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BridgeND hosts discussion on human development, education reform

| Wednesday, October 3, 2018

BridgeND hosted a discussion titled “Faith and Human Development” in the Hospitality Room of South Dining Hall on Tuesday night. The speakers included Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and former aide to President George W. Bush, Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C. and Andie Tong, senior and officer in Right to Life at Notre Dame.

Tong focused her discussion on human development, specifically her pro-life beliefs and her experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

“For me, Catholic social teaching — an inherently pro-life lens — offers a framework that calls us and our country to action,” Tong said.

Shannon Valley | The Observer
Fr. Joe Corpora speaks Tuesday night at the “Faith and Human Development Discussion” hosted by BridgeND.

Tong, the daughter of immigrants, stressed the importance of grassroots change in showing compassion for refugees and migrants. She also spoke about the impact of climate change as an important issue that everyone should be concerned about.

Corpora, director of university-school partnerships in the Alliance for Catholic Education, spoke about the need to reform education. Calling it “the civil rights issue for today,” Corpora said there needs to be a level playing field.

“What zip code you are born into today will pretty much determine the rest of your life,” Corpora said.

Corpora described how the poor are unable to have a choice in where their children attend schools, which means their children often have less preferable public schools as the only option. He advocated for tax credit and vouchers as options to help the lower class have a greater say in education.

“Parents need and have a right to choose where their children can go to school,” Corpora said. “A good education can make the biggest difference in the life of a child and a family.”

Gerson concentrated on the topic of faith in global development. As chief speechwriter and senior policy advisor for President George W. Bush, Gerson was greatly involved in human development policy in the early 2000s — his favorite experience coming from Pres. Bush’s emergency passing of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR.

“Thirty to 40 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa were HIV positive while I was working for the President, all of whom were going to die,” Gerson said.

Gerson visited many of these African shanty towns during this time period and still travels there several times a year through his work as a policy fellow with the ONE Campaign, an organization that fights preventable disease and poverty in Africa.

In terms of human development, policy is “not only the result of faith, but it is often the result of faith,” Gerson said.

He also spoke of the many ways in which faith can be a guiding principle in this field, including that it motivates great leaders and sparks an important movement of conscience and philosophical thought about human rights.

Specifically, the anecdotes of his journeys in Africa and the people he met reinforced his beliefs about faith and the necessity for its involvement in human development.

“You go to these places and you think that you are going to serve them, but you find such admirable people that they end up instructing you,” Gerson said.

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