Milstein East Conference Room Wall – Right Center Panel

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Terence (Publius Terentius Afer)  (195/4 BCE – 159 BCE)

“Rigorous Law is often rigorous injustice.”

Fresco of two female theater masks from the House of the Golden Bracelet, Pompeii


Publius Terentius Afer (195/4-159 BCE), commonly known as Terence, was a successful playwright in the Roman republic. He was born a slave in North Africa and was raised and educated in the home of Roman Senator Terentius Lucans who freed him when he became an adult. During his life, he was widely known for friendships with leading intellectuals and great men such as Caius Delius and Scipio Africanis.  Terence wrote six comedies that we know of today, all of which survive, that were staged to mixed acclaim in Rome.  They were “Greek-style” comedies of manners, adapted from the works of classical authors such as Appollidorus and Menander. Unlike other genres of Roman theatre, these comedies addressed human relationships in a day-to-day setting.  The Self-Tormentor, the source of this quote, deals with issues of love, duty and family rivalry through paired stories of fathers, sons, conniving slaves and secret lovers. In the play, the slave Syrus, in an attempt get money to pay for an earlier plot, tries to persuade Chremes, his master’s father, that he is obligated to pay a supposed debt incurred by another on his daughter’s behalf. Syrus forestalls any objections to the obligation, citing the common wisdom quoted here, that strict law can be unjust.  Terence left Rome by ship in 159 BCE, heading for Asia, but was never heard from again.  Caesar and Cicero praised him for the grace and purity of his language, although some critics claimed that his writing showed too much skill to have been written by a former slave. Nevertheless, his plays have been key texts in the study of Latin drama ever since.



Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

“Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated.  Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”

Photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Marion S. Trikosko


Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr. attained national recognition during the mid-1950’s as a symbolic leader of the civil rights movement in the United States. His career as a social activist ended when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968 while supporting a strike for better wages as part of his Poor People’s Campaign.

This quotation comes from one of King’s sermons titled “On Being a Good Neighbor,” from “Strength to Love,” a compilation published in 1963. The sermons were written when twenty-six year old Dr. King was rising to national prominence after organizing non-violent boycotts of the segregated Montgomery bus system.

In 1957, King became the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He coordinated nonviolent direct action campaigns throughout the South, including the August 1963 March on Washington. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In his laureate address, King spoke of the award as an affirmation of his nonviolent efforts in the civil rights movement, “After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression…If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love….”.

Martin Luther King, Jr. 1964 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech,



Hillel  (c. 60 BCE – 10)

“That which is hateful to you, do not to your fellow; this, in a few words, is the entire Torah, all the rest is but an elaboration of this one, central point.  Now, go and learn it.”    Portrait of Hillel the Elder by Arthur Szyk reproduced with the cooperation of The Arthur Szyk Society


One of the most important leaders and scholars of Jewish history, Hillel is traditionally thought to have been born in Babylon in 110 BCE and died in Jerusalem in 10 CE. Hillel is closely associated with the development of the seminal Jewish religious texts, the Talmud and Mishnah. He is more popularly known for several dictums; the one which is quoted here is Hillel’s “Golden Rule”. According to the Talmud, a man asked Hillel to explain the Torah to him while he stood on one foot. This maxim is Hillel’s distillation of Jewish moral law, as he considered brotherly love to be the kernel of Jewish teaching.








Gustavo Gutierrez (born June 8, 1928)

“Charity is today a ‘political charity’…it means the transformation of a society structured to benefit a few who appropriate to themselves the value of the work of others.  This transformation ought to be directed toward a radical change in the foundation of society, that is, the private ownership of the means of production.”

Photo of Gustavo Gutierrez
Dominican priest Gustavo Gutiérrez’ work with the predominantly poor Catholic community in Peru during the 1970’s was inspired by a practice of theology outlined in his 1971 book, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation.  Liberation Theology proposes a practical commitment to alleviating the economic and political oppression of the poor, in addition to attending to their spiritual needs. The practice generates awareness about conditions and structures of exploitation in order to begin the process of improvement or “irruption of the poor”.  Gutiérrez distributed his pastoral messages through the opinion pages in the Lima newspaper, La República during a period of political violence in Peru during the last two decades of the 20th century.

In 1968, Gutiérrez served as a theological advisor to the Second General Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM II) in Medellín, Columbia.  Historically, the Catholic Church had been structurally aligned with wealthy and politically oppressive South American governments. Through the bishops’ reform, the Church now professed a ‘preferential option for the poor’.   At CELAM III, held at Puebla de los Angeles, Mexico in 1979, the bishops confirmed the message of Medellín: ‘We affirm the need for conversion on the part of the whole church to a preferential option for the poor, an option aimed at their integral liberation.’

Gutiérrez currently holds the John Cardinal O’Hara Professorship of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

Olle Kristenson, Pastor in the Shadow of Violence 4-12, 113 (Uppsala Univ. 2009).

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