Recordings of Sunday Platform addresses
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Can We Cultivate Compassion?; Amy Miller, MSW, Interim Director

October 22, 2023

A rudimentary dive into compassion research unearthed this: “…While cynics may dismiss compassion as touchy-feely or irrational, scientists have started to map the biological basis of compassion, suggesting its deep evolutionary purpose. This research has shown that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people…” (UC Berkley, “Greater Good Magazine”)

What could be more impactful on a community than a desire to approach and care for other people? The intentional cultivation of compassion is not only possible, but necessary. Historically, we may have troubled ourselves with any number of other endeavors, but in the turmoil of today, it becomes increasingly urgent that we focus on co-creating spaces where people feel seen, supported, and cared for. Compassion literally means “to suffer together,” but I’d like the focus to be on “relieving suffering together.”


Unedited Video

Antiracism as Daily Practice: Changing White Communities One Step at a Time; Rev Dr Jennifer Harvey

October 8, 2023

White Americans can choose behaviors in our everyday lives to grow racial justice. It’s especially vital for white people to engage in and with our families, through our social networks, in our neighborhoods, and at our jobs to make antiracism a daily living commitment. Meanwhile these are some of the hardest places to do so. We have real power in our relationships with other white people—and not enough of us have used it. We need to talk about why white people struggle with knowing what to do about racism, and the significance of emotions like grief and anger (as well as the harmful role of shame) in reckoning with the transformation our communities need to become the partners in justice that Black communities and other communities need and deserve. Not only is such transformation vital to the well-being of U.S. democracy, it’s vital to the freedom and wholeness of white people too.

Rev. Dr. Jennifer Harvey is a writer and educator long engaged in racial justice and white antiracism. Her books include the New York Times bestseller Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in Racially Unjust America and Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation. She has written for the New York Times and CNN, appeared on CNN’s Town Hall on Racism with Sesame Street, and been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered and “It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders.” After serving nearly 20 years at Drake University as a professor of religion, she recently became the vice president for Academic Affairs and academic dean at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Dr. Harvey is ordained in the American Baptist Churches (USA).


Unedited Video

We Can’t Be Cats (But That Doesn’t Make Us Sheep); Amy Miller, MSW, Interim Director

October 1, 2023

You’ve heard the idiom about trying to manage a challenging group, “It’s like herding cats?” This is funny (and true) because, well, cats are impossible to herd. They do what they want, when they want.

You’ve also heard “Don’t be a sheep.” Being called a sheep is an insult. It means someone views you as just going along with things. At the Ethical Society, we don’t want to fall into complacency and group think; we value being individuals who have our own opinions.

But, when we are in community together, what is the sweet spot between these extremes? How do we balance doing what is best for the “greater good” with honoring ourselves and our own autonomy and ideas? Let’s explore this together with our Interim Director, Amy Miller, as we continue to “Explore the Human Condition.”

Amy is a clinical social worker, relationship coach, mediator, and the author of Easyish: Keys To A (Relatively) Easy Relationship, published in 2021.


Unedited Video

The War of Intersections: Fighting The Cause of Our Division; Heather Fleming

September 24, 2023
Africian American woman, Heather Fleming in a blue dress with her arms crossed.
Heather Fleming

Across the country, we continue to see attacks on critical race theory, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), access to books and libraries, sex education, affirmative action, women’s reproductive rights, civil rights, and much more in our legislatures and institutions. To many, these issues seem to be overwhelming to fight individually, but for those who have been immersed in the issue, the prevailing understanding is that we are really fighting one common enemy that presents itself in a myriad of ways. Heather Fleming, founder and director of the MO Equity Education Partnership, explains the connection to each of these issues and how we all can work collectively to defeat this movement.

Heather Fleming is the founder and director of In Purpose Educational Services (IPES), author of the book My Black Friend Says…: Lessons in Equity, Inclusion, and Cultural Competency, and founder and director of the MO Equity Education Partnership (MoEEP). Prior to her work in organizing and equity training, she started her career working eight years in the public service sector. She then moved into education and served as an English Language Arts teacher for 14 years before becoming a full-time equity and inclusion training and program design professional. Her goal for her work in this field is to promote healing, understanding, and equity for all.


Unedited Video

For Your Consideration; Emiel Barrett. EdD

September 23, 2023
Puerto Ricans American man,  Emiel Barrett, smiling and sitting in a chair.

Emiel’s presentation delves into the intricate dynamics of code-switching and implicit bias, and explores how people with marginalized identities navigate diverse environments, including adapting their communication styles to fit cultural expectations. It sheds light on the subtle yet powerful impact of implicit bias on our perceptions and interactions. Emiel’s presentation will encourage critical self-reflection and equip community members with strategies to foster more inclusive and equitable interactions.

