FIFTH MILLENNIUM EVENING AT THE WHITE HOUSE
Remarks by the President, the First Lady,
Professor Natalie Davis and Professor Martin Marty
The East Room
MRS. CLINTON: Good evening. Please be seated, and welcome tothe White House. But also, welcome to the world, as it was seen by people1,000 years ago. They envisioned everything pointing toward the East, forthat is where the Garden of Eden could be found. They saw the holy city ofJerusalem at the very center of the world.
Now, as the map turns, Europe is shown as a large land withwell-known contours. But they picture the unknown -- Africa and Asia --not only as incomplete masses, but plagued with two-headed creatures andvalleys full of devils.
And then there were miscellaneous places it seems they weren'tquite sure what to do with, so they spread them out as islands and stuckthem in the dark sea. Ireland, or as it was called then, Scotia, evenended up off the coast of France somewhere. And of course, the New Worldwas still nowhere to be found.
How we draw our world depends upon how we imagine it. Thinkabout how differently we imagine it today. Tonight's Fifth MillenniumEvening at the White House will explore the meaning of the millennium --both the last one and the one about to arrive. With the calendar recentlyflipping to 1999, there's already been a lot of talk about the millennium,most of it centering on how do we spell it? (Laughter.) How will wecelebrate it? Where will the biggestNew Year's Eve party be? What is a 2YK bug and does it have anything to dowith the apocalypse? And will there be enough champagne to go around?
But tonight we wanted to take a minute and go beyond some ofthese questions and topics to others -- fundamental ones about how we canfind meaning in this time and all time. How did people live 1,000 yearsago? Did they approach that time with fear or optimism? What is ourmillennial thinking today? Do we see the millennium as an end, abeginning, both, or just another day? How do we use this unique milestoneto help us understand our past and prepare for the future, or in the wordsof the Millennium Council theme, to honor the past and imagine the future?
As we answer these questions and pose new ones, we are veryfortunate to have two extraordinary guides, Natalie Zemon Davis and MartinMarty. I want to thank everyone who has helped make this evening possible,especially our sponsors, the National Endowment for the Humanities, theHoward Gilman Foundation, and all of Sun Microsystems, especially JohnLeahy, who are responsible for the technology that is bringing this eventto millions around the world via satellite and the Internet.
Many people are responsible for the wonderful sights and soundsthat are accompanying us on this journey. I want to thank the Library ofCongress for bringing the displays that Ihope you've seen, and if not, I hope you will see out in the Grand Foyer.The White House curators provided the historic clocks that have through theages helped the residents of thishouse keep track of time. I want thank Walter Art Gallery and NASA forproviding the video images that are used in this evenings program. And Iwant to thank Ex Umbris for the musicthat so beautifully set the medieval mood here in the East Room.
And fast forwarding into the future, I want thank the team atPioneer New Media Technology. They provided these plasma screens you seeon both sides of the stage -- the latesttechnology to display high-definition television.
The White House Millennium Lecture is part of an ongoing seriesdesigned to spotlight the words, ideas, scholarship, science, creativityand innovation that tell the story of who we are as Americans, and who wewant to be.
Professor Bernard Bailyn kicked off the series by exploring theorigins and ideals of our Republic. Stephen Hawking uncovered thepossibilities of science in the 21st century. Our poets laureatecelebrated the words that unite and define us. And Wynton Marsalis helpedus hear jazz as an expression of American democracy.
In each case, it seemed that we were hosting the largest numbersof historians, physicists, poets and jazz musicians ever at the WhiteHouse. Tonight we continue that tradition. I think it is safe to say thatwe have, in the East Room, the largest gathering of medievalists andtheologians ever to assemble at the White House. (Laughter.)
These evenings are part of the White House Millennium Programthat the President and I created two years ago. We knew that the turn ofthe century would mean great New Year's Eveparties, and that there would be products like millennium toothpaste orpotato chips. But we thought we had an opportunity not just for acelebration, but a conversation -- about thehistory, culture, art, the values that bind us together and will stay withus into the future.
And so what you're going to do tonight is to honor the past andimagine the future. Because as the Roman playwright Terence said, nothinghuman is alien to me.
If we were transported back in time, that's quite a bit thatwould look familiar to us. You would see university students asking theirparents to send more money; children praying -- not for world peace, butfor school to be canceled; parents desperate to find babysitters for theirchildren; people laughing and loving, living and dying, as they always haveand as we do still today. If we were transported back in time, we'd seesome of our first town planners, property developers and shoemakers whohelped shape the world we inherited. We'd see the contributions of allcultures, all people -- women and men -- whose stories weave together ourpast.
And if we were transported back to the Middle Ages, we'd see avery different way of measuring and accounting for time. There were nobirthdays -- which, as I get older, soundslike a blessing. No one kept trick of how old you were. Time was slower;people traveled by cart, foot, ship. They could spend two whole years on apilgrimage to Jerusalem. And, ofcourse, there were no telephones, e-mail or beepers to interrupt them alongthe way -- something all of us have longed for from time to time -- theability, literally, to stop the clock and look more carefully around;something that we can try to incorporate in our lives today.
Because even as we look at how we count time, we know that ourchallenge is to make time count -- which is not a job for computers orclocks, but, rather, for human beings. Just asthere were those who preached the end of the world at the last millennium,we have no shortage of negative images from popular culture today. Most ofthe movies about the future show aliensdescending from outer space determined to blow up the world, and somehowthey always begin or end with Washington, D.C. (Laughter.)
But just as there were people preaching peace and unity and hope1,000 years ago, we, too, have our opportunity to create a positive imageof our future, so that 1,000 years from now, when scholars are on thisstage, or maybe levitating above it, they will not only shake their headsand wonder how we got anything done with our quaint satellite and Internettechnology, but they'll also relate to us as human beings. They'll talkabout how we paused to mark this moment, and we found a way to preservehope for the future and create a world that was better for our children toinherit.
Just as those who drew the map that you see on the screens, weall have a way of drawing our own maps from day to day, showing our ownlives. And we have two people here who canhelp us better understand how to draw that map. Professor Davis andProfessor Marty were born in the same year -- it must have been a very goodyear for curiosity and scholarship. Both sharea generosity of spirit, a love of family and the traditions that shapethem, and a passion for teaching and living and learning.
When we think of Natalie Zemon Davis we can imagine her with herbookbag riding her bicycle all over campus, whatever campus -- Smith andRadcliffe Colleges, Brown University, UC Berkeley, and for 18 years atPrinceton. Currently she's a visiting scholar at the University ofToronto, where she taught her class this morning before running to theairport.
While her academic specialty is the history of early France, herbroad interests have led her to spotlight the lives of Jews, of women andordinary people whose stories too often go untold. She is perhaps bestknown for her work, "The Return of Martin Gere," and the french film of thesame name that she collaborated on.
Tonight she will bring us back to the year 1000 and once againtell the stories of the diverse cultural and political strands that wovetogether across Europe and created the worldthat we recognize today. It is my great honor to introduce ProfessorNatalie Zemon Davis, who will speak to us about the millennium andhistorical hope.
Professor Davis. (Applause.)
PROFESSOR DAVIS: Thank you, Mrs. Clinton, for your remarks andyour gracious introduction. And thank you both, Mr. President and theFirst Lady, for including me, along with Martin Marty, in this evening ofexploration, of voices of the past, and our hopes for the future.
Listen to the words of a good French abbot, reminiscing in 998about his youth, some 20 years before: "About the end of the world, Iheard someone preaching to the people in ParisChurch that the Antichrist would come in the year 1000, and the LastJudgment would follow soon afterward. I fought this opinion strongly,basing myself on the Gospels."
And hear the voice of another monk, Rudolphus Glauber, on whathe'd seen in the year 1033: "The thousandth year after the Passion of ourLord, after the disastrous famine, the rainstopped, and the heavens began to smile, showing the generosity of theCreator. The land was covered with lovely green and an abundance offruit."
Both these witnesses undermine the false image of WesternChristians all quaking in terror during the year 1000. The millennialprophecy had been put together from Jesus' promise, in Matthew 6, that "theSon of Man shall come again in his kingdom," and apocalyptic visions of theBook of Revelation, that "Satan will be loosened after a thousand years,that his forces of evil will war with the forces of heaven and bedefeated," and that "all those who have not worshiped the Beast will reignwith Christ for a thousand years."
