Mike McCurry on Fixing Politics


BOB ABERNETHY: This commencement season, when graduates are encouraged to go out and change the world, we have a Belief and Practice segment on a man with a new graduate degree who wants to do nothing less than change the political climate of Washington, D.C. He is Mike McCurry, an old Washington hand, and we caught up with him last Monday as the Washington National Cathedral opened its doors for the commencement ceremony of the Wesley Theological Seminary.

Choir singing: “The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace.”

ABERNETHY: Mike McCurry is a United Methodist who was press secretary for President Clinton at the White House in the 1990s. Later, he worked in public relations and also served on the board of the Wesley Theological Seminary.It was then that he decided to get a graduate degree, a Master of Arts, and try to change the way Washington works.

Commencement Ceremony Announcer: Michael D. McCurry, with honors.

MIKE McCURRY: i think the single biggest missing ingredient in our political system right now are real relationships of trust, you know, human relationships where people really think about and care about each other. And that’s right where the church has to be. To me, that’s what the church is about.

I’m a guy who comes out of the world of political communications and how we express things in the media. I think we have got to tone it down a lot.

I want to be very clear. We’re not talking about taking church dogma and putting that front and center in the way we do policy-making. We’re not saying there ought to be a theocracy here. But I think there are ways in which people who are guided by the spirit, and who have a deep respect and love for God, treat each other a little bit differently.

Part of the study of scripture is that business about loving your neighbor as yourself. Well, there’s not a whole lot of that kind of love in Washington. But we are a community, and I think there are ways and with various faith traditions—Christianity, obviously, in my case, but others as well can bring us to a point where there’s a little more spiritual bonding that can happen in this town.

ABERNETHY: I asked him whether he could imagine that happening in Congress.

McCURRY: It’s hard sometimes, you know, it would require a lot of prayer, probably.

ABERNETHY: Later, McCurry acknowledged his sense of mission.

McCURRY: I wanted to take courses at the seminary, first and frankly, out of intellectual curiosity. But the more I did it, the more I felt some sense of call, that God was putting on me a challenge to see if I could do something about this broken world of politics that I’ve worked in for so long, to do something to create a little more civil discourse in this country.

ABERNETHY: And that’s what you’re going to do?

McCURRY: That’s what I’m going to use my degree to do.