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Letter 66 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 66

Shawnee M. Daniels-Sykes

Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics
Mount Mary University

March 26, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

A primary principle of Catholic Social Teaching is human dignity, which means that all human beings are persons created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, as sisters and brothers, we have a special responsibility to uphold all human life with faith, hope, and love.

As a Roman Catholic theological ethicist, I believe God sent Jesus Christ to show us how to live out this remarkable responsibility. Jesus’ liberating mission detailed his encountering and accompanying human beings of various backgrounds as he brought “good news” to the poor and the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19).

The campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” seems to imply a desire to unify this deeply divided country. However, this slogan misses the fact that for centuries a diverse array of people has populated this country. America is not an island in and of itself. It is inhabited by Native American Indians, descendants of African slaves, Europeans immigrants, Asians and South Pacific Islanders, Latin@s, newer immigrants, refugees, migrant workers, and a variety of professionals, students, and visitors who travel in and out of the United States.

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, when “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1-13), illustrates the potential for unity amidst diversity. As leaders, you have a major responsibility to bring about unity, peace, and prosperity in our country and around the world. In the first few months of this new term, how are your words and actions contributing to this aim? Mean-spirited mockeries, brash statements, and defensive tweets only exploit divisions and sow hatred, violence, and fear. Harsh and divisive edicts threaten to tear apart hard working families and keep out worthy individuals who could contribute to our country. Draconian budget proposals that eviscerate support for the needy will not make America great: they will hurt the very people who count on you to improve their lives.

As you lead this nation, what will you do to “seek the welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7) of the towns and cities you serve? What will you do to ensure that everyone in this country knows “how very good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1)?

Sincerely yours,

Shawnee M. Daniels-Sykes

Dr. Shawnee M. Daniels-Sykes
Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics
Mount Mary University


About the author

Shawnee Daniels-Sykes, Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, received her doctorate from Marquette University in Religious Studies. She is a former member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the first and only Black Catholic female bioethicist in the U.S. Also a registered nurse, her areas of interest include beginning, middle, and end of life issues, especially through the lens of health disparities and race, class, and gender oppression.