I want you all to know how particularly proud and privileged I feel to have been invited to act as Chairman of this year’s Templeton Prize ceremony.
I do so particularly having myself been in the investment business since an early age. I recall so well the pioneering and innovative leadership of Sir John in the mutual funds industry, which he was reminding me during our pre-discussion here how modest it was in those early days when his name was really at the front rank of the pioneering process and therefore I have long been inspired by his leadership in the realm of religion and spirituality and his recognition of the central nature of our spiritual being in the makeup of humans. For that to come from a great investment leader certainly I have to say was a great inspiration to me in my own younger life, Sir John, and so to have the privilege of chairing this session marking the most distinctive prize I believe on our planet. It is not only the largest in monetary terms by the fact it is given for progress in religion, for spiritual leadership and the fact it is going at this point to a great man who has also evidenced leadership in business life, in philanthropy and in building bridges amongst people of differing religious persuasions. The kind of bridges of understanding and cooperation on which the foundations of the United Nations as has been said in the Secretary- General’s message rest. So this is indeed in my view the greatest single prize that this planet actually now knows and so I want to say that as having nothing whatsoever to do with the Foundation and having been invited quite surprisingly to chair this, I feel I am being very objective in paying this tribute.
The awarding of the Templeton Prize is a unique event which reflects an especially meaningful objective, that is, and I quote “to stimulate the knowledge and the love of God on the part of humankind everywhere.” A sentiment which is dearly needed on this planet as we prepare to enter the 21st century. So I want to salute you Sir John, for creating this prize and the foundation which carries on so many other related works and to join all of you in paying tribute to Sir Sigmund Sternberg who has certainly exemplified in his life the highest values and standards for which this prize was created.
Now at this juncture of human history on earth we can look back at the miracles that human ingenuity has wrought by our accomplishments in science and technology. But science and technology are only the means through which God works in our lives.
The root of those means, the motivational factor in life which really determines how we behave are literally spiritual in nature because it is the spiritual dimension of our being that determines our values, that determines our behaviour: determines how we use the awesome responsibility that God has entrusted with our generation and the powers that science and technology have placed in our hands.
These same forces that have produced so many benefits for the human community have however, as we have seen, given rise to some serious and deepening imbalances which must be seen as ominous threats to our common future. It is after all the spiritual dimension of human experience which will ultimately determine our response to these challenges.
I would like to suggest that my own background, as some of you know, trying to bring the strands of ecological reality into our behaviour that I believe that the care and management of our relationship with each other and with the earth requires a degree of cooperative stewardship beyond anything we have yet realized. And in the final analysis the behaviour of individuals as well as the priorities of society respond to the deepest moral, ethical and spiritual values of people. And I am convinced that the radical changes now occurring in our society are producing a historic convergence between our traditional perception of the relationships between religion and the other aspects of life, between the practical aspects of human life and its moral and spiritual dimension.
It has too often been assumed in the past that there is an essential dichotomy between the real world, so called, of practical affairs and the more ethereal ideal worlds of morals and spirit. Concepts of mutual respect of caring for and sharing with each other and cooperating with each other both at home and internationally can no longer be seen as pious ideals divorced from reality but as indispensable prerequisites for our common survival and wellbeing.
It is on these foundations that our hopes for a more promising sustainable future must be built. So when we pay tribute here to a person whose life has set the highest standards for all of us, who has demonstrated that success in the practical world can be accompanied by real leadership in the realm of the spirit and abridging the differences of so much, many times characterized of those of various religious persuasions bridging these differences building out of them a new sense of harmony and unity, the purpose is surely the key to our future in the 21st century and I am persuaded that the 21st century will indeed be decisive for the human species and it is only by the regeneration of our spiritual life and our commitment to the highest moral and ethical values that we can look with hope and promise to the next century. And you Sir John, in creating this prize which inspires us all to enter this direction, and you Sir Sigmund in being the worthy recipient of this prize really represents the best of our hopes and aspirations for the future.