Letter from the Chair
by David Goldman, Founder and Chairman
The pandemic hardly represented a respite, a pause while we all rested. The past three years presented head-spinning alarms from and for a world whose ethical challenges are only growing rapidly, in number and magnitude.
- A global pandemic to which the world responded with remarkable modern vaccines. And yet, while we saw truth defying political pandering, treatment availability too often found its basis in economic status and race.
- A growing rejection of liberal democracies in favor of autocracies and nationalism based on demagogic fervor around immigration and racism—in the governments of Russia, Hungary, and Singapore, in the vocal and increasingly large minorities in France, Italy, and the United States.
- A European ground war with the threat of nuclear deployment.
- An American cultural and political atmosphere polluted by lies and polarization, characterized by a rejection of civility, compromise, and even simple good faith.
- A pattern of behavior in American schools, in the American justice system, and in American political discourse that can only be explained by a racism that is both systemic and insidious.
- A global economic crisis based in no small part in the growing divide between rich and poor.
- A distrust of traditional institutions.
- Increasingly sophisticated technologies that threaten our privacy and all too often are constructed without consideration of moral consequences.
- Not to mention climate change, which we are seeing afflict the world in real-time even as that ground war that pushes us back toward polluting products and technologies.
This sounds near dystopian. Hopeless? That cannot be the answer.
The premise of FASPE is that professionals possess power and influence. And, therefore, they must lead; and lead ethically. Much of what we saw, what we have endured (and are enduring!) in the past three years, was to some extent at least enabled, if only by a lack of imaginative leadership, by those whom we must rely on to do better.
There is reason for optimism. It lies with the type of demanding, creative, and impatient energy that we see in the FASPE Fellows—the incoming class of leaders of our professions. We see in our Fellows a passion, that is not merely political, but rather one that is driven by an intentional desire to lead and lead ethically.
The behavior of the professionals in and around the rise and entrenchment of National Socialism in the 1930s was often characterized by moral neutrality. The professionals then were willing to allow often banal (and familiar) motivations—professional status, community reputation, financial success, problem-solving—to guide them, but without consideration for the moral implications of their work. That won’t do!
Here is Albert Speer—one of the most senior architects of all the cruelties and injuries that built up into the horror that was Nazi Germany—reflecting after the war on how to explain his behavior: “I exploited the phenomenon of the technician’s often blind devotion to his task. The more technical the world imposed on us by the war, the more dangerous was this indifference of the technician to the direct consequences of his anonymous activities.” This is moral neutrality. And it speaks across professions in that period.
FASPE asks our professionals to recognize their influence and, with that recognition, to deploy their creativity, to act with and for their clients, patients, customers, readers, parishioners—with a clear appreciation of the consequence of their activities. This applies equally to the local journalist covering a Congressional election and the general practitioner in a one-person medical practice who must administer care in a community with limited medical resources, to the giant law firm in its selection of clients and the means by which it advocates for those clients, and to the algorithmist tasked with designing marketing methods for the sale of opioids. Each and every one.
Speaking as a contrite member of the generation that has consciously created or blindly enabled much of what ails us today, I am hopeful that the next generation of professionals will not tolerate inaction or indifference.
We invite you to read in the FASPE 2022 Journal what some of our Fellows have written, the reflections to which their lives and experiences have brought them. Moreover, we hope over the next year to introduce you to some of what FASPE Alumni are doing—in hospitals and courtrooms, in churches and newsrooms, in laboratories and boardrooms all around the world. They are not sitting by idly; they are not neutral. Their impatience is a virtue.
As we challenge our Fellows and our Alumni to become ethical activists within their professions and their communities, we thank all of our supporters for making FASPE possible.