Alumni Award

Scotty McLennan '66 Accepts 2017-18 Alumni Award

Scotty McLennan, a lecturer in political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), where he teaches ethics and the intersection of business and spirituality, was presented with the 85th Alumni Award during an All-School assembly in Elfers Hall on May 11.

Classmate Barry Svigals, who introduced McLennan, praised his lifelong commitment to service and the betterment of society. He said McLennan has stayed true to the values of the School as expressed in its motto: "Guided by each other, let us seek better paths."
 
In his address to the Hotchkiss community McLennan '66 spoke about his own spiritual journey at Hotchkiss, where he first became aware of the Civil Rights movement after reading Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1964 book, Why We Can't Wait. During his years at Hotchkiss, his religious and political views changed radically as a result of world events: the Vietnam War, race riots, social and political injustice. He went from being a conservative, to a liberal, to an atheist. During the turbulent 60s, he said he found it difficult to believe in a God that could allow so much destruction and despair. 

He told students that they, too, are living in revolutionary times, citing the #metoo and Black Lives Matter movements, as well as the polarizing debates over immigration and gun control. But he urged students to embrace the idea of "unity in diversity" and work toward building what Dr. King described as a "beloved community."
 
"It's a realistic and attainable goal that we can all starting living right now by affirming our diversity, unifying our diversity, and standing united," he said.
"Justice," he said, "the centerpiece of a beloved community." As Dr. King wrote, "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

McLennan received his B.A. from Yale in 1970 as a Scholar of the House.He earned his M.Div. and J.D. degrees from Harvard Divinity and Law Schools in 1975. That same year, he was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry and admitted to the Massachusetts bar as an attorney. From 1975 to 1984, McLennan practiced church-sponsored poverty law in the Dorchester area of Boston, representing low-income people in the general practice of law, including consumer, landlord-tenant, government benefits, immigration, family, and criminal cases. 

From 2000 to 2014, he was the Stanford University dean for religious life; in 2003, he also became a lecturer at the Graduate School of Business.. Prior to working at Stanford, he was the university chaplain at Tufts from 1984-2000 and a lecturer at Harvard Business School.

Scroll below the video to read the full text of McLennan's speech.

Watch a video of the ceremony below:

 

Remarks by Scotty McLennan

I can hardly begin to tell all of you what a deep and meaningful honor it is for me to be receiving this award.  I’m very grateful to the Alumni Association Board of Directors. And to all of my classmates, friends and family who have travelled far and wide to be here today. I still remember well sitting here as a student at Hotchkiss, listening to recipients of the Award in my time – people like a Supreme Court justice, a governor and United Nations ambassador, and a great author – and never imagining that I could possibly be standing here myself someday.  I’m particularly delighted to be following Emmy- and Academy-award winning actress Allison Janney, who was honored last year, and my classmates Pete Hall and Peter Lee in earlier years.

I have a theme for my talk today that I’ll keep repeating in hopes that you as students here now will remember it, at least for a while, if not for the rest of your lives: “unity in diversity.” Or, the theme could be called “e pluribus unum” – out of many, one. Or, “united we stand, divided we fall.”  For I’m very concerned about the future of the United States of America and of the whole world. Both of these dimensions are very important: respect for diversity and commitment to unity. We cannot have one without the other, any more than we can have peace without justice.  

But let me start back in my own student years at Hotchkiss. I arrived here as a privileged white boy from the Chicago suburbs with two generations of successful business leaders behind me in my family. I came as a conservative Republican and as a conservative Protestant Christian. Our class was all boys at the time. We had one black classmate, a handful of Jewish classmates, and a few international students among us. Many of us made racist and anti-Semitic and homophobic and sexist jokes and comments among ourselves with impunity.    

We looked different from you students today in many ways, besides that fact that we were all boys. And our Hotchkiss was different. We had to wear coats and ties to class and meals and go to Chapel every day of the week. We moved through different buildings, many of which have been torn down since, including the old Main with its undulating polished wooden floors. We called our teachers “masters,” and they referred to us by our last names, preceded by “Mister.” We used a pay phone in the dorm basement to call home once a week. We couldn’t ride bikes; we had to walk into town or anywhere else we wanted to go.

In the larger world beyond Hotchkiss, the up-and-coming musical group in our time came from England, and they were called the Beatles. Within a month of our class first arriving at Hotchkiss in 1962, our young President, John Kennedy, was handling the Cuban Missile Crisis, and we wondered if there would be nuclear Armageddon before we ever got to our second year here. During the fall of that second year, none of us will ever forget where we were on campus on the fateful November day in 1963 when we learned that President Kennedy himself had been assassinated. Isolated as we were up here in the beautiful Berkshires of northwestern Connecticut, we still had some awareness of the real world as we read our daily New York Times or New York Herald Tribunes.  

One of the most powerful insights into that world beyond Hotchkiss for me at the time was reading a new book that came out during the 1964 election season by a black preacher in the South named the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was called Why We Can’t Wait. Its author seemed to be a frightening radical, and he scared the life out of me. Here’s a few quotations from it:

“[In the summer of 1963] “The social climate of American life erupted into lightning flashes, trembled with thunder and vibrated to the relentless, growing rain of protest come to life throughout the land.  Explosively, America’s third revolution – the Negro revolution – had begun…. Almost one thousand cities were engulfed in civil turmoil… Reminiscent of the French Revolution of 1789, the streets had become a battleground [and]…. displayed a force of frightening intensity.  Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper.  The storm clouds…release[d]…a whirlwind, which has not yet spent its force or attained its full momentum…There is more to come.”

