Last month, London awakened to what visitors were hailing as an intellectual breeze from the West. Intellectuals, influencers, attendees, and journalists descended into the Magazine London Hotel for the three-day-long inaugural Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) Conference.
ARC was originally created (along with others) by former CEO of the pro-Brexit Legatum Institute, Baroness Philippa Stroud, and notable psychologist and political commentator Jordan Peterson.
While the weather outside was cold, the 1,100-1,500 conference attendees were aglow with enthusiasm and energy to talk about building "a better story" for the future of humanity.
The conference opened with a live orchestra performance of the introduction to Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." Soon after, the assembly fell to a silence as Stroud (now serving as CEO of ARC) opened the gathering.
In her speech, Stroud called on attendees to "remember who they are," that each human being "was made in the image and likeness of God," and how that truth was "a pillar of the foundation for Western Civilization."
The question posed in her opening speech, having outlined what she considers the decline of civil society in the U.K., U.S., Australia, and the rest of the West was, "Is there a better story?"
Next came an American: former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who gave a tongue-in-cheek speech about colleague Mike Johnson's recent ascension to the speakership.
"I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it [to the conference], but thanks to eight Republicans and every Democrat congressman, I have some free time," McCarthy quipped, referring to the votes that dethroned him from the speakership.
McCarthy's speech invoked the image and relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher by repeating Reagan's phrase that "the time for shyness is over."
It was then time for Jordan Peterson to deliver the keynote speech for the morning that centered around the mission of ARC and the conference in general.
Peterson has become a bestselling author, free speech activist, and political commentator who initially began his career in academia as a psychologist.
Peterson presented an idea of the future by borrowing the biblical story of Job.
Peterson noted how "Job is the story of each one of us at one point in our lives."
The Book of Job is a book from the Old Testament detailing the life of a pious man who God permits the devil to test by taking all of his worldly possessions to see if he would no longer worship God, and is also known for the quotation, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
He noted how Job was perseverant in the face of challenges, and how "we have the responsibility, not the naivety to face and confront the future.
Peterson said that each attendee "can make the desert blue." Peterson also highlighted how faith and responsibility go hand-in hand with one another in building a life worth living. Evoking Abraham, Peterson outlined how he "had everything that he wanted around him, yet he left because he heard the voice of God telling him to go.
Peterson said he believes that one "fulfills the glowing adventure of life by having responsibility. In being responsible, you can take care of a spouse and together raise a family."
He added that the outpouring effects of taking responsibility and having faith allows us to "tilt the world toward heaven and away from hell."
Peterson parted asking each attendee to "meditate on what you can do communally as well as being captains of your own ships."
Speaker Mike Johnson, originally slated to lead a panel as well as deliver a speech, could not attend in person, and opted to deliver a prerecorded speech (the first public speech of his speakership outside of the Capitol).
Johnson began his speech apologizing for not being there in person, and said that democracy can be messy, but the U.S. House is back to work.
He went on to declare that political division has become so prevalent because "we lack a moral framework." In Johnson's words, the future of American politics and Western democracy is determined when we draw on a rich history of classical liberalism and Judeo-Christian ideas. We need servant leaders. We need a radical shift in governance back toward the citizenry.
While he was not physically present to speak, the new speaker nonetheless received a standing ovation.
The ARC Conference is a step in trying to map out where Western civilization should head, how it should head there, and why it should head there. It will surely not be the last such conference.
Michael Cozzi is a graduate of Catholic University and its law school in Washington D.C., and now studying for his Ph.D. in London.
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