Over the centuries, some Christians had expected the SecondComing any time, while some Christians -- such as the Great Augustan,himself, had insisted that the Book of Revelationwas just an allegory, not a literal prophecy.
As the 10th century came to its close in Western Europe, therewas still the same diversity of view. Many people didn't even know whenthe year 1000 was. For those who did know,which was the significant date? The 1,000th anniversary of Christ's birth,the Incarnation, or of his Passion and crucifixion? And which of the manyscenarios in Revelation would come to pass?
Thus, there was no clear cut apocalyptic movement led by a singleprophet and focused on the single year 1000; but, rather, a millennialspirit spread over several decades. Preached by monks, it touched at onetime or another bishops, nuns, warriors, wives, traders and peasants,inspiring moods that ranged from fear and repentance to initiative and joy.There were signs in the heavens -- a brilliant comet in 1014; eclipses in1023 and 1033, when all the world was bathed in saffron. There were signson Earth -- from 997, the spread of the deadly burning sickness, what wecall ergotism.
In 1004, an immense whale washed up on the Atlantic shore ofFrance -- what could that mean? In 1033, a famine in Burgundy so acutethat people turned to eating human flesh. Andin Jerusalem in 1009, the Holy Sepulcher of Jesus was destroyed at theorder of the Kalif of Cairo; a weeping Christ on a cross was seen in theheavens, when the terrible news reached Limoges.
The monks interpreted these signs as the judgment of God, warningChristians of divine vengeance for their sins. They had much to bepunished for -- destructive wars among the Francsand the Anglos and the Scotts, and clergymen who bought their sacredoffices and even had wives. The faithful responded in repentance. Thewealthy and powerful confessed their sins andgave alms to the church, lands, new church buildings and golden cases forthe precious relics of the saints. People took to the roads on pilgrimageto Rome, to Santiago, to Compostela, and toJerusalem, where the Holy Sepulcher had been rebuilt.
No one had seen such crowds, Rudolphus Glauber wrote ofJerusalem, in the year 1033. First there were people of the lower classes,then the middling sort, then the great -- kings,counts, prelates -- and what had never happened before, many women -- fromthe most noble to the poorest.
Back home in France, Glauber spoke of another novelty in thatwondrous verdant spring of 1033. Joyous crowds lifted their arms to thesky shouting, peace, peace, peace. Glauber wasreferring to the most important result of the millennial decades, the Peaceof God movement, of which more in a moment.
Interestingly enough, and not coincidentally, historians todayview the late 10th and early 11th centuries as a major moment in Europeanhistory, comparable to the decline of the Roman Empire and the IndustrialRevolution. What signs do they see? To start with, the periodic invasionsof the Vikings from the North and the Hungarians from the East, which hadbeengoing on for 150 years, ceased or tapered off around 1000. The Vikingscontinued their adventurous sea voyages, but they stopped seizing EuropeanChristians to sell as slaves and became Christians themselves.Missionaries had success to report as well from Hungary, Sweden, Finlandand Poland. The Christian triune God was displacing the older deities ofEurope.
Also being transformed was the status of men and women who tilledthe soil, the majority of Europe's population. Previously they had beenslaves working on the great estates, orelse free peasants with their own land. Now, increasingly, they had thestatus of serfs, not as personally owned as if they had been slaves, buttied to someone's land and controlled by a lordnonetheless.
Their life expectancy was short. Most of them could not expectto pass the age of 40, if that. But by the early 11th century there aresigns of agricultural improvements that couldeventually support a larger population -- new lands under plow and newcollars for oxen and horses.
At the same time a transformation was underway in the status ofthe land-owning families; that is, the emergence of what we call feudalism.The Emperor Charlemagne's successorsfrom the 9th century on had been unable to sustain their armies and theirjudicial courts during the period of the invasions, and these governmentalpowers were being seized -- we might call itprivatized -- and becoming part of the inheritance of the counts, andespecially of the lesser officials. Land was grabbed as well, and notpeacefully. Every warrior and his men tried to geta slice, and the ensuing violence was spectacular.
A poem about the knights, by a Jewish Rabbi in the Rhineland atthe time, expresses a feeling shared by many Christians: "They have theirfortresses on craggy peaks; they battle with the flashing sword, with goldand silver richly wrought; while we pray to Almighty God, who maketh warsto cease."
Towns and trade persisted, however, in Italy, along theMediterranean and Europe's rivers, the Jewish communities being especiallyactive here. Especially, too, there were importantdevelopments in cultural life. Oral culture, the predominant one, was richin proverbs in the vernacular tongue, folk tales, legends, love songs, andpoems. Warrior families listened tobards singing verses about Charlemagne's day. And up north, sagas of theNorsemen were being composed on subjects ranging from love, trade andexploration, to war.
Christian literature culture was in Latin, the language of theclergy, and it was slowly expanding as more people became enmeshed inreading texts together. The monasteries were thecenters of this life, especially the newer reforming houses like Cluny, towhich Rudolphus Glauber belonged.
Meanwhile, over in Saxony, the Convent of Gandersheim (phonetic)housed the noble nun, Roswitha -- playwright, poet, moralist and historianwho, before she died in 1001, calledherself a "strong voice for women."
This picture suggests to us the "this worldly" challenges for themillennial spirit, and the resources societies had to respond to them. Themillennial response was a double one. Most important was the Peace of God,a movement of clergy and people to limit the violence of the Christianfeudal lords.
Starting in 975, and multiplying in the decades to 1040, largeassemblies were called by bishops all over France, supported by the Monksof Cluny to which the people -- that is,free traders and free peasants, along with the knights -- came in largenumbers. Holy relics were brought as well -- the medieval way ofattracting a big crowd.
The knights present swore on these relics to maintain the peaceand not engage in private violence. After 989, they were threatened withexcommunication if they broke their oath.Here is what the oath sounded like: I will not invade a church under anycircumstance; nor will I invade the wine cellars belonging to a church --(laughter) -- unless an evildoer or murderer has taken refuge there.(Laughter.) I will not seize the cow or the pig of the peasant. I willnot seize the peasant woman or peasant man or the merchant. I will notburn down or demolish houses, unless I discover an enemy knight or a thiefinside. I will not attack noblewomen or their entourage, unless theycommit some misdeed against me. From the beginning of Lent until Easter,I will not attack another knight if he's unarmed. (Laughter.) It goes onfor much longer.
This is the movement that led the people to cry, "peace, peace,peace," to God in 1033. And it had some effect, influencing the policy ofthe French king and the emperor in Germanic lands, and setting somestandards for the behavior of feudal lords. It is an example of humanaction in history, inspired by millennial hopes, but practical in its goal.
The other response of the millennial spirit was not peaceable,but was rather exclusionary and aggressive. A number of new religiousideas emerged in France just after the year 1000, for the first time foundin both popular and learned groups. Often inspired by the spirit ofreform, they criticized just those forms of piety, such as the Eucharistand the cult of the crucifix most associated with clerical power. Themonastic leaders saw these isolated movements as part of a hereticalconspiracy, arousing the wrath of God and sure to lead to no good.
Opposing heresy vigorously was an old tradition of the earlyChurch. What was new was the burning of the heretics, as at Orleans in1022, one of the first formal executions of heretics in the West -- toquote the specialist Richard Landis. It was not to be the last.
The second exclusionary act of the millennial spirit was againstthe Jews. The Jewish communities in France along the Rhine and elsewherewere tolerated by local lords as sources oftrade and tax money and in the hope that they would eventually turnChristian.
Then in the late 10th and early 11th centuries, the Jews wereordered in a number of places to convert or else be expelled or killed onthe spot. Such was Limoges in 1010, when the Jews were accused of incitingthe Muslims to destroy the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
A few accepted baptism; many fled; others killed themselves "tohallow the name of the Lord." These suicides presaged the Jewish martyrsof Vorbst and Mainz on the Rhine, whorefused to convert during the First Crusade, decades later. By then, ifnot before, the Jews had their own end-of-the-world scenario: The fightingbetween the Christians and the Muslims was fulfilling Ezekiel's prophecy ofthe war of Gog and Magog, before the coming of the Messiah. Theirself-sacrifice, like Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac, would hastenthe true Messiah's arrival all the more.
