Good afternoon! It is a privilege to be with you today.
As the Ambassador to the Holy See, I very often get the opportunity to do some very special things and this is one of those moments. On behalf of the United States, I’d like to express our deep thanks and appreciation for the words and thoughts of Jacques Maritain, truly one of the most influential Catholic philosophers of the 20th century, and, I think someone who loved AMerica and who saw the great potential envisioned by the founders of the United States.
As I was reading about Jacques Maritain, I was struck by some of the similarities between his story and that of my own family. Today, I am U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, but I am also a second-generation immigrant. My grandparents left Ireland, where they had very few economic prospects, and came to the United States to make a better life for themselves. They saw the United States a little the way Maritain did, as a place where their hard work and dedication would reward them with a prosperous and happy life.
They were not philosophers, but they would have agreed with Maritain about a number of things. Like him, they were devout Catholics, and believed that good Christians make good citizens. They instilled in their children and grandchildren the values of honesty, integrity, and compassion. Catholic ideals, and American ones.
I am proud my country welcomed Maritain and his wife when they fled war-torn Europe in 1940. Like my ancestors, he was a grateful immigrant to American’s shores.
The United States is a complicated country. Our history and our present include both wonderful things and things that are painful and difficult. We know we are not perfect, but we are striving to form a more perfect union. We know we have a very long way to go in consistently upholding pillars of inclusion and justice.
Maritain knew that too. He looked at America and saw our flaws, but also our unique strengths. He admired, as he put it, our “openness to the future.” And he praised our sense of community. As he wrote, “there is one thing America knows well, the value and dignity of the man of common humanity, and in this we find a spiritual conquest of immeasurable value.”
Indeed, Catholicism and Americans are united in our shared belief in the importance of community. The organizations of faith and community support and strengthen human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow and learn. I believe all Americans in their hearts believe a core Catholic teaching: people have the right and the duty to participate in society and seek together the common good and wellbeing of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
And so, I am honored to be here today to celebrate this important Catholic thinker, and his perspective on my beloved country. Thank you so much for the work you have done to preserve his thoughts and present them to new audiences.
Thank you very much.