Friends, it's such a pleasure to be here with you this evening, and especially at such an auspicious time.
You know from the two wonderful letters that the Universal House of Justice sent out on the 26th of March that this is the occasion of the centenary of the Tablets of the Divine Plan. In those letters, there's a testimony to the tremendous sacrifices and efforts that Bahá’ís have made―both the heroes of the Faith, but also the rank and file―over a century to try to translate whatever ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said in the Tablets of the Divine Plan into reality and action. Of course, those letters also capture the unique role that your community [the Bahá’í community of the United States] and its spiritual forebears have played in this process both directly and in the way that it contributed to raising up [Bahá’í] communities in so many parts of the world.
This centenary is an occasion, I think, to pause and reflect a little bit about who we are and what we're doing, so I wanted to share some thoughts along those lines with you.
Condition of the world around us
As we look around the world and review the news, on almost a daily basis we see a cacophony of problems that hit us in the face every day―these problems and habits of humanity that reflect a breakdown of the world around us, of the fabric of the society. I don't know about you, but I have to confess to my own shortcoming here: Whenever I get up in the morning and start looking at the news, my blood starts to boil! I can’t imagine how people can do this, how this guy can say this, and so on. Then I have to pause and calm myself down and remind myself, “Well, Paul, the old world order is winning all of its goals!” It's disintegrating at quite a rapid pace, so I should take heart and not be so upset.
When we look around us, we see, for example, the effects of corruption ― especially political corruption; of moral laxity and an ingrained prejudice. We see all of these things especially in the United States. These are the things you [find] in the conversations that are really at the heart of this disintegrative process. These were the evil tendencies that Shoghi Effendi identified in The Advent of Divine Justice. He might as well have been reading the headlines today. Now everywhere we look we see these [evils] in various manifestations, these elements [that] are eating away at the fabric of our society. This behavior is a reflection of the way human beings think. “The reality of man is his thought,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said. The world we see around us reflects the thought and actions of the peoples of the world. You think this way, and then you behave this way, and this is the world you get. If you don't like this world, if there's a problem with it, then you have to learn how to think in a different way and act in a different way.