The Christian crusading zeal that crystallized in the effort tocapture the Holy Land from the Muslims also first showed itself in themillennial years after 1000. Rudolphus Glauber rejoiced in how the Frenchwarriors, invoking the help of God and the Virgin, scored victories againstthe Muslim forces in Spain, and sent captured Moors back to the monks forslaves. More important, by the 1040s, the bishops and monks were extendingthe peace of God into a wider Truce of God, prohibiting any warfare on holydays, and even maintaining that "no Christianshould kill another Christian, since whoever kills a Christian surely shedsthe blood of Christ."
In 1095, when the Pope proclaimed the First Crusade, calling theknights of Western Europe to take up the cross in a just war against theinfidels, he was drawing on both the peacemaking and the war-makingpotential of the millennial spirit.
This double potential gives us pause. Did the combination ofinternal peace movements, together with exclusionary and outwardlyaggressive actions, become a long-term characteristic of Christian Europe?It certainly is true of the political religious rhetoric in the 16thcentury, when the papal call to war against the Turks was coupled with theargument that Christian princes should not fight each other. Is thecombination characteristic of any millennial movement?
I want to conclude by putting the millennial spirit of the years990 to 1033 in a wider and longer perspective. Let's remember that WesternChristendom was only one corner of theworld -- its calendar and sacred history only one possibility for orderingtime. The world of Islam then stretched from the Indus River in the Eastto Andalus -- that is, Spain -- in the West.By its calendar, of course, starting from the year the Prophet Mohammedleft Mecca for Medina, 390 was the real date for the Christian 1000.Moreover, the thousand-year interval had no special significance for theMuslims. Rather the Last Judgment might come any time, anticipated by anevil deceiver who would reign for 40 days or 40 years, until he was undoneby the arrival of the Mahdi -- that is, the "rightly guided one"accompanied by Jesus. The Mahdi would bring back the Golden Age as it wasat the time of the Prophet and all the world would convert to Islam.
Meanwhile, faraway in a world unknown to the Christians, thepeople of the Andes were organizing their sacred calendar around thesolstices and the harvests and the coming of age of their young. Forfuture happenings they had no fixed scheme, but simply asked questionsdirectly of their deities, or through divination.
All of these ways of marking time had a long future ahead ofthem. Millennial and apocalyptic movements multiplied over the centuries.During the Protestant Reformation radicalsects, expecting the Second Coming any minute, took over town governments,proclaimed common property and polygamous marriage. There was a similarexcitement during the English civil war under 100 years later, and itreached a peak in the magic year 1666, when a new Jewish messiah declaredhimself in the Holy Land. Unfortunately, the next year he converted toIslam -- (laughter) -- so the movement didn't work out so well.(Laughter.) At least not from the Jewish and Christian point of view.
Of course, there have been many apocalyptic movements since then,often without benefit of Christian and Jewish prophecies about the end ofthe world, or without a highly charged date. They have taken place in allparts of the world, and at both ends of the political spectrum.
I often ask myself whether, despite the danger and sufferingposed by the violence, zeal and totalism of apocalyptic movements, we wouldwant a human history deprived of millennialvision. Our dream-making capacity, our capacity to imagine, can give birthto the good as well as to the bad.
Over the centuries, "this worldly" peace movements with morelimited goals have made their mark. During the religious wars in 16thcentury France, peasants of both religions finallyjoined forces to prevent any soldier, Protestant or Catholic, from crossingtheir fields and destroying their crops. In our own time, among manyexamples, think of the peacemaking role of some Catholic and Protestantwomen in Ireland, of some Israeli and Palestinian women in the Holy Land,and of worldwide peace efforts in regard to nuclear weapons.
History reminds us that, no matter how static the present looks,change can take place; things can be different. History reminds us that,no matter how bleak and constrained asituation, human initiative is put into play in opposition, improvisation,and transformation. The end results are not always what was wanted, aresometimes quite unexpected, but they then inspire new effort. No matterwhat happens, people try to do something about it, and tell stories aboutit and bequeath them to the future. The past urges us toward newcommitment and also offers us a source of hope.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you so much, Professor Davis, for bringingthe last millennium a little closer in time to all of us, for in yourdescriptions we hear our own fears and hopes thatwhat we do will matter not only today, but also tomorrow.
That is certainly a hope that our next speaker, Martin Marty, hasalways shared. Everyone knows him as Marty, but they also know him as aLutheran minister, a widely published autha speaker, a host, along with his wife, Harriet, of musicales, and ascholar who has been called the "foremost interpreter of American religiontoday."
For 35 years he has brought all of this and more to theUniversity of Chicago Divinity School, where he directs their publicreligion project. And I am delighted that the DivinitySchool has created a new Martin Marty Center to carry on his tradition bylooking at the role of religion in our life and culture.
Over 20 years ago, the editors of 26 religious magazines votedMartin Marty and Billy Graham as the two people who have the most influenceon religion in American life. And asyou saw in the video earlier, just last year the President awarded Martythe National Medal for the Humanities. What the President and I have beenprivileged to learn over the years, andwhat you will hear firsthand, is that all of this knowledge and scholarshipis delivered with insight and a sense of humor and adventure.
When asked how he would like to be remembered his answer wassimple: that I was a good teacher. Tonight we're privileged to have himhere in the White House as a good teacher.
Thank you, Martin Marty. (Applause.)
PROFESSOR MARTY: "The people I respect," wrote E.M. Forester,"must behave as if they were immortal and if society were eternal. Bothassumptions are false. Both of them must be accepted as true if we are tokeep open a few breathing holes for the human spirit."
I want to thank you, Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, the NationalEndowment for the Humanities, for inviting me to join you in thisparticular reflection of the human spirit.
In the seasons ahead we will celebrate, or mark, the end of theyear, the end of the decade, the end of the century, the end of themillennium. And all of those ends combined to thinking about our ownpersonal ends force on us the question of the meaning: the meaning of themillennium. Or, the meanings of the millennium.
The millennium in my words will refer to the thousand years past,the thousand years ahead, and this turning-point moment between them. WhenI use the word, "millennial thinking," I am going to refer to the wayspeople have visions of life ahead -- either in hope or despair. Theyforesee a new world in which either they will play a positive part; ordisaster -- perhaps even the abrupt end of everything they know.
Thinking about the end bears on how we think about time and itsuses. They tell of an astrophysicist who once lectured about the future,in which our sun will scorch our Earth. Alistener hurried to the podium and asked her, "What did I hear you say?Will it all end in five million years or five billion years?" Sheanswered, "five billion." "Whew," he sighed, "for aminute I thought you'd said five million." (Laughter.)
As we smile knowingly at such exchanges, we can still identifywith the fact that, whether we have five years or five decades ahead, wetend to measure the value of our doings in thelight of the end. Citizens differ, of course, when measuring thesemillennial themes. From the word go, we disagree on whether the impendingcalendar change is any big deal at all; whether the millennial turn comesin 2000 or 2001; whether the non-Christian world should continue measuringyears from the birth of Christ; whether the millennial observance is anon-event, a pseudo-event, a commercial con game, a product of hype , or anevent offering creative opportunity, which is what the White House iscommitting us to -- (laughter) -- whethermillennial thinking is necessarily religious, or whether there could besimply secular perspectives. And whether to greet the futureoptimistically or pessimistically.
Selling those disagreements is not our business this evening.The world is observing something on millennial lines these years. And ourtask is to glimpse a nation as it pondersmeanings in focused ways. That people do or should seek meaning is thethesis that usually inspires long, philosophical inquiries. I'm only goingto cite four heavy-hitters of the passing modern age.
Albert Camus, judging whether life is or is not worth livingamounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. I, therefore,conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.Theologian Emil Brunner: Since humans cannot help seeking the infinite,they now seek the meaning of their lives also in an infinity of things.John Paul Sarte called us, "stalkers of meaning." Dostoyevsky: The secretof a human's being is not only to live, but to have something to live for.
According to measurements of American life, over four-fifths ofus will do this thinking about meaning and end at millennial time two inresponse to biblical themes. They reasonfor the end with Psalm 90, "so teach us to number our days that we mayapply our hearts unto wisdom."
