Michaela and I spent the weekend in New York City to attend a very special wedding, which was held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. My college friend, Hope May who teaches philosophy and runs the Ethics Center at Central Michigan University, married Jeffrey Wigand who is best known for uncovering long-standing corruption in the tobacco industry. He was the subject of the Hollywood movie, "The Insider"(1999), which starred Russell Crowe and Al Pacino.
It was truly a unique wedding. Testimonies were offered throughout the service by family members and friends as well as passages on the importance and meaning of marriage. Here is a short excerpt from an essay by Elizabeth Cady Stanton titled "On Marriage".
There is one beauty of the earth, another of the stars, a beauty of rounded lines and fresh colors, and a subjective beauty which fadeth not away. Blessed are they who love for that alone, who, in a true spiritual union, find an element of the permanent, that like myrrh and frankincense, sweetens and glorifies life, makes gods of men and women and paradise on earth. One of these unions has given the world a John Stuart Mill, who in his writings unites the consciousness and strength of the man with the tenderness and inspiration of the woman; and whether speaking of trade, science, philosophy or law, a deep abiding love for humanity breathes in every line. He and his glorified wife were one in all their studies, interests and ambitions. Whatever came from the pen of one was the united thought of both… And this is marriage, a true union of soul and intellect, which leads, exalts and sanctifies the physical consummation.
What I truly appreciated about this secular ceremony was the emphasis placed not just on their shared love for one another, but on the ways in which this union will further their shared commitment to education and public advocacy. It's unfortunate that our society is so preoccupied with questions about same-sex, interracial, and inter-religious marriage when what we should be emphasizing is the transformative power of shared love and the potential for a greater public good. This is a couple that came together because of a shared passion for education and justice. Their sex, religion, race, age are all completely irrelevant. What ultimately matters is the way they identity with one another and in turn themselves. I walked out of the ceremony thinking to myself that this is a powerful union, that both of them will be better individuals because they have the other to rely on. Wouldn't it be wonderful if even a small fraction of married couples could say that about one another?
Following the reception we made our way over to the penthouse of the Parker Meridien for the reception, which overlooked Central Park. The photograph above was taken from the banquet room.
Click here for Wigand's personal website, which includes information about the movie, congressional testimony and Smoke-Free Kids.