In the spring of 1945, with the world still staggering from the most devastating war in human history, leaders from 50 nations gathered in San Francisco with admittedly high aspirations: to create an international organization that would “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Thus the United Nations was born, with a charter that also included the aim to promote human rights, international law, and a higher standard of living around the world.
Of course, there have been wars since 1945—although, thankfully, none as deadly as World War II. Human rights and international law are still violated far too often around the world. And while the overall standard of living is higher, too many people still live in substandard conditions. Yet these lofty purposes remain unchanged almost 75 years later; whatever critics might say about the UN’s accomplishments, one cannot accuse it of having mediocre goals. As one historian said, “The UN’s greatest challenge has been [the] wide gap between its ambitions and capacities.”
But then, couldn’t the same be said of all of us? Don’t we all have hopes and dreams that lie outside—sometimes far outside—our current reach? If we don’t, if we only ever attempt things that seem doable, then we simply aren’t growing—and probably not accomplishing much that is meaningful. Whether our goal is to improve the world or just improve ourselves, isn’t it always better to aim high and fall short than to give up—or not try at all?
One journalist has observed that while the UN “has never fulfilled the hopes of its founders, … it [has] accomplished a good deal nevertheless.” One way it has done this is by extending beyond its original scope of government leaders and enlisting the help of “civil society”: community groups, charities, churches—basically, local citizens who care. That’s instructive for all of us with lofty goals, including the goal of a more “civil society.” We need each other. We need to build bridges and open doors to those who share our high aspirations. No, we may not achieve every one of our hopes and dreams, but life’s greatest accomplishments come in the process of trying.
 “Charter of the United Nations,” un.org.
 Jussi M. Hanhimäki, The United Nations: A Very Short Introduction (2008), 3.
 Stanley Meisler, United Nations: A History (1995), 390.
August 16, 2020 Toward a More Civil Society
Broadcast Number 4744
The Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square
Bells on Temple Square
High on the Mountain Top
Ebenezer Beesley; arr. Mack Wilberg
He Shall Feed His Flock
John Ness Beck
For the Beauty of the Earth
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Irish melody; arr. Brian Mathias
Allegro, from Concerto in A Minor
Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach; arr. Fred Gramann
Climb Ev’ry Mountain, from The Sound of Music
Richard Rodgers; arr. Arthur Harris
Fill the World with Love, from Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Leslie Bricusse; arr. Mack Wilberg