Good morning, I’m Mark Morial.

And I want to thank the Washington National Cathedral, the Right Reverend Budde, Reverends Hollerith, Cope, Hernandez, and Hamlin, and the entire staff and membership here for this opportunity to be with you this morning. To paraphrase the book of Genesis – and God stepped out on space and he looked around and he said, “I’m lonely. I’ll make me a world.” And as far as the eye of God could see, darkness covered everything, blacker than a hundred midnights down in a Cypress swamp. So God spat out the seas and he batted his eyes. And as he batted his eyes, the lightning flashed, he clapped his hands and the thunder rolled. And as he looked out and he created this wonderful planet that we inhabit, after it was all done, he said, “I’m still lonely.”

So he blew life into the being of a person. He made that person intelligent, caring, and compassionate. He made them the same and he made each unique in his own ways. He made each person in his own image and likeness. When he blew life into people, he didn’t just create one kind of person. He didn’t say, “Let me create black people, or let me simply create white people. Or let me simply create straight people or gay people or Asians.” He created people each in his own likeness and each very much the same, but each with unique characteristics. And God’s people built a world at times imperfect and at other times, so perfect. At times, so accomplished and a world, at times, so lacking. At times, the world that God’s people built was peaceful, at times violent. At times, caring and at times cold hearted and indifferent. At times, loving and at times embracing hatred. God’s people, who are people of goodwill, have been challenged through history to overcome – overcome famine and flood, pandemic, slavery, misogyny, poverty, ignorance, hatred in all forms, but God created within each and every one of us, the power to overcome, the ability to love and to cherish, to collaborate and to cooperate. And he charged us to always build a better world as this century began 20 years ago.

No one could have predicted with any degree of accuracy, the great challenges that this century would present to this global village and to this mighty nation. In the first year of this century, the year 2001, terror and violence struck as hateful men hijacked planes, and caused the deaths of 3000 people at the towers in New York and at the Pentagon here in Washington, DC. And the people who died were of every hue and every creed and every color and every religion. And this nation was plunged into war, war in Afghanistan and war in Iraq at a cost of lives and a cost of billions of dollars. And then in 2005, hurricane Katrina hit my beloved hometown and 2000 plus people died along the coast and its companion Rita. And later, years later, Superstorm Sandy and the Puerto Rican hurricane. And in the early 21st century, we had the great recession, which costs millions of jobs and millions of lives, millions of households, millions of American dreams, and Trayvon Martin to George Floyd reminded us the awful violence of racism.

And in these first 20 years, we’ve seen the rise of dictators. And yes, we’ve seen the inklings of want to be dictators – children in cages, hate crimes against all forms of people, rising anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-gay anti-black in 21st century America. And all of this was before this year of 2020. 2020 has now rolled in as the most consequential year in memory. Many people call it a year of a pandemic. I call it a year of four pandemics. Yes, the pandemic of COVID – 188,000 deaths here in the United States of God’s children and 6.2 million cases. And add the context of 188,000 deaths. And go back to the some 3000 people who lost their lives at the towers, the 2000 in Katrina, the hundreds of thousands that may have died in other weather emergencies, and it does not come near the 188,000 people who’ve lost their lives in this year alone. Pandemic. number one. Pandemic number two – an economic pandemic. 13.6 million people without jobs, millions of people working part time that want to work full time. Many people on the edge of survival, praying to God that they don’t get evicted and foreclosed on as this economic pandemic rolls on, on top of the inequality in the economy, which has existed for far too long. Pandemic number two, the economic pandemic. The third pandemic is the pandemic of racial justice.

Born out when this country was rocked. Its consciousness was rocked with the death of George Floyd. George Floyd’s untimely and unnecessary death on the streets of one of our great American cities, Minneapolis, stood not by itself. We remember Trayvon and Michael Brown and Eric Garner. I could name so many of the thousands of mostly African American men, but not exclusively African American men, unarmed, who’ve lost their lives at the hands of those who are licensed to protect and serve us. But today brothers and sisters, I want to introduce you to the fourth pandemic. It is the pandemic of the fracturing of the American spirit and the American soul. The very spirit and the soul of compassion and collaboration, a spirit and a soul, which it seems to now be allowing this disease of racism and hatred, which has never been completely extinguished in American life, morph into some sort of normal and acceptable behavior and conduct and philosophy and ideology.