Of course, not all citizens agree on who God is, or on whatteaching means, applying means, or wisdom could mean. So there aredenominations and there are viewpoints in American life that describe ourconflicts of religion, gender, race, ethnicity, income level, way of life,aesthetic taste and the accidents of existence. But still, as individuals,in groups and as a nation, we will be seeking meaning with new intensity atthis time.
My long-time colleague, David Tracy, here tonight, has taught thepublic and me to think of three awarenesses that shadow all human life.Before we express faith and hope and love, we are conscious of finitude,contingency and transience. That means we all know that we and all wecherish will die; that we will all be subject to accidents of history; andwe will pass, eventually, without a trace.
But this consciousness does not lead to doom and gloom, at leastnot for everyone. We stand between pessimism and optimism, never in simpleforms. One of my teachers urged, inlooking ahead, "we do not know enough about the future to be absolutelypessimistic." (Laughter.) And when I am a little too optimistic abouthuman nature, including my own, I look at the words of Pogo on all three ofmy study walls. A reason to temper hopes with realism, Pogo says, "We havefaults we've hardly used yet." (Laughter.) Still, there abide faith, loveand hope.
Turning the pages on the millennial calendar will make moreurgent a question that people implicitly ask. Notre Dame's Father JohnDunn phrased it and applied it to kingdoms, ornations, and individuals: "If I must someday die," he asks, "what can I doto satisfy my desire to live?"
The natural way to begin answering that at millennial times twois to think of individual end, future, and death. Last April, theMetropolitan Opera presented Leos Janacek's "TheMacropolis Case." The Atlantic Magazine condensed the story of itsenigmatic, egomaniacal diva with a past: "Despite her ravishing voice andlooks, she's 337 years old. But time isrunning out on her at last. Without another dose of the elixir she drankthree centuries ago, she will soon have warbled her last. The operarevolves around her attempt to recapture theformula, and her realization that immortality is no blessing, but whatmakes life worth living is the prospect of death."
As she sang and I heard her I couldn't help but notice her namein the superscripts -- in this generation her name is the feminine of myown father's, Emilia Marty, singing: "Dying or living, it's all one, it'sthe same thing. For you, everything has sense, fools, you are so luckybecause of the idiotic chance that you die so soon you believe in humanity,achievement, love. There is nothing more you could want."
We render that thinking about the end of the plural at millennialtimes. Millennial thinking is defined by Hillel Schwartz as "the beliefthat the end of this world is at hand and that in its wake will appear anew world, inexhaustibly fertile, harmonious, sanctified and just." "Themore exclusive the concern with the end itself," he write, "the more suchbelief shades off toward the catastrophic. The more exclusive the concernwith the new world the nearer it approaches utopian."
We citizens jumble together religious and non-religiousmillennial concerns. To observe this muddle of meanings, just check, as Idid, on the Internet -- I pushed buttons "end" and"meaning." "End" turned up 4,227 items on one book sellers list alone.The very first one was "First and Second Thessalonians living in the endtime." And the 4,226 titles that followed thisone web and blur religious end of the world themes with secular end of thenation, end of history themes.
Push the "millennial" button for 855 items. Again, the same kindof jumble: "Best Practices in Manufacturing for the New Millennium,"(Laughter.) "Angels, Demons and Gods of the New Millennium." And not toofar down, "A Basic Guide to Making Sense of the Millennium."
Book sellers cater to our hungers. In our case it's often areligious market. Already, 14 years ago the Gallup Poll found that whilemost Americans may not have been explicit millennialists -- yet 62 percenthad, they said, "no doubts that Jesus will come on Earth again to bring anend and some kind of new beginning."
Scholars call at least a score of millions among thempre-millennialists. That "pre" means that their world views include hopethat Jesus will return after the signs of the times in our evil days.Following bloody devastation in a battle against Antichrist that may take 2billions of lives, some of them say, at Armageddon in Israel, Christ'sthousand-year reign on Earth will begin and will favor them.
Most citizens are not literalists. But millennial images andwords do pervade all of American history. You carry a reminder in yourwallet. The dollar bill displays the great sealof the United States. It shows an eye within a triangle, recalling athree-age unfolding of history. The words on it reflect the millennialtheme of a novus ordo seculorum, a new order of ages -- and a decisivelyunfinished pyramid, signaling also the work ahead in a new era, suggestinghope for the result of that work.
Millennial thinking runs through history of our hemisphere, long,I suppose, before Columbus came, but from Columbus through the Puritans toour literary greats. And their ways and words have been creative. AbrahamLincoln asked Americans, as God's "almost" chosen people, to sacrifice evenlife for the holy causes of this nation as the last best hope of Earth.Such thinking inspired the humane missions of America, the recall of whichkeeps us patriots, and it also licensed aggressive missions that put otherpeoples down.
Citizens have used millennial thinking to promote the generalwelfare through progressive movements and social gospels. They have alsorisked sounding arrogantly righteous, and toooften they were.
The best case study we American historians agree on is inspiredby promise that highlights the spirituals, gospel and soul music, or thesermons and popular expressions of the AfricanAmerican believing community. Their members were not, and most are not,apocalyptic doom singers -- though in slavery and under oppression they hada right to be. Instead, they adoptedbiblical language with a millennial and futurist cast, marked by the wordvision, accompanied by dreams, hope, action.
Listen to Julia Ward Howe's the Battle Hymn of the Republic,which uses explicit millennial and apocalyptic language from the Book ofRevelation. "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. Hehath loosed the fateful lightening of his terrible swift sword. He issifting out the hearts of men before his judgment seat, while God ismarching on."
Americans have needed more the Lincoln tradition to recognize thelimits within all this, of all human, all national action. Unrestrainedmillennial thinking is deadly, as the terrifying global moments of ourcentury have demonstrated. Adolph Hitler used different millennialarithmetic, but spoke of a thousand-year reich. Communism -- Sovietcommunism -- spoke ofhistory in four inevitable stages, with their utopianism. In both cases,and always, along the way there flowed rivers of ink, and then of blood.
Most Americans who believe in explicit, if competing, forms ofmillennium, do not use force to realize them. They would like everyone tobe attracted or subject to their view ofends and outcomes. Fortunately -- I'm a pluralist -- no single one of themis likely to prevail.
Founder James Madison, who foresaw the security for freedom inthe Republic reposing in the multiplicity of interests, and themultiplicity of sects, would have a field day among the competingmillennialisms of our day, which I am now, for time reasons, going toreduce to four clusters.
The meaning of the millennium -- two of them are religious, twosecular. Two are apocalyptic, as Professor Davis has described apocalypsecatastrophic events between the ages;two are progressive and gradual.
Religious apocalypticism, or catastrophism, usually appears inAmerica in the forms we pointed to as pre-millennialist. Its advocateswill include the most visible and fervent futurists among us, and they willcomplain to you, as the year goes on, that they are also the most deridedby those who do not share their world view. Their pre-millennialdocudramas portray a cosmic battle between God and the forces of evil,between Christ and Antichrist. They disagree amongthemselves on many finer points, especially about the timing of events.
And even some of their own scholars, I'm happy to say, to helpthem to keep a sense of humor, or to cause others to take their doomsayingswith perspective, point to some innercontradictions, which we all have. Thus their institutional leaders mayoften announce the immediate return of Jesus, and the end of the world aswe know it, and then ask for donor funds in the form of annuities to assurethat their end-time messages will be preached for generations to come.Others will take believers on tours to Jerusalem, the site of Jesus'expected return, andsell tickets marked "Round trip -- if needed." (Laughter.)
But rather than end with those smiles which come so easily, thosewho reject their world view, I think, will put the millennial turningseasons to better use, if they at least respect the seriousness of thissearch. They might inquire why, for millions of Americans, this searchtakes the extravagant forms it does; then probe for alternative ways tothink seriously about ends, meanings and resolves, apart from that literalthousand-year rule.
Meanwhile, we must add, we need also remain alert to thesometimes dangerous forms of apocalyptic thinking. We've seen this inpara-Christian versions like the Branch Davidians inWaco; non-Christian forms like Heaven's Gate; and non-Western eruptionslike Aum Shinrikyo in Japan.
