Re-imagining Politics & Society at the Millennium
Creating a Caring, Ethical & Sustainable World

May 18-20, 2000
Riverside Church, NYC


We are in the process of writing and uploading detailed conference reports. If you have already visited this section of the site, please check back after October 15.

"We're not the crazy idealists. The crazy idealists are those who think that the current global order can continue..." With these words, European Green Party and Right Livelihood Award founder Jakob von Uexkull opened the Ethics Awards ceremony that was the culmination of a wonderful three days of intellectual, spiritual, artistic, and activist interconnectedness and rejuvenation.

We are happy, and proud, to report that "Re-Imagining Politics and Society at the Millennium: Creating a Just, Caring and Sustainable World," was a great success! Despite continual rain and sometimes fierce thunderstorms, 1000 people participated in the conference from May 18-20 and our education mini-conference on May 21. If our goal during the last year and a half of planning was to bring together leading scholars, activists and artists from around the world to help bring greater unity of vision and strategy, and thus greater resonance and power, to the myriad communities and movements working for holistic social change, the reflections below from participants, faculty, and organizers, along with pictures, demonstrate that the conference succeeded wonderfully. As one of the central themes, discussed by everyone from Yoruba theologian John Mason to Marianne Williamson to National Coalition-Building Institute founder Cheri Browne, was the importance of sharing stories, we hope the vignettes below will help share the story of the conference with those who couldn't be present.

Our webmaster is in the process of moving to Europe for the year and will update the conference report in September and October. During this time we will be collecting texts of the talks delivered by our faculty and other relevant documents to put on the website. Until then, please participate in the web version of our conference, which is being hosted by the wonderful people at utne reader online.
Click here to go to Cafe Utne, go through the easy registration process, and then join the web conference at This virtural version of our conference will be the primary vehicle for continuing the discussions begun here and will feature many of the speakers from the conference.

Click here to listen to a report by NPR's Margo Adler on the conference, made during the thunderstorms of day one.

Click here to listen to New York Open Center Director Ralph White discuss the conference on RadioNation hosted by Peter Rothberg.

You can also find out information on how to join one of the nine task forces formed or re-energized by the conference (Globalization; Culture, Media and the Arts; Health and Environemnt; Law; Education; Religion/Spirituality; Work Issues; Grass Roots Regional Organizing; and Community Support Circles) by calling FEM co-chair Rick Ulfik at 212 704 0888 or emailing him at

Finally, both audio and video tapes are already available for the conference. For a list of professionally recorded audio tapes of the various sessions, please call Conference Copy at 570-775 0580, or visit their website, at For video tapes, please call Jonathan Reich at 800 222 6000, ext. 11081946, or email him at We hope you will order the audio and video tapes, which are a wonderful way to share the conference with friends and family, listen to/watch sessions you missed, or learn about the conference if you couldn't attend at all.

In the coming weeks, we hope to put some of the audio and video on the website, so we hope you'll check back in mid-June when we've had a chance to update the site more fully, and will also have a new edition of our web magazine, Meaning Matters ready. Until then, thanks to the organizers, the staff and volunteers of the New York Open Center, and the participants and co-sponsors for making the conference such a profound and important experience for all who attended!

For more information about the conference, including the ideas behind it and the roster of speakers and the full schedule, and links to other conferences of interest, please click here.

What follows constitutes a brief snapshop of our wonderful three days together. We hope you enjoyed it. If you have pictures or memories you'd like to share, please email them to Mark LeVine at and we'll post them on the website.

"The conference was so stimulating and full of good surprises and information... It was a rare opportunity to bring lots of different ideas and worlds together -- and for them to discover overlaps, opportunities to share work, and see ways to move forward. I guess that was the best - that no one wanted the panel to end, and that the panelists were surrounded at the end by people still asking questions, taking e-mail addresses, getting connected. Live and real, with promise for ongoing work" (one of our speakers).

"We are a wealthy and prosperous people, but spiritually empty... we're getting ready for a movement. We're preparing the way. It's not here yet, but if we are willing to bet our lives on it, like Bishop Tutu did in South Africa, and smile at the corporate great like he did at Apartheid, and say to them: 'You've already lost; so why don't you join us', then we will be that much closer to victory" (Rev. Jim Wallis during his Saturday morning talk).

"Thank you for all your hard work in putting together the conference. I've been there, done that and know it can be, if not a thankless task, at least one from which you have to draw your own satisfaction. (Sometimes I think our reward will be in the next life -- but I for one do not want to wait that long!) I met some wonderful people and gained wonderful food for thought and for my spirit as well, for which I am grateful" (one of our speakers).

"As a lawyer who deals with the bottom end of the consumer addiction as a bankruptcy specialist, I feel that for those of us stuck in the mundane world of minutae, being exposed to all these great minds is almost a religious experience..." (one of our participants)

"The declaration of freedom and the mind of the artists is the same thing. Art is a necessary element of freedom because art transforms the way we see the world and makes us different people... We have become transformationists" (John Mason, speaking during the African American Art and Transformation panel).

"I just wanted to give you my deep thanks for all of the work and inspiration you put into the conference. I thoroughly "enjoyed" it, and in fact lack the vocabulary to really describe my positive feelings about it, thus the quotation marks. I will express something here somewhat similar to what I told Peter Gabel: as we re-imagine politics and society, I don't think we have the ceremonies, the models or the cultural mechanisms right now to sufficiently express gratitude for the Spirit behind your organizational efforts. But that spirit is profoundly moving, and pushes us all on to the next level" (one of our speakers).

"We must realize that the United States is perhaps the most militaristic society in history. We don't need MAD - mutual assured destruction - anymore. We need MUD - mutual unilateral disarmament. Recognizing the infinite preciousness of life, we need to focus on non-violence, to realize that the purpose of life is to open the heart and understand all beings, to make education central so we can find the roots of all hatred and chauvinism and undo them, to increase social altruism and universal equality" (Bob Thurman, during his talk Friday night).

"Before we move into activism, we must understand the barriers that hold us back, we must meditate, pray and atone... If capitalism and consumer culture is like Goliath, David was the musician, shepherd, who refused to put on the typical armour to fight the enemy, but did it his way: When your opponent has the world sewn up - go otherworldly! So we can't just attack globalization but build a real spiritual politics because only spirit can cure spirit. Don't fight the darkness when you can turn on the light! So we must learn to love everyone - even the corporate executives whose practices and policies we disdain - if this movement is to succeed" (Marianne Willaimson during her talk Friday night).

"I've never seen such a well thought out process or so much 'interdisciplinary' exchange prior to a major meeting. And lots of your faculty are interdisciplary thinkers all by themselves... who really have worked through a lot of issues from many perspectives. That, I think, is my strongest impression...the way this stuff matters sufficiently for people to really get into the give and take, in writing..." (one of our speakers)

"I urge all of you to recongize that slavery still exists today. In my country, Mauritania, I was told as a child that 'paradise lies under your master's feet'; many of us were given away with new brides as presents; it was forbidden to learn to read or write... Now today, no one of you can say you don't know about slavery in Mauritania. Please help us fight this horibble condition" (Moctar Tayeb, speaking during his speech after receiving an Ethics Award for his work as an anti-slavery activist).

"This conference is like a 'bouquet des fleurs'. A bunch of white flowers can never be as beautiful as a bouquet of many different varieties" (Ethics Award recipient Sara Alexander being interviewed by NPR's Margo Adler).

"Congratulations on a wonderful conference" (one of our speakers).

"I enjoyed myself a great deal. It's refreshing to be with people who live their lives based on their respective faiths. And they act on it!" (one of our speakers).

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