Don’t bow your heads, but look around you

Juan Mendez! Yes!

On Tuesday, May 21, Juan Mendez, a 28-year-old Democratic State Representative from Tempe, Arizona, was given the task of delivering the opening prayer for the afternoon session of the House of Representatives. Instead of offering a prayer, Mendez spoke of his secular humanist tradition, while asking those in the room to recognize their shared humanity. 

Mendez said:

Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.

This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my secular humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love.

Well…I’m not convinced we all share the same spectrum of potential for compassion, but saying it may help to create the potential, so I won’t argue the point.


  1. Robert B. says

    Everyone (barring unusual brain features, I guess) has the potential for compassion. Even the worst theocrat or bigot could be compassionate, if they wanted to. They might have to change, ignore, or abandon some of their religious beliefs, which I think may have been your point, Ophelia, but they could.

  2. Ant (@antallan) says

    The spectrum runs from “none at all” to “overwhelming bounty”.

    It’s worth adding the next level of nested quotes!

    Mendez said:

    Carl Sagan once wrote:

    For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.


  3. Ichthyic says

    ….and of course, today another arizona representative in that same chamber decides there needs to be no less than two prayers to compensate for the “affront” caused by Mendez, and half the chamber agrees with the idiot who doesn’t even pretend to understand the first amendment.

    1 step forward, 2 steps back. 🙁

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