Secular apocalypticism appears in extreme doom-filled versions ofthe end, begin with prophecies best known about the potential computerfoul-up Y2K -- you all know its other nickname is the millennial bug in2000. Among the urgent efforts to prevent nuclear or other forms ofmilitary or terrorist mass destruction, or to prevent ecological disastersthat await anuncaring globe, some reach for extremes of apocalyptic despair whichdiverts others from seeking those peaceful life-supporting, hope-filledalternatives for our globe.
The third cluster -- religion without apocalypse, but millenniumor future -- displays believers who foresee futures and ends withoutliteral versions of inevitable catastrophe.They make up the majority of the best represented faiths in America. Thesefaiths include the prophetic three -- you could here anticipations here ofIslam, in Judaism, in America with thevast majority of Christians.
Tomorrow the President will be visiting the Pope, who is in thishemisphere celebrating, thinking about millennium, referring to it in everyspeech. As for the ordinary faithful, each week around the world a billionChristians, Catholic and others, recite creeds that end with faith thatJesus will come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead.
At their sacrament millions of Americans, I among them, weeklyacclaim something like "Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will comeagain." The millennial turn won't lead them to them to literalism, but itwill cause them to reflect anew on what they mean by all this, and onehopes impel them into works of justice and mercy.
Few believers who sincerely profess this faith expect thatdocudrama in which heavens literally open, clouds literally part, trumpetsliterally blow, saints are literally lifted upbefore Jesus begins a literal thousand-year reign. They draw on otherscriptural motifs, like their own personal resurrection or what the ApostlePaul called the groaning of the whole creationthat awaits renewal and then look for their place in it.
And, finally, there's secular non-catastrophic, non-apocalypticmillennialist and futurist thinking. It concentrates on notions ofstewardship of the Earth. Its adherents also number their days. Many ofthem will heed themes like those of the Nobel Prize-winning poet CzeslawMilosz, who wisely told Europeans that the failure of Marx's vision hascreated the needfor another vision, not for rejection of all visions. Or those of ourMartin Luther King, Jr., who projected dreams and visions for this troubledand divided nation.
No single version of these meanings of the millennial I've saidwill prevail, but the energies put into the best of them can counter thecynicism that may be a greater danger thancatastrophism; that can challenge the apathy that's more unnerving thanprophecy. Beyond today's culture wars, polarizing, identity politics,demonization of the other and self-centered searches, there are new reasonsto address the dreams and hope of deliciously diverse elements of humanity.There will be new impulses for Americans to seek some common stories, morecommon ground, much common sense.
For civic purposes, whether citizens are literalists or not,religious our not, matters less than whether they make good use of theseseasons of attention to the end and new beginnings.Instead of ending in pessimism or optimism, they might search for meaningwith what I call realistic hope. Hope does not let itself be utterlyrestrained by realistic assessments. Deathcamp psychiatrist Victor Frankel noticed and announced that someconcentration camp victims, even on the day they knew realistically to betheir end, shared their last bread and fresh hope. Thus they proved, hesaid, that "the last of all freedoms, the one no one can take away, is theone that lets you choose your attitude in any circumstances."
Realism is mixed with hope in my closing word, a quotation fromReinhold Neibuhr -- a Christian, but one who spoke also to and for others,who put the meaning and the search intothis context. He said, "Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in ourlifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true, orbeautiful, or good, makes complete sense in any immediate context ofhistory; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, howevervirtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love.No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend orfoe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by thefinal form of love, which is forgiveness."
Such belief, for many of us, demonstrates reasoning that goesbeyond our own end, as well as creative reasoning about the end. Suchfaith can help citizens find meaning for the millennium, even if we cannotclaim we have found the determinative and decisive meaning of themillennium.
Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I would like to take aboutthe last four sentences of Professor Marty's talk and emblazon it in theconsciousness of every human being on the face of the Earth.
This is a wonderful night. I'd like to begin by thanking theFirst Lady for leading our Millennium Project and by bringing these tworemarkable people here. (Applause.) And also-- I'm terribly impressed with both of them; they took about 40 minutes, bymy count, and did the last thousand years and the entire future.(Laughter.) Took me an hour and 17 minutes theother night to talk about one year. (Laughter.)
I also want to express my gratitude to both of you for not makingfun of those of us who insist on ignoring the Gregorian calendar andproclaiming the millennium next New Year'sEve at midnight. (Laughter.)
I thought Professor Davis did a great service to all of us whoare less well-read in what happened 1000 years ago by debunking some of thepopular myths. Clearly, not everyone wasgiving away all their possessions or cowering in churches waiting for theworld to end. Maybe what was said tonight will discourage some of ourfellow citizens who seem determined to buydesert land and hoard gold, bullets, and skoal in their pickup trucks.(Laughter). I don't know. You laugh, this is a major source ofconversation every morning in the White House, here.
I also thank her for reminding us about the bold voyages ofdiscovery, the important advances in human knowledge. I thank her forreminding us that people were -- and I quote whatshe said -- "enmeshed in reading texts together." Who would have thoughtabout book clubs 1000 years ago.
I thank her for telling us about the medieval Peace of Godmovement, which has a millennial connection to us in what has been going onin Northern Ireland, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa. I thank her,too, for reminding us that ordinary people, even a long time ago, can makea difference to a good end.
I thank Professor Marty for his fundamental insights, forreminding us to be both hopeful and humble. He asked all these questions.I enjoyed Professor Hawking being here and trying to deal with all thesequestions of time -- how we measure time; why do we care so much about themillennium, or a century, or a year, or our birthday's and anniversariesfor that matter. We have to have some way of organizing our thoughts andour plans against the mysteries of time and timelessness. We have to findsome way of explaining our poor efforts to fulfill our owndestinies and to live out our small piece of God's design.
Most of us, sooner or later, come to the conclusion that lifereally is a journey, not a destination, until the end. But we all stillneed a few benchmarks along the way to getthere.
I thank them both for ending on a note of hope and forrecognizing that you cannot have hope without faith -- for believers, faithin God -- and in the end you cannot practice hope without charity or love.
One of the dilemmas I constantly confront as President is thenecessity of believing in the idea of progress, with the certainty of man'sand woman's constant demonstration of makingthe same old mistakes over and over again, millennium after millennium, innew and different guises; and the certainty that perfection cannot beachieved in this life.
I think there is a way to reconcile the idea of progress with thefrailty of humanity. I think that you can make a case that, on balance,the world is a better place today than it was a thousand years ago forpeople who have had a chance to drink fully of life's possibilities. Ithink you can make a case that we are obliged, all of us as human beings,to try to extend that opportunity to more and more of our fellow citizenson this small planet. And Mr. Goldin's successors in interests will betaking us into outer space to see if we can find some others, somewhereelse, to worry about a thousand years from now.
We thank Professors Davis and Marty for giving us a chance tomake some sense of the millennium, and for reminding us, in the end, thatthe only meaning it will have is the meaningwe give it, and our own lives.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Now, I'd like to ask Ellen Lovell to take over the floor and turnover the floor to all of you and to the thousands who are joining us,thanks to technology, for some questions.
MS. LOVELL: Thank you so much, Mr. President. (Applause.) As Ilistened to Mrs. Clinton and Professor Davis, I couldn't help wondering,what if one of us went back a thousandyears? What would seem utterly strange to us? What would seem familiar?And we have another medievalist with us, Professor Joanne Moran Cruz(phonetic), chair of the History Department at Georgetown University. And,Professor Cruz, if you would stand and take the microphone and justelaborate, briefly, on our medieval inheritance. And I know you have aquestion, too.
PROFESSOR CRUZ: Thank you. President Clinton, Mrs. Clinton,Professors Davis and Marty, I'm honored to be here. My question relatesmore to the medieval than to the apocalypticsphere. And my question relates to the fact that most people in thisculture do not understand that the foundations of this culture really areimbedded in the Christian, the Judaic and in the Islamic world of 500 yearsand more ago.
I think they don't understand -- and those of us who teach, workat enhancing that understanding -- the extent to which our institutions,the universities, the colleges, publiclibraries, parliaments, laws, the jury system; our scientific achievementsin optics, in mathematics; our economic institutions in banking; ourculture; our literature, Chaucer and Dante -- one of my favorites,Christine dePezone, (phonetic) who was the first woman to earn a livingfrom writing alone in the French court in 1400 -- all of these achievementsin many other areas -- and I've listed some of them -- I forgot mechanicalclocks, which I shouldn't have forgotten, since we've got mechanical clockmanuscripts out there -- mechanical clocks and compasses, etcetera.
