Seeking a Just Society

The Commonwealth Club’s mission is to bring citizens together to examine society’s problems, and to promote their cooperation to improve the well-being of humanity. For 117 years, through wars, pandemics, natural disasters, economic prosperity and decline and generations of civil rights struggles, the Club has been a leading resource for learning, dialogue and action.

The Club was an early advocate of civil rights and racial justice, with its members decrying the abuse and neglect of Native Americans in California in 1909.

The Club’s strong commitment to civil rights and against racism leads us to make a statement now. We deplore the brutality and criminality of a Minneapolis policeman who murdered George Floyd, an unarmed black man suspected of a nonviolent crime, while other policemen held him down and did not intervene to stop the crime. We deplore other recent killings of black American citizens, including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and before them Eric Garner, Michael Brown and others.

These crimes reflect racism and injustice in our society that requires our immediate attention and action.

Racism and abuse must be eradicated in our country. Public safety officers must be carefully selected, trained and supervised to prevent racism, uphold the law and protect all American citizens.

The disparities in educational, economic and other opportunities in America must be reduced. The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected individuals with lower incomes and from non-white communities, leading to widespread suffering and desperation.

This pandemic might have been preventable, or the illness and death it has caused could have been diminished, with an appropriate response by American leaders at all levels and across the political spectrum to the many predictions and urgent calls that were issued by health organizations since at least 2005 to prepare for a respiratory virus pandemic.

Our national, state, regional and local leadership must have the wisdom and skill to prevent or ameliorate crises, must inspire us to be our better selves and bring us together to solve social problems and move forward together. Our leadership must not speak or act in ways that exacerbate divisions or empower discrimination or abuse.

We can and must do better.

Over the past three months, the Club has organized more than 80 online forums, many of which have given voice to advocates of equity and justice. The videos of these and related programs are here: Racial Justice Programs.

In the coming days, the Club will organize town hall meetings to discuss the murder of George Floyd and and the issues of civil rights and justice, with an action-orientation toward progress and solutions.

This is also an opportunity for the Club as an organization to recommit ourselves to increasing diversity on our board, in our programming and on our staff so that we may be representative of the society in which we work. To support and encourage positive change, we must lift the voices of people with diversity of thought and experience.

The American people have demonstrated enormous sacrifice and dedication to one another’s safety and well-being through the past three months of sheltering at home, protecting the most vulnerable members of our society and searching for effective COVID-19 treatments and cures. This is the spirit that makes America great — not racism, violence and hatred.

Each of us has a personal responsibility to take action to support those in our society who continue to experience discrimination or exploitation, including on the basis of race, nationality, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, age, physical appearance, disability, mental health, educational level, economic status or for any other reason. Each of us must commit to take actions every day for change and improvement, eliminating bias from our own attitudes, working to elect leaders who represent values of mutual respect and social unity, helping those in need through a nonprofit, church or other community organization, sharing the benefits of our own educations and financial success with those less privileged, and speaking out in the ways that are available to us.

While open to the expression of a wide spectrum of views, the underlying premise of The Commonwealth Club’s work will continue to be equity, tolerance and the achievement of a prosperous, supportive and just society. The Club looks forward to continuing to examine and improve its own behavior, and to being on the journey with each of you, as we take decisive actions to achieve these goals in our society.

Gloria Duffy

Gloria C. Duffy
President and CEO
The Commonwealth Club of California