As a leadership and professional development practitioner, Emiel specializes in developing and coaching executives, teams, and emerging leaders. For more than 26 years, he has successfully facilitated the untangling of interpersonal and organizational complexities that plague team dynamics. His work is grounded in research and experience in the fields of leadership development, executive presence, “the habit of coaching,” and diversity, equity and inclusion. Dr. Barrett served in the US Navy for 21 years; during this time, he crafted a focused, direct, and warm approach that wastes no time in engaging with leaders to discover the most equitable solutions for their organizations.

He earned a doctorate of education from the University of New England and an M.B.A. from Texas A&M University. He is a professional certified coach with the International Coaching Federation and a certified practitioner of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Hogan Assessment.


Unedited Video

To Build: My Decade With the Ethical Society of St. Louis; Kyle Nienhaus

September 1, 2023
Kyle Nienhaus with his daughter on his shoulders.

Summiting ten years of membership, Kyle Nienhaus shares his experiences with the Ethical Society of St. Louis including reflections on personal growth, challenges still to be met, memories of friends along the way, and hopes for our children’s future. Humanist values are human values worth wanting, and Kyle intends to show the “how-come?” and the “what-for?” of that age-old question: “Why?”

Member Kyle Nienhaus is an independent philosopher and musician, author of the forthcoming Humanist, All Too Humanist: A Nietzsche Interpretation and trained at Berklee College of Music. He was born and raised in St. Louis where he lives with his wife Nikki and their daughter Lorelai.


Unedited Video

Perspectives on Kilimanjaro; Mary Ann Perkins

August 20, 2023
Photo of Mt Kilimanjaro
Photo by Sergey Pesterev

Kilimanjaro – the world’s tallest freestanding mountain – rises nearly 20,000 feet above sea level in safari lands on the border between Tanzania and Kenya. The mountain has five distinct ecological zones at different altitudes, with jungle at the foothills and glaciers at the summit. Some 35,000 tourists attempt to reach the peak each year, encountering physical and psychological challenges along the way. Some 10-25 percent of them have to turn back, succumbing to altitude sickness, injury, exposure to the cold or other adverse conditions. On June 14, Mary Ann Perkins and her daughter, Danielle, reached the summit. In her address to the Ethical Society, Mary Ann will draw parallels between their experiences on the mountain and humanist perspectives on life.

Member Mary Ann Perkins grew up in St. Louis County and then lived overseas–in Germany, Lebanon and Thailand–for most of the next two decades. During that time she had two children, left the Mormon church and completed two master’s degrees. After returning to the St. Louis area, she became a member of the Ethical Society and restarted the religious transition peer-support group that meets at the Ethical Society every Monday at 7 p.m.


Unedited Video

How the Core Values Provide Me with a Behavioral Roadmap to Joy and Meaning; Dan Overmann

August 13, 2023

Member Dan Overmann will give a personal account of how the core values provide a behavioral “roadmap” leading to an enriched quality of life for himself and others – a life quality that is characterized by joy and meaning. Eliciting the best in the human spirit is the navigational keystone of the roadmap.

Dan is a sole practitioner architect and owner of dro Design & Planning. The majority of his work involves the planning, design and implementation of healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics. He and his wife Mary joined the Ethical Society 26 years ago to provide a non-religious, value-centered learning environment for their two children. He currently serves the Ethical Society as a member of the Lay Leadership Development Committee, the Welcome Team, and the Platform Host Team.


Unedited Video

Exploring Ethical (Pop) Culture; Louise Jett, MEd, Leader Intern

August 6, 2023

Creativity and storytelling help us cultivate meaning and bring joy into our lives. How can we harness the power of creativity to grow our movement and reach new audiences? Where can we find Humanism (and our values) in popular culture? Leader Intern Louise Jett explores pop culture that honors Ethical Humanism.


Unedited Video

No Blank Check: Why Americans Don’t like Presidential Power and What it Means for Politics; Andrew Reeves, PhD

July 23, 2023
No Blank Check Book Cover

Reeves’ research examines the interchange between institutions and behavior with a focus on political accountability and public policy in the United States. His most recent book, No Blank Check: The Origins and Consequences of Public Antipathy towards Presidential Power with Jon C. Rogowski was published in 2022 by Cambridge University Press.

From the publisher: Concerns about unaccountable executive power have featured recurrently in political debates from the American founding to today. For many, presidents’ use of unilateral power threatens American democracy. No Blank Check advances a new perspective: Instead of finding Americans apathetic toward how presidents exercise power, it shows the public is deeply concerned with core democratic values. Drawing on data from original surveys, innovative experiments, historical polls, and contexts outside the United States, the book highlights Americans’ skepticism towards presidential power. This skepticism results in a public that punishes unilaterally minded presidents and the policies they pursue. By departing from existing theories of presidential power which acknowledge only institutional constraints, this timely and revealing book demonstrates the public’s capacity to tame the unilateral impulses of even the most ambitious presidents. Ultimately, when it comes to exercising power, the public does not hand the president a blank check.


Unedited Video

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