So to get to my question, what is it, then, that -- or why shouldthis culture, why should we focus on the past? Why is it important, or isit, indeed, important, for us to go back to the past and recognize theaccomplishments of people who have done these things in the past?
And a future question: Will people more than 500 years from nowgo back and think about our accomplishments and recognize ouraccomplishments? Thank you.
PROFESSOR DAVIS: Professor Cruz, thank you for your question andyour description of the many features of our 20th century life that develop-- some going back to the year 1000 and some to the year 1500.
I think there are several reasons to study -- to be interested inthe past, in addition to what it's contributed to us. One is partly thefascination of in human life, of different ways the people have lived,including ways that might not contribute to us.
Martin Marty spoke of the loss of memory -- that we're here abrief time and forgotten. And I think one of the things that's sowonderful about studying the past is that we canrecapture that; that we can give a story to those, both those who might becelebrated because they're kings and queens and great bishops and monks,and those who are simple peasants. And Ithink that's a moving connection. It gives us a sense of contract with thepast, which is something else from benefitting from its contributions,which is a double kind of gratitude -- agratitude that they've given us things and that they've lived andbequeathed to us their stories.
And I feel the same way about the future, if I can move intoMartin Marty's area, that we make a kind of promise to the future to tellthem the best stories that we can.
The other thing I think is important is to recognize the verygreat range in ways that people have lived. I think that is something thatgives us both ability to understand other cultures better in our own time-- we don't have to agree with these different ways, but I think it givesus a deeper appreciation of the potential in human experience.
And, thirdly, I think it helps us address the question that thePresident raised about how we think about progress. Because it does bothgive us a sense of humility -- I mean, there is violence, we just have it,we have it and we have it. On the other hand, there are features of humanlife that have changed. I think among them would be the experience of an11th centurymother or a 16th century mother and her husband, of losing, of finding itvery difficult to get pregnant at all -- very, very hard -- and to carry achild to birth. And then losing half ofthe children one did bring into life by the time they were five.
Now, there are issues in human education, in raising children andso forth. But the fact that that constant working of the woman's body, andthe constant suffering of fathers andmothers -- and the loss of children, the constant hoping that a child wouldsurvive -- I think that we are better placed in regard to that. So thatstory would be one, that I think that weshould know about today.
PROFESSOR MARTY: I won't say much about future, it's basicallyher question and we historians have nothing to say about the future. Assoon as something happens, we tell you whyit had to happen that way. (Laughter.) Who is it who said, "I've seen thefuture and it's very much like the present, only longer"? (Laughter.) Butthat's my key to how I would respondto your question.
Back in the '60s, many of the movements thought they could moveinto the future by rejecting the past. And one great teacher said to them,Greece, Rome, Africa, Asia -- didn't makeany difference; Jewish, Christian -- you want to trash the tradition -- hesaid, "You may not possess the tradition, but the tradition possesses you."That is, every word we use tonight,every tone, the building we're in, everything about it bears something tous. And I have a hard time naming any movement since the '60s which is notfundamentally a telling of the story,a re-telling of the story.
At our Divinity School, there are more women students -- some men-- writing on Mesthilde of Magdeburg, and Hildegard of Bingen, and Julianneof Norwich than about any modern woman. They're not antiquarian; they'redoing that in order to piece together a self for a kind of a future. TheAfrican Americans -- it was a story that maybe some of them knew, butcertainly we've learned more in the last 30 years, and I think it enrichesour humanity -- a plug for the humanities -- that's what the humanities areabout.
MS. LOVELL: Thank you so much. We're going to change locationcompletely now and go to the Internet. We have a question from the Saksika(phonetic) Nation, Mrs. Clinton, andthe Internet also tells us that they're Blackfoot people from NorthernMontana and Southern Alberta.
MRS. CLINTON: This is from Walking Eagle, the Saksika (phonetic)Nation, and it's for Professor Martin Marty. For Christians the turn ofmillennium has a historical baseline. Isthere an equivalent event horizon for the people of the Americas firstnations? Is the millennium significant to them?
PROFESSOR MARTY: There have been many millennial movements inthe first nations, the Ghost Dance one of the best known of them. It'salways very hard to sort these out. WeAmericans mix things, but -- and the first nations and those who came latermix up our stories, too, so it's very hard to get a pure form story thatisn't touched by Christian millennialism, aswas Voivoka and the Ghost Dance movement. But again, the more stories wehear from all the peoples -- I had studied Lakota Sioux most of all -- theydon't usually put it in terms ofmillennia, it's more the old sages of the tribe, the elders. It goes bygenerations instead of millennia. Still, there is an investment of meaningwhich end and time gives us.
And when you think of the most horrible moments of that history,Wounded Knee and so on, what every movement has to do is cope with whatthat end meant for the sake of new beginnings, it's very hard to be hopefulabout some of these circumstances. We once left a Lakota place, my wifeand I -- ask everybody who was there, there are so many problems. It's thepoorest county in the United States, Rosebud Reservation, and medical careis hard to come by, employment is hard to come by, nothing to grow, nothingunder it. Is there much hope? I don't know if there is much hope. Why doyou stay? They are such beautiful people. And I think by telling thestory, they keep that going. And I think that when hope comes, it comes onthose terms.
MS. LOVELL: Let's stay with the Internet again, here. This isfrom Alicia Lynch, in Bowie, Maryland, and it's for Professor Davis: Inyour remarks, you mentioned Latin texts, butin the year 1000, how many people could actually read and write Latin orany other language?
PROFESSOR DAVIS: A very small percentage, indeed. We'rethinking of the clergy, the monks, the nuns, the bishops, most priests.That's a very small percentage of the population.
We should remember, however, that the liturgy is said in Latin,so that as an oral language, at least the Credo and the basic prayers wouldbe sounds that people would know. I think weshould also remember -- there is some vernacular French written. You havesome vernacular French texts -- and in German as well. The sagas are notreally written down in the Norwegian languages until the 12th century. Butwe are beginning to have the vernacular languages written down.
But, lest the woman who is asking the question think that it's animpoverished culture because of that, I want to stress again how rich andcomplex the oral culture is, and howthere is a fluid boundary between the learned world and the world rightnext to it. People read stories aloud; they read texts aloud; they readprayers aloud. They move back and forth betweenthe two worlds.
MS. LOVELL: Good. Professor Davis, you mentioned in your speechthe "noble nun Roswitha"? And you raised an intriguing question aboutwomen's roles in a millennium ago. And tonight, we have a National HistoryDay Teacher of the Year, Cynthia Mastoller, (phonetic) and she's here withfive History Day students -- I think you can recognize -- from differentD.C.schools, and I know one has a question.
Q Good evening, Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, Professors Davisand Marty. I know that, as a teenage girl in 1999, I know that the role ofwomen is probably a lot more significant than it was around the year 1000.And I also know that my average day is spent using the technologies thatare now available to us, like telephones, televisions and computers. Butmy question is, what was the average day like for a young woman around myage, around the year 1000?
PROFESSOR DAVIS: She would not go to school unless she was ayoung nun -- and where she might get very good education, but here againthat's a minority. She would, if she'd made it to the age of high school,she would be working with her mother all day long at a farm, helping herwith the animals, helping with the garden, helping with the sheep; maybehaving to take care of the younger children in the family. If she werewell-born she would be, in the course of studying, probably in a nunnery.Maybe she'd have a private tutor, she might learn Latin. This is, again, aminority.
The particular group I like to think about is a middling groupwhose language might be the vernacular French of the time or the vernacularGerman of the time, whose mother might be a woman troubadour, because therewere women bards, teaching her daughter not only maybe healing techniques,but how to sing love songs or the songs of the warriors. And I think if Itry to imagine what kind of young woman I might want to be, I think I'dchoose the lady bard. (Laughter.)
PROFESSOR MARTY: You are one. (Laughter.)
PROFESSOR DAVIS: We just remake ourselves in the historicalpast.