Wow! The Negro Revolution had begun? It was going to be like the French Revolution with battles in the streets of frightening intensity? The storm clouds had released a whirlwind, and there was more to come? When I listened to this revolutionary Baptist minister on television, I sometimes needed to turn off the volume when his rhetoric got too intense for me. But without sound, it could be even worse, because looking at the contortions of his face and his body language seemed to reveal a level of anger and hatred that I’d never experienced. I know this all may seem virtually unbelievable to you as students now. After all, he’s the person we now know as the nonviolent man of peace, our national hero with a national holiday, the leader who delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech that’s become so iconic.

But then a lot changed for me during my later Hotchkiss years in 1965 and 1966.  I began to transition from conservative to liberal.  I abandoned the Christianity of my childhood to become a self-proclaimed atheist, although that changed again for me in college.  I came to question how a just and loving God could allow all the terrible things that happen in the world.  I spent some time in the summer before my senior year digging potatoes in rural Holland and returned to Hotchkiss as a senior, hypersensitive to issues of socio-economic status and class – in particular, to how so many of us students treated workers in the dining halls, custodians, and people in our buildings and grounds operations on the campus. By the time I left for college, what we now know as the 1960’s was in full swing and nothing would ever be the same again for me.

Once I’d entered divinity school in 1970, the now-assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. had become my ministerial hero. I read everything he’d ever written. I tried to emulate his liberal, activist theology. I became committed to the militant nonviolence he preached, and I became a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. I came to understand the connection between racism, militarism, and economic inequality that he articulated so well. And most importantly for my theme today, I began to understand his concept of “beloved community.”  That is, unity in diversity — “out of many, one.”

The Beloved Community starts by taking personal and group differences – in taking diversity — seriously in terms of poverty, race, sexuality, national origin, disability, and other dimensions of what we might today call “identity politics.”  It then moves to countering the risk of insularity and tribalism by proposing a global vision of all people sharing in the earth’s wealth, of peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, and of an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.  The Beloved Community is not idealistic pie-in-the sky, but a realistic, achievable goal which we can all begin living partially right now. It also recognizes conflict as an inevitable part of the human experience. But conflict need not erupt in violence, and ultimately, all conflict should be resolvable through reconciliation of adversaries. Justice is always a centerpiece of Beloved Community, but justice is not uniquely for any particular oppressed group. It’s for all people. As Rev. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  United we stand, divided we fall.

When I was back here at Hotchkiss for my 50th reunion a year and a half ago, it happened that a demonstration and community gathering had been organized by students in response to police shootings of black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina.  I was impressed and moved by the power and poignancy of those Hotchkiss events.  And I was impressed and moved by how the Beloved Community seemed to be in evidence here: clear articulation of specific injustice affecting black men on the one hand, and a commitment to come together and stand together in solidarity across difference on the other hand. I’ve had a chance to look at the printed copy of Community Voices following the theme of “Stick with Love” from the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of celebration this last January. There’s reference in it to loving other people at Hotchkiss enough to become aware of their specific backgrounds and to learn their stories – including, where they’re from, where they grew up, where they live, what their ethnicity is, and what their cultural background is. At the same time, there’s reference to the importance of affirming our common humanity in America and around the world…to affirming collective multi-racial engagement. Unity in Diversity. E pluribus unum.  Out of many, one. United we stand; divided we fall.

For better or for worse, I believe that you as Hotchkiss students today are again living in revolutionary times. The Black Lives Matter movement is challenging systemic racism. The “Me Too” movement is challenging widespread sexual harassment and abuse. National Walkouts at high schools are challenging gun violence. Populist and nationalist and anti-immigrant movements are arising all over the world.  There’s increasing religious bigotry and violence.  And these are just a few of the radical challenges to the prior state of affairs. You’ll be contributing to a very different future, I believe, and I hope you can exercise effective and transformative leadership.

I have two small pieces of advice for you in conclusion: one regarding diversity and the other regarding unity.

Regarding diversity: When I refereed difficult conversations across difference during my years as a university chaplain, I often suggested a simple method for encounter:  I asked students to speak honestly and directly from their own feelings and perspective, using “I” statements rather than attacking others. Then, as the discussion developed, I asked each person, before they chimed in, to summarize what the previous speaker had said, both in terms of the intellectual content and the feelings expressed. The previous speaker then had the opportunity to say whether or not he or she had been heard accurately. If not, that person would get to wind up again and repeat what she or he had said. This next speaker would get to try again to summarize it. Only if the previous speaker agreed that they’d really been heard accurately would the next person be permitted to speak him or herself. You can practice this kind of personal story-telling and empathetic listening in other, less formal situations of disagreement and difference. I promise you it will go a long way in opening up diverse perspectives and life experiences and getting them mutually understood.

As for unity, I suggest trying to use phraseology that a comparative religion professor of mine in divinity school, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, himself a white Christian minister, regularly employed. He was known for saying, “Those of us” or “Some of us.” That is, when speaking of other kinds of people and groups than himself, he’d say, “Those of us who are Muslim” or “Those of us in the human race who are Asian,” or “Those of us in the world who are women.” He’d say, “Some of us are Shinto. Some of us are gay. Some of us are Native American.” He always reminded us that our human solidarity precedes our particularity. He reminded us that humankind is one, and that unity must always be seen, be felt, and be willed. Rosa Parks says at the end of her autobiography that she spent over half her life teaching equality and community, because that was better than having hatred or prejudice. She ends her book with these words: “Everyone living together in peace and harmony and love…that’s the goal that we seek, and I think that the more people there are who reach that state of mind, the better we will all be.”  The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. insisted in his "Letter from the Birmingham City Jail," written during my first year at Hotchkiss in the spring of 1963: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” I wish I’d understood what he meant at that time in my life. I hope you and I do now.

Look for a Q&A with McLennan in the summer issue of Hotchkiss Magazine.