Christmas is still a time when God reveals His Presence, Power, Grace and Mercy — and, though it may not always be apparent, His Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all God’s Children.
In the aftermath of the recent presidential election, and the despair and confusion many Americans feel over the nation’s direction, I awoke in the middle of the night with Martin Luther King’s charge reverberating through my psyche: "With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope."
That stone of hope is what saved our people through slavery, segregation, and the daily challenges of growing up in the complexities of the 20th Century.
A non-violent social movement like Dr. King’s required one to seek the best in one’s adversaries. When we accepted the burden of challenging our perceived oppressors to find the best within each of us, we usually succeeded — much to our surprise.
We were never allowed to be "victims." And, as the Bible taught, with the grace and power of God, we were "more than conquerors."
The success of our Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham was made possible through negotiations with 100 businessmen. In meetings arranged by an Episcopal Bishop, we bypassed the politicians, from segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace to Birmingham Police Chief Bull Conner, and reached an agreement with economic-minded pragmatists.
Thus, we were able to desegregate Birmingham in June 1963 — an entire year before Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
That’s right. We reached consensus on our socio-economic common interest on issues that Congress is still trying to reverse.
Now, seeking light in another dark tunnel, I found myself pondering the controversial nomination of Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation, to be our next Secretary of State. I’ve never met Mr. Tillerson, and can’t speak to the various objections many have to his appointment. But, it reminded suddenly of a chapter from the past.
In the 1960s, Vice President Hubert Humphrey made an historic visit to the Soviet Union to begin the thaw of the Cold War. It is no coincidence that Humphrey was accompanied on that trip by Armand Hammer of Occidental Oil and Dwayne Andreas of Archer Daniels Midland.
Oil executives travel the planet day in and day out, negotiating with people of different cultures — not to mention friendly and unfriendly governments. Their practical experience far surpasses that of most university educated State Department diplomats.
Russia was on the verge of chaos when Humphrey arrived. Among other things, Hammer arranged for ADM to trade soy beans and corn for vodka. Andreas brought a book about Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He gave it to a young agriculture minister named Mikhail Gorbachev. Andreas suggested FDR’s reform had saved capitalism and Russia could not survive with the existing state of communism.
Significantly, Occidental Oil also played a major role in modernizing Russia’s oil industry — which, in turn, continued to help Europe through post World War II recovery.
So, for me, an "Oil Man" as Secretary of State is a "Stone of Hope."
Statecraft has a tendency to be moralistic. Business is more pragmatic, seeking mutual self-interest rather than arguing absolutes of right or wrong.
Merry Christmas, and may the spiritual power and better angels of America continue to prevail.
Andrew Young is a former Atlanta mayor, U.N. Ambassador and a close aide to the late Dr. Martin Luther King.
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