The Great Solar Eclipse: An Incredible Natural Show

No picture today; today is all about experience. This afternoon we witnessed a total solar eclipse in the United States. The next one that spans the entire country from east to west will not happen until 2045, when I will be just a youthful 89 years old.

With my family and work I’ve been fortunate to see many of our world’s amazing wonders. I’ve seen sunsets in Alaska, the Grand Canyon, India, Europe, Asia and around the world. I’ve seen been able to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, Bermuda and the Caribbean. I’ve watched sunrises in El Salvador, the Kenyan Rift Valley, the Pacific Coast Highway and the mountains of the Alps. I’ve seen volcanoes, blue skies and deep starry nights in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

What I saw today was one of the rarest, briefest and most enthralling things that I have ever seen. Marie and I, along with some dear friends were in the “Zone of Totality” at Pawleys Island, South Carolina. In a very short period of time we saw the moon inch its way across the sun, completely blocking the light for just over 2 1/2 minutes. Viewing the “totality” of the eclipse for that very small period of time was an incredible experience. The visual of the moon in front of the sun cannot be described in words and no pictures will do it justice; it is not to be seen or described but rather experienced. The mighty sun, center of our solar system trying to push its light through our small, cold, and dark moon gave us a glimpse into beauty, power and nature. The view is really beyond description.

For a moment it was possible to realize how very, very small we are; how very little we matter in the vast configuration of the universe. Yet we do matter, but perhaps not how we think. We have what are truly insane differences between countries, parties and tribes; yet the sun, earth and moon continue on their courses bringing us wondrous displays eon after eon, trying to remind us that every day is a gift, each is full of life, beauty, and love. Maybe that’s what we must learn. Maybe that is the essence of life and God. I hope by 2045 we can learn that lesson. Peace…

Another #WorldRefugeeDay

The Lampedusa Cross on my desk.

#WorldRefugeeDay is a day of action! Through #CatholicRelief, #GlobalCitizen and other organizations, we have the confidence that we can make a difference of people who are suffering from displacement, terror and fear. Continue reading “Another #WorldRefugeeDay”

A Horse You Can Bet On!

Hats and Hooves 2017: (L to R) Marie Swope, Laurie Pope, Steve Swope, Dorothy Pope
Communities in Schools – @cisnational – is an organization that is #allinforkids.  Each year our local CIS holds a fundraiser on Derby Day called Hats and Hooves.  The event is a lot of fun and raises a lot of money for CIS Coweta County where I live.  More importantly, their model of helping impoverished and at risk children really works.  Marie and I are honored to be able to support this fine organization.  We also get to serve as mentors to 2nd, 4th and 5th grade students at a local Title I school through CIS.  Those kids are the highlight of our week!  

If you are looking to impact young lives in a very positive way, there are great ways to do that: The Boys and Girls Club, Scouting, and Communities in Schools.  They all do fantastic work.  They each are a “horse you can bet on” with the confidence that the return will be far greater than your investment!  

Pope Francis: The Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone

For many years I have been a big fan of TED Talks.  I find that the talks generally live up to the TED slogan “Ideas Worth Sharing.”  I don’t agree with every speaker and I don’t find all of the talks equally stimulating; but I usually learn something, find a unique perspective or discover a new way to think about the world that we all live in. 

This week in something of a surprise, Pope Francis gave a talk to TED 2017 that was entitled The Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone.   In a world that is increasingly divisive, nationalistic, partisan, and fearful, the Pope makes a strong argument that each person can be a messenger of hope and all of our individual “yous” can be come a collective “us” to address the needs of our world and time.  Regardless of your faith tradition or no faith tradition his talk is compelling and worth a 17 minute investment of time.  If you would prefer to read his comments rather than listen to them they may be found here: His Holiness Pope Francis at TED2017

Address to Orthodox-Catholic Ecumenical Gathering

catholic-orthodox-ecuminical-gathering-120925-097As a @CatholicRelief Global Fellow I visited Greece and Serbia in 2016 to witness the #RefugeeCrisis.  This past Monday, March 6, 2017 I had the opportunity to give the keynote address at the 2017 Orthodox-Catholic Ecumenical Gathering at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.  The theme of this year’s gathering was Sowing the Seeds of Hope: The Plight of Refugees and Migrants.  The written text of my talk can be found on the Homilies and Talks page on my blog:  The video of my remarks may be found at this link: Address to Orthodox-Catholic Ecumenical Gathering.


Hostility and Cowardice are Not American Virtues

The Captain of a Greek Coast Guard Ship aiding refugees in the Documentary, “4.1 Miles”

#Refugees who are fleeing persecution or the violence and destruction of war deserve to be welcomed.  As I have stated before, it is in the National DNA of the American people to come to the aid of those who are in need, oppressed or desperate for safety.  When we have failed to live up to this National instinct, we have found ourselves on the wrong side of history and later spoke of our profound regret.  Take for instance, our country’s rejection of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.  After turning them away, many ended up dying in concentration camps at the hands of those they were trying to escape from.  We recall that time and action with shame.

Hostility toward people in need is  not an American characteristic or virtue.  Neither is cowardice.  Historically, Americans are willing to not only speak for those in need, but we have been willing to take risks to protect them.  I like to think of our country like the man who is willing to take a personal risk and step into difficult situations to protect those who are more vulnerable.  It is the country that we have tried to be in my lifetime.  But things are changing.

President Trump’s ill conceived, poorly executed, and legally questionable Executive Order barring refugees seeking safety in the United States, is an act of both hostility and cowardice that is antithetical to our American tradition.  Americans should be appalled, but for some reason 30%-40% of us are are not.  We should ask ourselves, ‘Is the extremely low probability of a terrorist entering the country a fair balance against the pain and suffering of millions of people?’  My answer is, ‘It is not.’  To let people suffer and die because we might have the slight risk of harm is not an American virtue, it is cowardice.

For a real look at the “dangerous” people that so many Americans are so very afraid of, take the time to view the documentary: 4.1 Miles.   It was made by Daphne Matziaraki and has been nominated for an Academy Award.  After watching it, just ask yourself, do these people deserve our hostility or should we really have such great fear of themI hope your answer on both questions is a firm NO!  Let’s tell our leaders that we can do more, bear more and be welcoming and brave Americans.