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2014 Ware Lecture by Sister Simone Campbell

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General Assembly 2014 Event 435


The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.


Peter Morales

We are honored to have as our Ware Lecturer this year Sister Simone Campbell. Sister Simone is one of America’s most articulate and effective advocates for compassionate public policy.

Sister Simone is a religious leader, an attorney and a poet who has been a passionate spokesperson for immigration reform, economic justice and health care for all.

Two years ago she was instrumental in organizing the “Nuns on the Bus” tour as a way of drawing attention to the effects of the “Ryan Budget” on people in need. Last year she led a cross country “Nuns on the Bus” tour focused on comprehensive immigration reform.

I am proud and happy to say that we Unitarian Universalists have been partners in her efforts. I recall picking her up at Logan Airport in Boston last year as she arrived to speak at a UU Mass Action event. I was so excited that I took a wrong turn getting out of the airport.

Her involvement in social justice work goes back to the 1970s. In her long career she has been a leader in her religious order, Sisters of Social Service. And this year marks her Jubilee celebration - 50 years of inspired and spiritual justice work.

Her efforts have received much media attention, including appearances on 60 Minutes, The Colbert Report and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She was invited to speak at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

But now, Sister Simone, you have finally hit the big time! Now you join the distinguished list of Ware Lecturers at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly.

It is an honor and a joy to have you with us.

Please join me in welcoming Sister Simone Campbell as our Ware Lecture for 2014.

Lecture Outline

Simone Campbell

A full transcript of this talk will be available by the end of July.

  1. Walking toward trouble—sign of people of faith
    1. Always believed that we had power and a responsibility to make things better—3rd grade, 5th grade
    2. Holy faith and holy doubt—doubt becomes sacred as a measure of faith—letting our lives be disturbed by uncertainty—opens us up to the 100%
    3. Inequality is the source of all evil
    4. The importance of being uncertain—open to the surprising, the real
    5. A disturbed life—walking willing into the unknown rather than the expected.
  2. Who do we know? Reality is more important than ideas.
    1. Story of trip to Lebanon and Syria
      1. Iraqi Mother in Damascus—6 children, husband killed, no work, sells daughter
      2. Lebanon detention center—Small Change

        Dropped from the counter of globalization in the midst of economic transactions, these human coins, illegal tender get swept up into the dust pan of national identity and border security.

        These small coins of labor fall through the cracks of caring, ending up in dank dark pens—smaller than pennies in the global wealth, taken as too small to matter, mere annoyances or possible threat to a sovereign nation.

        These small coins are tossed into cages of fifty, sixty jumbled together on the floor, in corners, along barred walls. They do not fit into ATMs. They will not be received for deposit in the world economy. They are spare change tossed on the counter of globalization—and forgotten.
    2. What do you do with a story??—
      1. Robin
      2. Jason
      3. Margaret
      4. Pete Gallego & the nameless woman in the desert.
    3. Letting our hearts be broken open—creating room for the 100%
      1. Radical acceptance
      2. Fighting
      3. Being the burning bush—Pentecost fire
        1. Being faithful we will not be destroyed
        2. Hearing the cry of those who call out
      4. Action is required
  3. Where we meet is the Constitution—We the People
    1. Grocery store missionary work
    2. Having conversations about our values
    3. Walk toward community and away from the unpatriotic lie of individualism.
  4. What I as a person of faith know—story of Tucson
    1. God hums all of creation at every moment
    2. Not left orphan
    3. Walking toward trouble—vibrant life of faith & doubt
    4. Doing the best that we can at any moment.

      Let gratitude be the beat of our heart, pounding Baghdad rhythms, circulating memories, meaning of the journey.

      Let resolve flow in our veins, fueled by Basra’s destitution, risking reflective action in a fifteen-second world.

      Let compassion be our hands, reaching to be with each other, all others to touch, hold heal this fractured world.

      Let wisdom be our feet, bringing us to the crying need to friends or foe to share this body’s blood.

      Let love be our eyes, that we might see the beauty, see the dream lurking in the shadows of despair and dread.

      Let community be our body warmth, radiating Arab energy to welcome in the foreign stranger—even the ones who wage this war.

      Let us remember on drear distant days, we are a promised Christmas joy we live as one this tragic gifted life— We are the Body of God!

Sister Simone Campbell

Sister Simone Campbell is the National Coordinator of NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. She is a religious leader, attorney and poet with extensive experience in public policy and advocacy for systemic change. In Washington, she lobbies on issues of peace-building, immigration reform, healthcare and economic justice. Around the country, she is a noted speaker and educator on these public policy issues.

During the 2010 congressional debate about healthcare reform, she wrote the famous “nuns’ letter” supporting the reform bill and got 59 leaders of Catholic Sisters, including LCWR, to sign on. This action was cited by many as critically important in passing the Affordable Care Act. She was thanked by President Obama and invited to the ceremony celebrating its being signed into law.

In 2012, she was also instrumental in organizing the “Nuns on the Bus” tour of nine states to oppose the “Ryan Budget” approved by the House of Representatives. This budget would decimate programs meant to help people in need. “Nuns on the Bus” received an avalanche of attention across the nation from religious communities, elected officials and the media.

She recently led a new cross-country Nuns on the Bus trip (May 28 through June 18, 2013), focused on comprehensive immigration reform. 

Sr. Simone has often been featured in the national and international media, including recent appearances on 60 MinutesThe Colbert Report, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

She has received numerous awards, including the "Defender of Democracy Award" from the international Parliamentarians for Global Action and "Health Care Heroes Award" from Families USA. In addition, she has been the keynote or featured speaker at numerous large gatherings, including the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Sr. Simone  has also served as the Executive Director of JERICHO, the California interfaith public policy organization that works to protect the interests of people living in poverty. Simone also participated in a delegation of religious leaders to Iraq in December 2002, just prior to the war, and was later part of a Catholic Relief Services delegation to Lebanon and Syria to study the Iraqi refugee situation there.

Before JERICHO, she served as the general director of her religious community, the Sisters of Social Service. She was the leader of her Sisters in the United States, Mexico, Taiwan and the Philippines. In this capacity, she negotiated with government and religious leaders in each of these countries.

In 1978, Sr. Simone founded and served for 18 years as the lead attorney for the Community Law Center in Oakland, California. She served the family law and probate needs of the working poor of her county.

For more information contact

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Last updated on Saturday, June 28, 2014.

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