As a scholar, forecaster, strategist, businessman, American Catholic, and all-around know-it-all, I wondered what I would advise the Pontiff to say in his speech to the US Congress. I give talks myself, and I think I would suggest the following to help Americans realize their potential.
Dear American Friends:
I am delighted by the warm embrace I have received from Americans, and honored to be with you in this seat of great power. This is especially fitting because I wish to speak with you about the use of American power.
America is a great nation because it professes ideals of democracy, freedom, human welfare, and other virtues that move us toward the transcendent. Your marvelous technological ingenuity, creativeness, zest for knowledge and adventure, and economic advancement are holy attributes that express the sacred power of life and carry it forward.
I must caution you that there are signs of illness in the American spirit that do not live up to your God-given ideals. The gap between your wealthy and ordinary citizens is beyond reasonable standards, and it harms your society gravely for many reasons. The extravagance of American life and the market push for consumption is a serious failing when much of the world struggles with poverty, and while the planet’s life itself is threatened.
I understand many of you do what you can to alleviate these harms, but I think the basic problem is that American institutions celebrate self-interest and money rather than the society they should serve. Your business corporations are dominated by Wall Street and the bottom line, while your political parties are supported by the moneyed class.
Money is an essential part of any economic system, of course, but it cannot be the dominate purpose of a society. I urge you to reframe your political system, business corporations, government agencies, and other institutions to serve others. You will be rewarded manifold.
Take your great American spirit and use it for good. Please free your politicians from the burden of raising campaign funds so they can do their jobs and do them honestly. Ask your business leaders to include their employees in the conduct and rewards of their work. And please also ask them to work for the welfare of their communities. American business can help the developing nations prosper, and they will be rewarded in turn. Saving the Earth from climate change will challenge us all for decades, so addressing this problem will produce a large and sophisticated green economic sector with good jobs and solid returns on investment.
I humble advise you that this is the path to the fulfillment of your great American ideals. Turning your energy to others is what we all need to find the Lord’s peace. That is what I am inviting you do with me. Let us recreate our institutions to serve others, and thereby help us all find a better measure of happiness. I know this is very difficult to do, and I am asking much of you. That is why I also ask you to do this by working together.
Your conservatives and liberals have polarized the nation, but this can be resolved with honest collaboration to satisfy both sets of interests. Nobody today doubts the creativity of free markets, and we all know how essential strong communities and governments are to a healthy society. Other nations are exploring how they can integrate both philosophies into a more powerful whole, and I know you can lead the way. The same polarization of societies is happening around the world, and America was born to take us into a new global era.
May the Lord bless you all. Francis