Good evening, Brothers.
When I was asked to be the keynote speaker tonight, the first thing I asked was-- Well, the first thing I asked was “Are you really that desperate?” The second thing I asked was “Are you sure?” The third thing I asked was if the chapter had anything specific they wanted me to talk about. When I was told no, I knew exactly what the subject of my speech was going to be. Brothers, tonight I’d like to talk about… FAITH. Not religion, but faith.
The word has been in the news a good bit the last few years with terms like "Faith based initiatives" and "People of faith" making headlines. Unfortunately, people sometimes use the words faith and religion interchangeably and that is not correct. Faith is a component of religion, but not the same thing as religion itself. People with no particular religious belief or no religious belief at all can still have faith. Faith is the belief in something despite a complete and utter lack of evidence for it.
Like a lot of Brothers--and UNlike a lot of Brothers--I happen to believe in God. But I will freely admit that there is no verifiable, objective proof that any God or any supreme being exists. My belief is rooted in faith. This isn’t a belief in the impossible, but the possible. Faith and reason are not enemies and they can sometimes be partners. And it doesn’t mean that I never have doubts. I look at the inhumanity on the world and sometimes doubt the existence of God. I think that faith and doubt go hand in hand. I do not think that faith and doubt are opposites. I think that the opposite of faith is certainty. I don’t need faith to believe in this podium. I can see it, feel it and even (knock on podium) hear it. I don’t need faith, I’m absolutely certain.
Now, religious beliefs are not only things you can have faith in. You can have faith in a friend. Let’s say you have a friend come to you and tell you that they’re considering medical school but they’re not sure if they can cut it as a doctor. They lack some self confidence about their ability to succeed. You encourage your friend. You tell them that you believe in them. Not just to encourage them, but because you really do believe that they will succeed. You may not really know how well your friend understands human biology or organic chemistry or even if they have what it takes to deal with the rigors of a residency. But you believe anyway. That, my friends, is faith.
You can also have faith in an idea. Or in a set of ideals. That’s what brings me to my topic tonight. When Frank Reed Horton founded Alpha Phi Omega, he wanted to “try to help the nations of the world settle their disputes in a more sensible and legal manner than by war.” He was talking about bringing about world peace. Now, when you think about that, it’s kind of crazy. Sad to say it, but members of the human race have never run short of reasons to kill. To think that we would ever find a way to stop groups of people from killing one another? There’s absolutely no evidence that that could ever happen. To believe in that, to believe that we as human beings can rise to a level we have never achieved before, really does take a tremendous amount of faith.
Plus, to think that a little organization like ours could ever have anything to do with something like that? Well, that’s a huge leap of faith. But Frank Reed Horton believed that through service, the future leaders of the world would learn true compassion and that this would help lead the way for an end to war. Well, I think he was right. I do believe that war will end some day, that world peace will come about and that Alpha Phi Omega will have some hand in it. I don’t know if our role in it will be small or large. Perhaps one of our current or future members will be key in some negotiation somewhere. Maybe someone who has benefited from one of our projects will feature prominently. I don’t know if our role will be small or large. I don’t know if our role will be known or unknown. Probably unknown. I don’t know if I will live to see it, but I have faith that it will happen.
I have faith in Alpha Phi Omega. In the people in this room and the people outside of this room. In the Brothers that I know and the Brothers that I have never met. I have faith in our Board of Directors, even though I don’t know them all. I have faith that they will guide our Fraternity well. Now, I don’t think I’ll agree with every single decision that they’ll ever make. I’m not stupid. Remember, having faith does not mean you abandon reason. In fact, I am absolutely certain that they will do at least one or two things over the next few years that I think are dumb. But seriously, I believe that they will make the right decision almost all the time and that they will ensure our survival for many years, even decades to come. I have faith in our chapters. I believe in the ones I know and the ones I don’t know. I believe in them and their dedication to service.
I believe that the dream of Frank Reed Horton is powerful enough to inspire generations to come. I believe the Fraternity that’s been here for 80 years will be here 80 years from now. Perhaps children and grandchildren of Brothers in this room will be part of that future Alpha Phi Omega. And you know what? I have faith in that Board and I have faith in those chapters. I think our ideals are that sound.
Now Brothers, remember what I said before about faith and doubt going hand in hand? That’s important to remember. I know that it can be difficult sometimes to deal with your chapters. I know that sometimes you want to give up and you want to pull your hair out and sometimes you can have some downright un-Brotherly thoughts about your Brothers. That’s ok. Sticking with this Fraternity takes faith and having doubt is a normal part of that process. If we were certain that it would all work out, it would be easy. And nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. It can be hard, but with faith, you can manage.
Before I finish tonight, I’d like to leave you with a quote. “It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” After being in hiding for more than two years, Anne Frank wrote that in her diary. She had every reason to doubt humanity, but she kept her ideals. That’s faith.
So Brothers, remember that you are not alone in your difficulties or your doubts. Realize that even in the darkest moments of your life that there are people in this Fraternity that love you and believe in you. And always remember to keep the faith.
Thank you, Brothers.