Former United Nations Ambassador Michael Novak Comes to Seton Hall to Speak About Social Justice

michael novak

By Brian Mitchell,
Managing Editor  

On Monday, Nov. 16, Seton Hall’s Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology welcomed a very special guest in Former United Nations Ambassador and author of many books Michael Novak. Michael Novak was born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He attended school at Stonehill College to earn his Bachelor of Arts, Pontical Gregorian University to earn his Bachelor of Sacred Theology, and then Harvard University to earn his Master of Arts degree.

Novak is most known for serving as United Nations Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1981 and 1982. Novak represented the United States in Geneva at the Geneva and Bern peace negotiations with the Soviet Union. At these negotiations, Novak advocated for stronger human rights in the Soviet Union. The negotiations were a success.

Novak recollects the day after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. One of Reagan’s aides told Michael, a lifelong Democrat, that the administration wanted Novak to represent the United States in Geneva.

Novak remembers being shocked and not understanding. After all, Novak was not a politician and had very little understanding of the conference and how the negotiations would work. However, the administration knew that Novak was the personality they wanted to represent the United States, and the best man to partake in negotiations for human rights.

Novak is also well known for writing The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism in 1982. Novak says that the reason for writing The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism was because many other economic systems had a book or some kind of text to discuss the positives of the economic system and why it is a good economic system, such as Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

In this book, Novak aims to understand and analyze the theological assumptions of democratic capitalism, its spirit, its values, and its intentions. The book has been hailed as a prominent piece of literature of our time, and was translated to many different languages after its initial release. Interestingly, Novak allowed an underground publishing group to translate the book to Polish under the terms that a copy of the book would be given to Pope John Paul II. This is what sparked a friendship between Novak and the Pope.

Seton Hall student and Stillman Exchange writer Brian Bozzo was able to attend the event, and said “It was enlightening to hear the history of how humans have contributed to our economy from a developmental standpoint.” Bozzo also mentioned that during the talk, Novak  brought in external circumstances that forced humans to change their ways, making us more social and political humans because of the changing conditions that we could not control.

Today, Michael Novak lives in Florida and serves as a professor at Ave Maria University. He enjoys teaching others and sharing his experiences. His students still refer to him as “Ambassador,” which pleases him, as he mentioned it is his favorite title he has held.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 8th print edition.

Contact Brian at


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