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Dan Conrad's 1991 Kurt Hahn Address: "Reflections on Living with Respect"

James Neill
Last updated:
05 Feb 2005


Dan Conrad's 1991 Kurt Hahn Address: "Reflections on Living with Respect"

Dan Conrad gave the 1991 Kurt Hahn Address at the Experiential Education conference (USA), on behalf of his late wife, Diane Conrad, who died of cancer. Being in his own state of mourning facilitated insight for him into compassion towards deaths during the Gulf war.

Here's a timely excerpt (given the current US-Iraq war estimates now reaching over 100,000 Iraqi dead and over 1,000 US dead).

"In the days immediately following Diane's death, I often thought about how the sun and moon and stars that filled my sky were the same as shone down on others who were grieving a wife, mother, father, child, sister, or friend. Some from disease, some from accident, some from hunger, from murder...or even from war.

And somehow I kept coming back to those 50 to 100,000 Iraqi dead who were being mourned as deeply as I mourned Diane - with the difference that they were dead on purpose. They were killed by high-tech weaponry, systematically employed by persons whom we afterward celebrated as heroes with songs and fireworks, and tears that resulted were pointed to as igniting a great new spirit in America, a resurgence of national pride and a renewed sense of confidence and dignity: It was said we could hold our heads high once more. It's a strange world.

But I don't bring this up to make a political statement. I'm no expert in foreign affairs or on how to deal with other militaristic nations and aggressive leaders. But I do know something about individual suffering and loss, about other motherless children - and wish profoundly that our decisions to go to war and our celebrations following would take the whole story into account.

Would it be less patriotic to feel as much compassion and regret as joy and pride over what occurred in that, and all other wars? In America we have so many better things to be joyful and prideful about.

Just the other night, I had this wonderful idea about that New York City tickertape parade. Remember it? Well, just imagine this for a moment: What if right in the middle of that parade everything had just stopped, all of sudden Schwarzkopf, the patriot missiles, everything stopped - just for a moment - and all the people stood silently together while a thousand or more runners came weaving their way through the floats, convertibles, battalions of soldiers, and marching bands, with each running carrying a banner with the names of a hundred persons who had died: American, Israeli, Saudi, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Iraqi, Turk. And as the runners passed these silent watchers, everyone (as is the custom in some synagogues on Yom Kippur) turned to the person next to them and said, "I'm sorry,", "I'm so very sorry." And the runners had passed, the parade and music and storm of ticker tape continued on once more.

Well, it's just an idea, and time, right now, for me to continue on. It is not my intention to use this as a forum for my ideas about politics or education, or to run out some reassuring platitudes about the need for experience or informal education. We all know and agree on most of those things anyway."