MS. LOVELL: Now, you mentioned, Professor Marty, that tomorrowthe President and Mrs. Clinton will be with the Pope. And tonight we'refortunate enough to have David Tracy here, from the University of ChicagoDivinity School. So Father Tracy, would you tell us what the millenniummeans to Catholics around the world?
FATHER TRACY: President and Mrs. Clinton, Professors Davis andMarty. I was so taken by the talks this evening and the event itself thatit did make me think of what I findstriking in the Catholic instance about the Pope's request and pleas withhis fellow Catholics for the millennium. It might be worth noting thatthese two years before the millennium we havebeen requested to do repentance -- both personal repentance; but also,which is most unusual in history, I think, corporate repentance of theCatholic Church in relationship to other Christian churches and especially,of course, to the Jewish people throughout the centuries.
It seems to me an entirely fitting idea that he has tried toproclaim almost a universal Yom Kippur or Day of Repentance, for not justall of us as individuals, but as corporate bodies -- as President Clintonhelped us to reflect some years ago on slavery, or this evening on WoundedKnee and other such things for our corporate body.
The second thing he did that I think is both significant andinteresting is he returned to our Jewish roots and spoke of the need nextyear, after the two years preparation of repentance, for forgiveness --again both individual and corporate -- and tried to incorporate the ancientJewishtradition in the Hebrew Bible -- for Christians, the Old Testament -- ofthe Year of Jubilee -- so that on Christmas Eve when the Door of Jubilee isopened at St. Peter's, which it is only every 50 years and this would bethe Great Jubilee year -- there will be a call for jubilee and forgivenessof others, as well as asking the nations in his latest talk that the richnations, as in ancient Israel, rich people might find ways to forgive someof the debts of the poor nations.
I think these notes of repentance and forgiveness I have at leastfound very moving and helpful. They join, of course, with all Christianbodies, and as both of you have made clear, with all persons in a sensereally of hope and of solidarity -- that as Mrs. Clinton said, we live inthis unique moment of the millennium and each of us in our brief lives, oreach of us in whatever body we -- or bodies, more likely -- we belong to,corporate bodies, find occasions for such hope and such solidarity.
And I would like to ask Professor Marty especially -- I agree heknows more about American religion than any living person -- if there is amove among Christian bodies and otherreligious bodies to try to have some joint celebration, religiouscelebration of this. There have been many reports that the Pope was hopingto join other religious leaders in Jerusalem and onMount Sinai for such a declaration of human solidarity and human hope. AndI wonder if you know more than I do about that?
PROFESSOR MARTY: On the world scene much has already gone on.And the World Council of Churches, which just met in Zimbabwe, have madethat one of its themes along the way. In the United States, I noticed intoday's paper -- an item that nine Protestant bodies are moving close toeach other, as they always have been doing and always will be doing --(laughter) -- Zeno's Paradox, the rabbit that keeps chasing the turtle andalways halves the distance and never quite gets there might be a paradigmfor what's going on here.
I would rather say that there are kinds of action -- they're alltalking millennium. I'm an ELC Lutheran; we've already gotten someliturgies with it, and a proclamation written by my brother-in-law for thebishop. So millennialism creeps all over the place.
I think the boundaries are now so low between them that it willnot be hard to make formal movements out of it. But there's no singlemillennial theme, as you could have it, with the Pope. I think the Pope'sown -- his own age, his own thinking about his end, his own striving tobring the Church into the new millennium -- in some ways keeps him vigorousand going, against all odds. And I don't think most individuals have thatkind of impulse to match.
MS. LOVELL: Thank you and, before we leave Father Tracy, I justwanted to say how pleased we are to have your mother back at the WhiteHouse for the first time in 80 years.
PROFESSOR MARTY: Eileen or David, for the President and FirstLady's sake, would you say who was President the last time you visited theWhite House?
MRS. TRACY: Woodrow Wilson.
PROFESSOR MARTY: Woodrow Wilson. (Applause.)
MRS. CLINTON: This next question is from Catherine Little, inSalt Lake City, and it's for Professor Marty: Millennial movements haverecurred throughout American history. Do you see major differences todayin the way Americans express their millennial hopes and fears?
PROFESSOR MARTY: From 1607, when Anglo-Americans came -- bearingthat part of the tradition you were describing -- until about the 1870s or80s, almost all millennial thinking was progressive-optimistic. JonathanEdwards, the greatest of the revivalists, always would say, "All that isadding up to God's greater glory will begin not in the East, but in theWest." Thatwas kind of an arrogant arrogation.
And many of the movements -- anti-slavery, abolition, temperance-- and these were all millennial movements, they make no sense apart fromthat. A great change came in the 1870s or'80s and the sudden changes in the culture and another strand of Englishthought, British thought, worked its way here through people like theEvangelist Dwight Moody, which switched -- that'swhere the pre-millennialism began to come in and it took on the morecatastrophic or the negative tone. These two vie with each other all thetime.
To me, one of the most interesting things, though, is that manyof the people who, as pre-millennialists, used to have nothing but amessage of doom and sudden end have now said -- youhave to say that they've always been wrong when they set a date; we'restill here. And there are many biblical passages that say that we shouldoccupy until Christ comes. And I think there's agood deal of motion -- numbers of people in the younger Evangelicalmovements -- I don't mean young people, but more movements are trying totake that energy and turn it around into-- very suddenly, after resisting the ecological environmental movements asbeing pagan and heathen and New Age -- very suddenly they're taking themup. And I think there will be a lot ofenergy in that. And that has a millennial cast, too.
MS. LOVELL: Thank you so much, Professor Marty. I know that wehave a theologian here who has a question for our theologian. So I want torecognize Reverend Hicks from theMetropolitan Baptist Church.
REVEREND HICKS: President and Mrs. Clinton, Dr. Davis, Dr.Marty. As church persons and theologians, we are by nature, I fear,inclined to resolve our sticky issues by resorting to the often etherealand romantic arena of hope. Are we wrong to believe that we are facedactually with a growing tide of secular apocalypticism? And in what realway does a theology of hope respond to this pessimistic challenge?
Or, stated differently, how effectively can the Church really mixrealism with hope, particularly in light of the urban apocalypse of despairfrom which many believe there is no realescape?
PROFESSOR MARTY: Hope has dirty hands. Dorothy Day's greatmotto was from Dostoyevsky -- love -- ethereal love -- love in action is aharsh and dreadful love. And she organized so many movements and worked soclosely with the poor out of that theme; that's what love should look like.
And the kind of hope we're talking about tonight I think is not-- I loved your word, ethereal, because you can often do that and it oftenhas been used that way -- pie in thesky, by and by, just let things bad go on because it will get better later.But, again, I'm going to refer to African Americans as an example. Someyears ago Eugene Genovese, one of our historians was, as a Marxist, wasgoing to write a book on how ethereal hope kept blacks from ever havingrevolt, revolution, rebellion. As a Marxist he thought, they're peasants,why don't they revolt? Proletariates, why don't they revolt? And theydidn't.
He tells in the beginning of this book he wrote, "Roll Jordan,Roll," that in the act of writing it he found they could not possibly have-- there are 12 slaves on one plantation, thereare 20 on the next and there are 200 dogs between and swamps and there's noway, you couldn't have had a movement. And then he goes on, so what didthey do?
And his book is an interesting testimonial to the way in which,in the worst of circumstances, they imparted hope and dignity and producedgreat things. And that's, I think, why you couldn't move them. Is itFrederick Douglas or Daniel Walker when they said, there's a wonderfulthing called the American Colonization Society -- we etherealists wouldhave a nice country if you'd just go back to Africa; we'll raise the money,you go to Africa. He said, no, why should we go? We watered this soilwith our tears, we manured it with our blood. It's our place.
And I think that in the midst of that, I don't know any people inAmerican life -- expect maybe the Native Americans on reservation -- who,as a people, had to endure so much along theway. And, yet, you hear the songs, their hope. They can't be ethereal,they had to be grounded.
You know better than I that all the spirituals have a doublesound to them. One is that far off Sweet Chariot, and the other isUnderground Railroad coming by. And I think that that'sthe way -- if we're going to change the city of today I think it would haveto be in those terms.
I'm going to take one more a little quickly on this. Some yearsago at the American Historical Association somebody read a paper on thePresbyterian clergy in the Carolinas in the1830s, and portrayed them as good people, moral people, good family people,good preachers, good believers, good teachers, good everything. Andmeanwhile, every one of them was a strongdefender of slavery.
