A common theme that is pointed out within both King and Kolvenbach is the idea of people being an active member of society. More specifically, it is a common responsibility for all of humanity to take it upon themselves to help those who are in need. Whether it has to do with civil rights, class differences, or utilizing one’s resources to aid those who are lacking the ability to help themselves, all of these issues are equally significant. In both of these essays there is a clear desire for individuals to try to see things from different perspectives and find the strength from within to be able to make a difference. However, this is something that many find difficult to do themselves. It is those who have the courage and passion to use their voice that end up leaving their mark on the world.
In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, King addresses the lack of concern that exists when it comes to civil rights. He describes how “few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race” (King). In other words, unless someone is exposed to the suffering that others are experiencing, they do not have the ability to fully comprehend it. More than the lack of action from the “white moderate”, King discusses how even religious communities have failed to show basic compassion. He explains that he “came to Birmingham with hope that the white religious leadership would see injustice...with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure”. Even those who are supposed to support the word of God are instead hiding behind the walls of their churches. Even more importantly he stresses the idea of “social neglect” and the “noncomformists”. Those who neglect to pay attention to what is happening around them tend to conform to what the majority is doing. King is a strong believer of not sitting back and hoping that “time will inevitably cure all ills”. He preaches that no progress will ever be made unless there is true effort and hard work from humanity.
Many of the ideals that King discusses are present in the Jesuit philosophy. Kolvenbach supports the idea that in order to want to help others, you have to immerse yourself. He highlights the importance of “action- oriented commitment” and how that speaks more than just words of concern (27). Kolvenbach points out that “Thanks to science and technology, human society is able to solve problems...but remains stubbornly unable to accomplish this” (32). it is quite unsettling that even with all the advances of technology that have been made, people still don’t come forward and use it to make a difference. At times, it is even used to exploit certain races or cultures. Jesuit education is designed to confront this exact problem. King believes that when a connection isn’t formed between the oppressor and the oppressed, progress will never be made. Kolvenbach states, when discussing the education of students, that “ in the course of their formation, they must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives”(35). They must participate in service and dive into a world that is much different than what they are used to. When they do, essential connections will be made and most likely these students will develop the desire to do great things.
King pointed out faults within humanity that the Jesuits specifically are trying to prevent through their education. It is the ignorance of humanity that blocks progress from being made in the world. People distance themselves from things that don’t effect them. In order to break that barrier, there needs to be a foundation instilled in the younger generation that will lead them to better understand the world as a whole.