UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is a Model for Global Progressive LeadershipRoundup
tags: United Nations, Antonio Guterres
Walter G. Moss is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University. His most recent book is An Age of Progress?: Clashing Twentieth-Century Global Forces (2008). For a list of all his recent books and online publications, including many on Russian history and culture, go here.
From time to time I have heard or read pronouncements of UN Secretary General António Guterres and generally liked them. Finally, I decided to look into his background more, and then analyze a few of his recent speeches.
In his views I found him to be progressive, and for a long time he has been a practicing Catholic and a socialist. Having been raised Catholic myself and been educated in Catholic institutions for over twenty years, I have known many Catholics.
With some, their religion has made them better people. I think, for example, of Dorothy Day, one of four or five people that both Barack Obama and Pope Francis identified as a great American. With others, however, like some of our Supreme Court justices, their religion seems to have reinforced their ideological bent, a flaw Pope Francis has warned against. (“Ideology chases away the people. It creates distances between people…It is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians…[It is] rigid, moralistic, ethical, but without kindness.”) Judging from his speeches and actions, Guterres seems more like Day than someone like the ideological Catholic Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
Mr. Guterres was born in Portugal in 1949. He was an outstanding student at a prestigious technical institute that was part of the University of Lisbon. There he studied physics and electrical engineering. He began his university studies in the waning days of the decades-long dictatorship of the right-wing António de Oliveira Salazar, but Guterres’s opposition to the Salazar regime was fueled more by his Catholic concern for social justice as opposed to any radical leftist ideology. As a young man, he worked as a volunteer among Lisbon’s poor people, and for part of the early 1970s he was an assistant professor at the institute from which he had graduated.
By 1974, after a coup had ousted Salazar’s authoritarian right-wing successor and made democracy possible, Guterres had concluded that the best way to bring about social change was through political reform. That same year he joined the Portuguese Socialist Party and soon thereafter left academia to devote himself to a political career.
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