And in the hotel room, the way historians do late at night over abeer, somebody said to the 10 or 12, what do you suppose 100 years from nowthey're going to say about us? We ought to write on a piece of paper,everyone had some version of we have learned to live with a permanentunderclass and don't have the imagination or the resources to face it --which is whatthe two excuses were back then. And so we justify that we can't doanything. So imagination and resources for it, but if you don't have hopeyou aren't going to act at all.
PROFESSOR DAVIS: Just to add a note, the historical record isfull of terrible massacre, terrible exiles, economic systems full ofdreadful toil, despairing situations with enormous numbers of people verypoor, barely surviving, losing their children early in life. And anyresistance movement, any oppositional movement has had to be sparked overtime with somekind of hope. I would only add that -- and must be -- the totallydespairing, don't get the act together and start moving -- the only thingthat one can hope for in this is a dialogue going on between hope andrealism. And that's the thing I think we have to look for. Just as wespoke before about a dialogue between humility and ambition, a dialogueconstantly going on sothat one doesn't just dominate over the other. That's where I think weshould go.
MS. LOVELL: Well, I have the feeling that time is speeding up.And while we're marking it here I wanted to do two things quickly -- takeanother question from the Internet,recognize Reverend Jackson, and let the President have the last word.
MRS. CLINTON: This is from Dr. Joseph W. Epstein, from Monroe,New York and it's for the President: Should the dawning of this newmillennium see a greater participation of scientists in studies aimed atpreserving our environment and recapturing what has been lost? Governmentand business incentives would be required to encourage scientists in theseareas. Hopefully, a person who recaptures a rain forest could receive asmuch a claim as the batter of ever more home runs. Thank you. (Laughterand applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the short answer to his question is,obviously, yes. If you look at -- one of the things I was going to say inmy closing remarks I'll just say now to respondto this question, because we don't have enough time for everybody to ask aquestion for us all to have a conversation. I wish we did.
I think something that would be helpful for all of you is if,when you go home tonight, before you go to bed, if you would take out apiece of paper and a pencil or a pen, and writedown the three things that you're most worried about, with the dawn of anew millennium, and the three things that you're most hopeful about. Andthen ask yourself what, if anything, can youdo about either one?
Now, I think, with the growth of the world's population, and withthe emergence of a new economy based more on ideas and information andtechnology and less on industrial patterns of production, we still see anenormous destruction of the world's resources. And the most seriousproblem is the problem of climate change, global warming.
The rain forest is important for a lot of reasons -- he mentionedthe rain forest -- because an enormous percentage of the oxygen generatedfrom non-ocean sources comes from rainforests; because well over half the plant and animal life on the globelives in the rain forests; and therefore, the answers to some of my mostprofoundly important medical questions lie in therain forest, quite apart from our responsibility to preserve it just forwhat it is.
So we have put a lot of emphasis on trying to create morefinancial and other incentives for people to deal with climate change andglobal warming, to try to help to save the rain forests. And I have, foryears, kind of brooded about the prospect of having a global alliancebetween governments, chemical companies, and others that would have aninterest in it, in joining together, in effect, to pay to save the rainforests. The government of Brazil actually has a program there, where theytry to invest and set aside large tracts of rain forest land.
But I think one of the things that is going to happen in the nextcentury is that we will move very close to the limits of our body's abilityto live. I think you're going to see anexponential increase in life expectancy in the next 30 years or so. And togo back to what you said, I think that it's going to aggravate theunderclass problem, because you have, in countrieswhere the health system is breaking down, a decline in life expectancy.
Now, where that's going on, there will be more and more pressureto develop more and more scientific discoveries, and also to moredemocratically spread it, and to lift people out ofpoverty. I think that there has to be an enormous amount of money andincentives and time and thought given to how a lot of countries can skip astage of economic development that wouldotherwise require them to destroy what remains of the world's naturalresources, and put us in a position where we could never solve this globalwarming problem.
And that's why I signed the Kyoto treaty on climate change, why Ipushed it so hard. I think it can be the organizing principle to get tothe objective that our questioner asks. Unfortunately, my successors willhave to do a lot of the work, but I hope we'll at least have laid thefoundation for it, because it will be one of the most significant publicquestions of the next -- not just the next century, the next couple ofdecades. It would be on my list of three.
MS. LOVELL: Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to recognizeReverend Jesse Jackson.
REVEREND JACKSON: President and Mrs. Clinton, thank you so muchfor this evening. Professor Davis and Professor Marty, good to be sittingat your feet again.
I'm concerned that the lecture began with Eurocentrism, puttingAfrica in the margins, Asia -- half of the human race -- not even on thechart. The anthropologists suggest that Africais in the center of things. We speak of the Judeo-Christian heritage, tosome extent, Islam. The Bible is Afrocentric in the sense of mentions ofEgypt and Libya and Ethiopia and Jesus escaping to Egypt, and David andBathsheba and Moses and the press of Egypt.
It seems to me that to not make that crooked way straight, as webegin another millennium, to keep putting Goree Island behind Ellis Island-- when in fact, Goree Island precedes Ellis Island in our experience as acountry -- and I would just hope that the thinkers, the theologians, thosewho conceptualize at least would move from us the distortion of aEurocentric mapthat did not take into account the whole and the oldest of known humanity.
MS. LOVELL: That would be a great one, because you addressedthat. Short answer, because we need to go to the President.
PROFESSOR DAVIS: I agree with that concern very much. And justto assure you that there is a whole school of historical writing that istrying to de-center Europe -- not trash Europe,not at all -- but to de-center Europe so that multiple stories can be told.
Tonight, I chose to -- because we were discussing the Europeanmillennium -- to tell the European story and to illuminate what's calledthe Dark Ages, but just reminding the audience that Europe is only a smallcorner of the world. But you're quite right in identifying a major way inwhich we have to rethink how we live in the rest of the world and how wetell the story of the rest of the world's past.
PROFESSOR MARTY: One contemporary thing, 30 seconds. In theChristian world there's no other way to think than that. And we don't haveto go back a thousand years. In the last 24 hours sub-Saharan Africa has16,000 more Christians than it did. In the last 24 hours the northernworld has 3,000 fewer. Why do we think the Pope is spending all that timein the southern part of this hemisphere? That's the dynamism. TheChristian part of the world, that's where the action is. And when Ifumbled a little bit on David Tracy's question about what's going on hereit's because on these topics it's kind of dull compared to what's going onin some of the other places in the world.
And I think the Pope in Catholicism and many Protestant andOrthodox leaders are seeing the same thing happening. So I think thefuture is very much going to direct us to exactly that.And as the President said, the problems of the way the richer and thepoorer get further separated is a religious problem.
MS. LOVELL: Thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I will be very brief. First of all, Ithink we should thank our speakers again. They were magnificent.(Applause.)
Secondly, I would like to say that I think we all leave herefeeling that we now have more questions then we did when we showed up,which means they succeeded. I would just like toleave you with this one thought. You all know that I am a walking apostleof hope and progress. The question is, how do you pursue it withoutarrogance, with appropriate humility andwithout a definition that is too narrow?
Reverend Jackson asked a question about Africa, and Dr. Martygave a great rejoinder about how we had to be more concerned because therewere more and more Christians growing in Africa and fewer elsewhere. Iwould like to ask you to think about another thing.
Our whole sense of time and marking time is so rooted in thedevelopment of our various monotheistic philosophies -- Christianity forme, and for many of you, or Judaism, or Islam.How do you think this whole discussion would sound, tonight, to a seriousBuddhist? Or a serious Confucian? How would -- we argue with them aboutthe idea of progress. How would they argue with us about the idea of theimmutable? How can we reconcile the two? Because in the end, that's whatreligious faith does. It gives you a sense of the timeless, and a sense ofwhat you're supposed to do with your time.
And I just -- this has been thrilling for me. But I hope all ofyou will remember the question I asked you. And if you feel so inclinedlater, feel free to write to me about thethings that you're most worried about and the most hopeful about, and whatyou think I ought to spend my time between now and the millennium doing foryou and the rest of the world.
Thank you. Join us in the dining room for a reception. Thankyou very much.
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore