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July 2013

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George Wythe Hosts 6th Annual UCESP Conference

New Understanding and New Perspectives

By Grant Smith
On Friday, September 26, 2008, George Wythe was privileged to host the 6th annual UCESP conference.  The Utah Center for Ethics and Social Policy  is a non-partisan, non-profit organization providing, “a forum for scholarly discussion, debate, analysis and evaluation of ethical and social policy issues.”1 According to its website, UCESP's mission is "to provide an objective and scholarly approach at analyzing current issues within ethics and social policy." Though the Utah Center does not hold any particular stance on the issues being discussed, they do work to provide analysis and papers presenting various positions on ethics and social policy issues. They present their analysis and papers as tools and resources to policymakers in an effort to stimulate them to action.  According to UCESP's president, Rulon Huntsman, who was in attendance, it is their hope that the Utah Center "will gradually earn a reputation for insightful analysis and exceptionally clear thinking," and that "policymakers, wherever located, will utilize the best thinking of the Utah Center."  .
Though the conference was abbreviated due to some of the speakers being unable to attend, the atmosphere remained one of new understandings and new perspectives.   The conference began with opening remarks given by Dr. Andrew Groft, a member of UCESP's board of advisors and President of George Wythe University, Cedar City Campus. Dr. Groft shared the origin of the word “ethics” and discussed why ethics and morality is so important to the governing of free peoples. To emphasize the point, he related the history of the Republic of Rome and described the role ethics played in its founding; and how, ultimately, the lack of ethics led to its demise.
The presentations began with an address on “Common Ground: Values & Moral Courage” given by Lawrence Daniel. Mr. Daniel, a lawyer by profession and candidate for public office, was professor at South Texas College of Law’s “Center for Legal Responsibility” and is one of the leaders of the Democratic Party in Iron County, UT. Mr. Daniel’s lecture was based on five principles that span across all cultures as identifiers of moral courage, identified by Rushworth Kidder in his book Moral Courage -  namely Honesty, Respect, Responsibility, Compassion and Fairness. He also offered thought provoking insights into the lack of ethics around the world and some of the problems the United States is facing right now. He drove the point home with some heart-wrenching images and stories and ended his talk with a quote by Edmund Burke; "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.” He concluded by saying that if we leave GWU as thinkers, we will leave as statesmen.
Student Rychael Ure commented that it was “interesting to see how compelling it is on the other side [of what I thought]” and added that he “liked the different point of view.” All would agree with GWU mentor Ms. Barbara Tanner when she said that she was “glad to hear from Mr. Daniel, who, above all, encouraged independent thinking” and that the five principles of moral courage that he shared “are values that are, and should be common.”
After Mr. Daniel’s remarks, GWU's own Dr. Shane Schulthies gave a presentation entitled, “How Historical Turnings Help Us Understand Today’s Challenges.”  He took the attendees through five thousand years of history, focusing on how art and math have been expressions and signs of a civilization’s ethical and spiritual progression. He went through four “turnings” of civilization from the Egyptians to the Greeks, through the Medieval to the renaissance and then to modern time and the our own “post-modern” situation. Like Mr. Daniel, he opened our way of thinking to a new perspective, asking those in attendance to reflect upon the atrocities and other events that have happened in the past century, and then to reevaluate the direction of our thinking and ethical standings as a society, as world citizens. He ended by saying that we are in a turning now and that the "choice is with us; we get to choose where we are heading for the next 500 years." Freshman Eric Reeves said that Dr. Schulties’s presentation was “a good balance of historical context and application to modern issues.”
In part two of the conference GWU Associate Mentor Mr. Stan Szezesny began with an intriguing paper entitled, “God, Life, Sex, & Money: Social Ethics Reflected in the Hippocratic Oath.” It was a compelling review of how the oaths of physicians have changed over the centuries and across cultures. He noted the changes of ethics in the oaths, their foundations, strengths and flaws. To conclude, he noted that “while traditional ethical views of God, life, money, fame, and sex have suffered by the change, a new ethic of individual humanity and personal judgment has been formed. The ethical standards that seem to have remained constant include a commitment to decreasing ignorance through education, the avoidance of physically or emotionally harming others (though this is differently defined by different cultures), the respecting of confidences, and the giving of honor to those who perform their job well.” In response to the presentation, student Ms. Teanu Tonga said that, “it was interesting” and “a lot of info to process.” Both she and sophomore Mr. Tyler Bailey agreed that they would “love to get a copy of it.”
The final presenter was emergency room physician and GWU Associate Mentor Dr. Michael Wilson. His lecture discussed the “Social Policy of Trust” influencing a broad range of issues from health care in the U.S. to immigration and the opinions we each hold. He commented on a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t believe everything you think,” then urged students not to close their minds and shut out progression and learning. He added that whenever people say that politicians “flip-flop” they are not considering that  “a person that never changes his mind has stopped learning.” He also added that in order to have the change we need in America and the world we need to, “question our prejudices… [so we can] discuss and resolve disputes with anyone contrary to us without the use of force." The assumptions we carry around with us can be our heaviest burdens in our attempts to engage productively in social policy.”  Students responded favorably to Dr. Wilson's remarks and one commented that it was “great to hear from a physician about the health care issues” and other noted that it was a thought provoking paper.
Freshman Kimberli Hansen summed up the conference well when she said that it was “well presented...full of energy" and that “the promotion of ethics was refreshing.” The UCESP plans to hold another conference here at GWU in the future. No doubt they will be well received.

Mr. Grant Smith is a freshman at George Wythe studying statesmanship.