Opening Words from Sun. August 19 by Kayla Vaughan

Good Morning. I want to talk about the Ethical Society’s One Read. You may live in a community that has done this. We have announced plans for the Ethical Society’s One read in the last several programs. I am very enthusiastic about both the concept and the book that has been chosen.

All of us who participate in the Ethical One Read will be having the same experience. Reading the same book is community building. It will give us something in common with other members here. Many of us have been coming to Ethical for a long time and know a lot of people; and that is a very comfortable place to be. But it can inhibit us from meeting members we do not know or rarely talk to. Others of us are newer members. It can sometimes be hard to initiate conversation or feel included. Hopefully, we will all welcome the opportunity to have conversations about this book with others, whether we know them or not.

Reading it will put us on equal footing and provide the basis for exchanging ideas and getting to know one another better. Ethical Humanists do not have the go-to One reads that other religious communities have— the Bible for Christians, the Koran for Muslims, the Torah for Jews, etc. But everyone knows that Stories are how we transmit culture, explore values and learn about life’s hard choices.

The book that has been chosen for the One Read is no simple parable. It is a rich and complex memoir which explores both suffering and personal redemption. It is a dramatic story of a woman who saves herself by saving others. Regardless of the reader’s life experience, the book will evoke powerful memories, allowing the reader to empathize with the author’s suffering, shame , guilt and ultimately, her successes and triumphs. It touches the reader deeply.

Becoming Ms. Burton is also a very cogent introduction to the prison industrial complex which has arisen in the U.S. in the last 30 or so years. Reading this book provides the reader with an education about mass incarceration and why it is now at a crisis level.

You are about to hear a very moving platform. I admire Samantha and Krystal very much for being willing to share some painful, personal stories. Their willingness to be vulnerable and self-revealing is a testament to their trust in this community. Their trust in us is a gift. I hope it will motivate you to read the book, come to discussions, and inspire random conversations with strangers here, waiting to become your friends.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.