The Athenian Oath

December 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today, I sat through my last ever PAF 101 class (Intro to Public Policy) with esteemed Professor and author Bill Coplin, and he imparted on our class yet another piece of brilliant wisdom, though this one struck a particularly poignant chord.

The class, based around acquiring the skills needed to address societal problems through public policy and “doing good,” involved the Professor much of its time making it clear to us that one of the major problems facing our society today is the unfortunate triumph of self interest over public interest. Today, for the first time, he finally proposed a solution, which in fact was a segment of the Athenian Oath, which reads:

We will ever strive for the ideals and sacred things of the city, both alone and with many; we will unceasingly seek to quicken the sense of public duty. We will revere and obey the city’s laws. We will transmit the city, not only not less, but greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.

Now, this class had already served as the catalyst for my turn towards sustainability, but this quote finally brought it all together. Why is sustainability important? Because we need to “transmit the city […] greater, better, and more beautiful” than it was given to us. Nowadays, the city is the world at large, but the message is the same. We all need to work together, “with many” to improve our environment, and to make our planet sustainable for the future.

I encourage you all to take the Athenian Oath yourselves, as my entire class did today. Take it with your own personal focus. How will you make this “city” better? Will you help the environment? Will you fight world hunger? No matter what you do, just make sure to leave this planet, and your home, in a better state than you found it. I know that’s what I plan on doing.


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