This pandemic of the American spirit and the American soul. This racism is a cataract. It’s a disease of the soul. And I submit to you on this Sunday, this Sunday before Labor Day, where we acknowledge all of the working men and women all across this land, that this nation must cure this fourth pandemic in order to be able to confront the first three. The deficit of spirit in America – the notion that I need not care about someone because their race is different than mine. But it goes beyond those who slur and those who taught and those who kill. It also goes to the apathy and the indifference and the silence of far too many in this nation. The apathy, the indifference, and the silence that stands by while this disease formats and threatens to tear 21st century America apart at its seams. We know the story of 60 years ago when not only Dr. Martin Luther King, but many people of faith, many pastors across multiple denominations, decided to come out of the comfort of the pulpit and out of the comfort of the pastor’s study, to come out of the comfort of the constraints of the institutionalized church and lead movements for moral change in America.

Well, we are once again at that time and at that point. We’re at a time and a point when people of faith, where God’s children, where leaders of denominations and faiths and religions across the board, must step up to help this nation redeem its soul. We must understand that morality requires, that right requires, that we be a generation, as John Lewis said, of good troublemakers. We must make good trouble. You must make good trouble in the sweets of America, if that is where you work and that is where your influence lies. We must make good trouble in the streets of America. As we witnessed a new movement of Black Lives Matter, which has brought together young people in a glorious way, never condoning violence, I would not, but recognizing that the overwhelming number of people are there in peace to fight against violence. And they are good troublemakers in the streets of America.

A good troublemaker may live on the Boulevard in a neighborhood of perfection, of landscape gardens and beautiful homes. But you’ve got to be a troublemaker for justice and a troublemaker to end racism. If you live on the Boulevard, or if you live on the drive, or if you live on the street, or even if you happen to live in the alley, you must be a good troublemaker in the church, and in the schools, and in the universities. And yes, a good troublemaker ought to also inhabit the White House, and Congress, and the Supreme Court, and the city halls, and the legislatures across America. This fourth pandemic, the disease of the soul of America. To say that America’s soul is disease is not to criticize the mighty nation. It is to call the mighty nation that belongs to all of us and say, we must account. And that we must, in this generation, meet the challenges of these times, as other generations met the challenges of their times. And COVID is a challenge, with its health disparities and the economy, with its inequality, is a challenge. Racial justice and unfair treatment in the criminal justice system is a challenge we can’t shirk. We can’t be spectators. We can’t watch from the sidelines. A good trouble maker means we will work from, “can’t see in the morning till can’t see at night”, until no one is hungry, and no one is thirsty, and no one is ill housed, ill fed, ill clothed. So in this time, no child is at home without broadband connection and a computer, to simply do their homework. Racism of the soul must be purged, excised, buried, and destroyed by our generation because it is the challenge and it is a cause of these times.

I offered to you the idea tha tin a time like this, the question becomes, do we have will and do we have courage? It is not a time of whether we have intelligence, or resources, or money, or wherewithal. We have the wherewithal to ensure that every American is properly fed and clothed and that every child has the tools that they need to fulfill their aspirations, their dreams, and their God-given potential. But do we have the will? Racism is America’s original sin. And for too long, we said, “Well, if we don’t talk about it a lot, it might just go away.” And some say, “I don’t want to hear how about race anymore. We talk about it too, too much.” These painful conversations that this nation must have will not go away. To not talk about it is to be silent in the face of an awful pandemic, to be silent and not talk about it is to say that the broken soul or the broken spirit of the nation, we’re going to just tolerate it and we’ll tolerate it as long as we have levels of economic success. I’m here today to join in saying, let us challenge ourselves as a nation and as a generation. Let us recognize that when God created each and every one of us, he gave us a charge and the charge was to make this earth, make this globe, make this nation, make your community, a community that respected and recognized all. Good trouble, as John Lewis counseled us, means not being afraid to be disruptive. People of faith, you have a leadership responsibility. Pastors and religious leaders – you have a special responsibility in these times of great difficulty to minister to these four pandemics, but especially to minister to our souls and to our spirits so that we can truly indeed overcome. Good trouble means that we will not shirk this duty and shirk this responsibility in this the 21st century.

In 2020, we’ve seen this confluence of tremendous pain, but I still believe that we are the masters of our fate, and we’re the captain of our soul. I still believe that we have the intelligence and the will and the knowledge, but we cannot be silent. We cannot be spectators. We must be active people and good troublemakers. Can you join me in being a good troublemaker? Can you join me in committing to work to end these four pandemics? Can you join me? And can we join together at this time of great challenge, in this time of great pain, in this time of an American crossroads, so that we can truly overcome and build a 21st century America. That is an America for everyone and America for all.

Good trouble. Good trouble. Good trouble. Good trouble.


Marc H. Morial