Inaugural Address Foundation Chairman Steve Menzies
October 4, 2021
Welcome friends, to the brave new world of Human Ecology… and to a new global initiative that will address this critical subject for the benefit of our shared humanity and fellow citizens of the world.
My name is Steve Menzies, and I am pleased to announce today the launch of a new, worldwide Foundation envisioned and supported by His Holiness Pope Francis to realize the concepts articulated in his far reaching, visionary, and landmark encyclical, Laudato si’. This important letter to the world’s peoples contains approaches to our stewardship of this earth, to our thinking about economies and commerce, to our views of technology, and, above all, to our sense of brotherhood, amid the challenges that now face us as human beings. His timeless words aim to better our human condition and they extend beyond the walls of any particular faith or political party, beyond any geographical boundary or calendar year.
We have named this fresh, new institution, The St Francis Day Foundation, and we have set our annual celebration for October 4th, the traditional day upon which St. Francis of Assisi and his teachings are brought into special focus in festivals and conferences the world over. Like St. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and the many, many other celebratory days of honor for history’s champions of goodness and love among all men and women, we will mark St. Francis Day each October 4th, and establish it as the center point on our calendar for awareness and circumspection, for re-dedication and re-visiting of the words of Francis of Assisi in the 13th century and the teachings of Pope Francis in the 21st century in his brilliant excursus, Laudato, si’.
The idea for such an ecumenical Foundation, moving outward to embrace all people, grew steadily over the past year, becoming a reality during a meeting in May at the residence of Pope Francis in Rome. We met and expressed our shared wish that a set of initiatives be gathered under the umbrella of a working, dynamic Foundation to make a meaningful difference, a real, concrete impact. To fulfill this papal fiat, His Holiness blessed our undertaking and then asked – and I accepted – the honor of seeing his goals realized through The St. Francis Day Foundation.
We have adopted a series of mandates to accomplish this.
The First Mandate refers to the Encyclical’s advocacy of respect and care for the natural world, consonant with the words and deeds of St. Francis of Assisi. Through its programs, the Foundation will urge attention to the proper custodianship of our world through responsible commerce and through the weighing of activities and their implications on the environment.
The Second Mandate refers to the urgent need to address human ecology, as outlined in the Encyclical, aligning technology with the most important of spiritual and ethical values, and then placing technology’s dynamic instruments in their proper human perspective, for optimal use.
The Third Mandate refers to the elements first introduced in Laudato, si’, and expanded upon in the Pope’s latest Encyclical, Fratelli tutti; that is, that we must cultivate sensibilities and passions among men and women so that we find true brotherhood and longed for peace in the world, regardless of particular faith or political formulae. The encyclical calls for “a better kind of politics” based upon refreshed principles of brotherhood and respect.
The St. Francis Day Foundation has begun to recruit volunteers, donors, and institutional partners from the worlds of academics, social service, philanthropy, public diplomacy, and business. The Steve Menzies Global Foundation has committed initial funding for the St. Francis Day Foundation including the underwriting of its operational headquarters and staff in the United States. The Foundation’s offices will be based in New York, not far from here, appropriately, the home of the United Nations. The Foundation will open chapters in several countries to see its work through, and to deliver concrete benefits where and when we can help.
We have established a governance structure that is at once an intellectual and spiritual forum led by a veritable faculty of dedicated men and women who embrace creativity and delivery in problem solving. It has become already, a magnet for thought leaders in pursuing the high objectives we have embraced.
As an example, today we announce The St. Francis Day Foundation’s Human Ecology Forum 2022, a series starting in the first quarter that will focus upon technological advances and human essence. Thought leaders from academe, technology companies, and the public policy sphere will participate and bring this dialogue forward. We will present to our audiences the context for technology that is framed in Pope Francis’ encyclical in its many profound implications.
We have been moved by the outpouring of pledges of support from so many quarters since May, but we are not surprised in one sense. This entire initiative derives from the words and works of one of history’s greatest exponents of peace and respect for nature, Francis of Assisi. These realities are relayed in the 21st century by Pope Francis in the manner of many of his predecessors, from Pope Leo XIII, and his care for the dignity of the worker – a cause especially close to me as a corporate leader and insurer of many human activities – to Pope John Paul II, and his fierce opposition to armed conflict and the subjugation of so many of the world’s peoples by dictatorial regimes.
As Pope Francis, and many likeminded world leaders, move to influence the world’s thinkers and thinking and to shepherd citizens with a message of fraternity, reverence for our world, and brotherhood, the St. Francis Day Foundation will bring that light, and that message, to the world.
October 4th, the day upon which St Francis of Assisi is celebrated, will now become a rallying point we trust; today is the official start.
With your engagement and advocacy, we will improve human ecology, as envisioned by a great saint, a visionary Pope, and as shared by all leaders and men and women of good will.