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\”Humanity\” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (HUMANITY): 1) The condition or quality of being human. 2) The quality of being humane; benevolence. 3) A humane characteristic, attribute or act.

Alexis d’ Tocqueville is a famous French social philosopher and he visited Milledgeville in the early 1800s before writing his book On Democracy. He wrote, “Two things in America are astonishing: the changeableness of most human behavior and the strange stability of certain principles. Men are constantly on the move, but the spirit of humanity seems almost unmoved.”

Whenever I reflect on the word “humanity,” I think about the reporter who witnessed the Hindenburg disaster and his account of people jumping to their deaths to escape the inferno. Certainly, no one in America will forget the feelings we felt when we saw the Twin Towers engulfed in flames on 9/11. And, most recently, the death and devastation in the Indian Ocean area from the tsunami jolted us from focusing on our personal problems to embrace the larger world community.

To date, the world has responded to this latest disaster by sending much needed aid. The last figure I saw indicated that citizens and governments of the world have pledged over nine billion dollars. One might ask, why should we do that? How does America’s pledge of $350 million benefit us? These are the same folks who are quick to ask, “What’s in it for me?” whenever they are contemplating a situation.

Asking “What’s in it for me?” is a normal, but morally immature question. Imagine a large local family. The parents are hard working people and have raised six children. Then, a drunk driver hits one of the children walking down the street. Is there any parent or sibling that would not rush to help? I think not. It is a rather small moral and intellectual step to embrace the responsibility both to our immediate family and our extended family throughout the world.

American poet, Archibald Macleish, once wrote, “There are those, I know, who will reply that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is. It is the American Dream.”

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable. Joseph Addison, Poet

Literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by conscience in touch with humanity. Nelson Algren, Author

The American character looks always as if it had just had a rather bad haircut, which gives it, in our eyes at any rate, a greater humanity than the European, which even among its beggars has an all too professional air. Mary McCarthy, Author and critic

The interesting and inspiring thing about America is that she asks nothing for herself except what she has a right to ask for humanity itself. Woodrow Wilson, President

I love to hear a choir. I love the humanity to see the faces of real people devoting themselves to a piece of music. I like the teamwork. It makes me feel optimistic about the human race when I see them cooperating like that. Paul McCartney, Beatle

Do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity, the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln, President

We cannot despair of humanity, since we ourselves are human beings. Albert Einstein, Physicist

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music. Billy Joel, Singer/songwriter

To go beyond the bounds of moderation is to outrage humanity. Blaise Pascal, Philosopher

If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference. Buckminster Fuller, Inventor

The true grandeur of humanity is in moral elevation, sustained, enlightened and decorated by the intellect of man. Charles Sumner, Statesman

There is but one law for all, namely that law which governs all law, the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity – the law of nature and nations. Edmund Burke, Statesman

Our humanity is a poor thing, except for the divinity that stirs within us. Francis Bacon, philosopher

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity. George Bernard Shaw, Dramatist

A man is morally free when, in full possession of his living humanity, he judges the world, and judges other men, with uncompromising sincerity. George Santayana, Philosopher

Humanity is never so beautiful as when praying for forgiveness, or else forgiving another. Jean Paul Richter, Novelist

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. Mahatma Gandhi, Spiritual leader

We are all cells in the same body of humanity. Peace Pilgrim, Activist

In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute. Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court justice

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us