I suppose it is true for all of us: every-once-in-awhile we meet someone that we wish we could spend much more time with than seems possible. That happened to me a few years ago on a visit to LA, where with a handful of friends from Washington I spent two days with a wide circle of folk whose vocations are in the TV and film industry. On the grounds of Fox Studios we watched a film not-yet-released, “Because of Winn-Dixie,” in the company of Walden Media’s president, Micheal Flaherty-an intriguing man, bright-as-a-button and yet remarkably playful too, and in and through it all, a true Irish wit.
We went to a Santa Monica beachfront hotel afterwards to talk over the film, and I continued to watch and listen, becoming increasingly impressed with his vision for film and culture, but also by his kindness. In the years since then, we have been together several times, and on each occasion I am once more drawn in by his rare gifts, an unusual combination of intelligence and warmth. Micheal reads carefully and critically, widely and deeply; his range surprises me, in fact. Threaded through it all is his passion for the polis, for the meaning of our life together as a people. From that passion– a vocation it is –he sees the spectrum of human responsibilities and relationships, ranging as they do from school to marketplace, from home to metroplex. And he understands the true truth that it is stories that shape societies-for blessing and curse.
A week ago I was in Dallas, TX, speaking for the 10th Anniversary of the Paideia College Society, at the invitation of my good friend David Naugle, author of the acclaimed Worldview: The History of the Concept. One evening we drove past a theater complex, and I saw three Walden films-” Charlotte’s Web,” “Bridge to Terebithia,” and “Amazing Grace” -and I thought of Micheal’s vision. A few days later, I wrote him, thanking him for “lighting candles-rather than cursing the darkness.” We are all in his debt.
This past month he gave an address at Hillsdale College, and we are reprinting it here. His wit is in evidence, but even more so his ability to speak into the wider world about things that matter, which is the final challenge for everyone whose thinking and living is formed by the reality and truth of “mere christianity.”