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J. Corley: What Values Should Define Sustainable Growth?

Text of Speech at a UPF Forum at the House of Lords
London, UK, July 6, 2011

Now more than ever, the issue of values becomes a major discussion - some would say it may even be a matter of survival of the human race - since our values underlie our actions. I am reminded of the words of the great British historian Arnold Toynbee, who stated: "I do not believe that civilizations have to die because civilization is not an organism. It is a product of wills." In other words, we have a choice about our own future and, based on our choice, we can have a bright and happy future or we can condemn future generations based on the wrong choices which we make in this generation.

Recently we have watched extraordinary scenes from North Africa and the Middle East where the populations, especially the youth, have risen up to challenge entrenched regimes which for decades have kept them in a state of underdevelopment. The jury is still out as to whether the changes will bring enlightened leaders to the fore or replace one authoritarian system with another.

The question therefore must be asked: Will the new generation of leaders prove to be more honest, more caring, and more effective than their predecessors? What value system will guide their policies? In the final analysis, character and values are the characteristics that are most essential to good leadership.

One of the major concerns of the Universal Peace Federation is how to promote programs that encourage young people in particular with a vision of leadership to build peaceful societies. It is our firm conviction that good leadership requires good character as a foundation, together with well-developed management skills. So often in today’s world, however, management skills and methodologies are emphasized, while the fundamental importance of good character and values are overlooked.

How, then, does one develop the qualities of good character? We at the Universal Peace Federation believe that the family is a “school of love and ethics” and the foundation stone of a peaceful society. The most basic elements of good character are to be found in a loving and supportive family environment.

As a young person grows through life, his or her character is fundamentally shaped by the relationships experienced within the family. A person who as a child receives the unconditional love of parents is more likely to develop into an adult who has a healthy level of trust and respect toward elders. Relating with brothers and sisters teaches a young person invaluable lessons in relating with peers: how to share, and be thoughtful, and have a sense of fair play. In marriage, fidelity and commitment are among the most important qualities needed, whereas in parenting, the ability to love unconditionally is essential. The family experience equips an individual with the values and virtues that form the basis of good social ethics. In other words, a happy and healthy family is the foundation for peace. As Sir Winston Churchill once said: "There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained."

When an individual enters into society with the background of a loving and supportive family, he or she is best equipped to build harmonious relationships, which are essential to success on every level. First of all, a person with a heart of love possesses a healthy degree of self-esteem, which is important when relating to others. Based on his or her experience within the family, the individual is capable of feeling respect for superiors, loving care toward subordinates, and loyalty toward peers. In other words, he or she is well suited to be part of a team or capable of becoming an effective and successful leader.

The sad reality, however, is that many young people in modern society are denied the experience of a loving family, due to the breakdown of a family culture in many countries. It is my contention that if we are to speak about peace and the importance of values, it is also necessary to look at the state of the modern family from which we all come. If we can strengthen the family as the basis of society, I believe we can ensure a more peaceful society and world.

In an effort to promote just such a value system, my colleagues and I have worked for over 15 years in the former Soviet region and the People’s Republic of China.

We have developed programs which help young people to understand their value as well as appreciate the importance of caring for others. We also emphasize the importance of our relationship with the environment. As we promote the concept of “one family under God” we advise students to consider the natural world as a gift from our Creator and seek to leave the world a better place for our descendants. I do believe that if we show, by instruction and example, good sustainable values in every area, our future generations will be the beneficiaries of the decisions we make today.