill for coming and letting people know about the event. There’s so much to be proud of in Mississippi. It’s crucial that we talk about that more often. Here’s her piece:

Judge Carlton Reeves, photo by Lyndy Berryhill of the Oxford Eagle, 2015.

Judge Carlton Reeves, photo by Lyndy Berryhill of the Oxford Eagle, 2015.

By Lyndy Berryhill

In the wake of racial discussions on campus, the University of Mississippi provided students with a speaker to talk about Mississippi history and racial violence in the state.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves of Mississippi.

District Judge Carlton Reeves has presided over key race and equality cases in Mississippi

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves spoke on “Race and Moral Leadership in the U.S. Judicial System.” Tuesday afternoon in Bryant Hall.

“Mississippi has struggled with its past, but it has also struggled to move forward,” Reeves said.

Reeves famously presided over the racially charged murder of James Craig Anderson and later sentenced his murderers to prison. NPR called his speech at the trial “breathtaking” and it garnered Reeves national media attention. During the forum, Reeves talked about the case and how it was important for people to realize what a hate crime is.

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“Race and Moral Leadership in the U.S. Judicial System,” open forum discussion

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves of Mississippi.

“District Judge Carlton Reeves has presided over key race and equality cases in Mississippi.” (NPRPhoto by Jackson State University.

NEW: University of Mississippi PRESS RELEASE on this event

When: Tuesday, October 27th, at 4pm.

Where: Bryant Hall room 207, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS

U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves of Mississippi caught national attention with a speech he prepared for the sentencing in a murder trial. The case concerned the racially motivated murder of James Craig Anderson. Reeves’s speech has been called “breathtaking” on NPR.org and has been viewed well over a million times. NPR published a short bio about “The Man Behind the Speech.”

Poster for the event. Click on it to open a large Adobe PDF file of the poster.Reeves’s position and leadership are special in part because of his position as a judge. We often think of executives or legislators as leaders. Judges also exercise leadership in their own unique ways and contexts, however. Reeves’s example is also special because of the context of his leadership and the location and circumstances of it. We will have an open forum discussion about “Race and Moral Leadership in the U.S. Judicial System” in Bryant Hall room 207 on Tuesday, October 27th, at 4pm.

Dr. Eric Thomas Weber, associate professor of Public Policy Leadership at the University of Mississippi, will be moderating the discussion.

This forum is free and open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. Anyone needing accommodations related to disabilities, contact Dr. Eric Thomas Weber at etweber@olemiss.edu.

WLogo of the Mississippi Humanities Council.e are grateful for the generous support of the Mississippi Humanities Council and the University of Mississippi’s College of Liberal Arts.

Date: October 27, 2015
Time: 04:00-05:00 p.m.
Event: Moderating "Race and Moral Leadership in the U.S. Judicial System"
Topic: Race and Moral Leadership in the U.S. Judicial System
Sponsor: The Mississippi Humanities Council
601.432.6752
Venue: Bryant Hall, 207
662.915.1336
Location: 1944 University Circle
University, MS 38677
Public: Public

Mr. Bryant, Take Down the Flag

or "Governor, Take Down This Flag," in The Clarion Ledger, September 20, 2015, 2C.

Thumbnail photo of the Clarion Ledger logo, which if you click will take you to the Clarion Ledger's site where you can read the full article.My piece, “Mr. Bryant, Take Down the Flag,” came out in The Clarion Ledger this morning. In the printed version, the title is “Governor, Take Down this Flag.” For the next week or two, please head to the electronic version of the piece on the newspaper’s site. You can download and print a PDF of the article by clicking on the image of the printed version.

This is a photo of my op-ed. The link, when you click on the image, takes you to an Adobe PDF version of the published piece, with OCR.

I’ll soon post the full article on my site. For now, be sure to check out my blogpost arguing that “Racism Defies the Greatest Commandment.”

“Violence Taught When Corporal Punishment Used”

Originally published in The Clarion Ledger, May 14, 2013, 9A.

The harsh treatment of prisoners in the U.S. causes much controversy, yet in our public schools, institutionalized
violence is commonplace.

This image is shows part of the scan of my 2013 Clarion Ledger article, 'Violence Taught When Corporal Punishment Used.' If you click on this image, you'll be taken to the full scan on my Academia.edu page.

In April, the Hattiesburg American reported that corporal punishment declined in Mississippi schools between 2007 and 2012 from more than 58,000 reported instances to around 39,000.

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