Hamilton and Shepard emphasize the importance of civic education

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Former Indiana congressional representative Lee Hamilton warned attorneys and advocates of civic education that unless citizens uphold their responsibilities and duties, democracy will not prevail.

“Our system is not self-perpetuating,” Hamilton said. “Self-government is a monumental achievement, one of the grandest achievements in the history of mankind, but it does not perpetuate itself automatically. You cannot put it on automatic pilot. There is no invisible hand that guides and preserves our institutions and our destiny. Because it has worked in the past does not mean it will work in the future and that you and I will always have – and that our children and grandchildren will always have – a free and an independent and a prosperous country.”

The southern Indiana Democrat was a keynote speaker at the Indiana Bar Foundation’s We The People state dinner Dec. 15 at Union Station in Indianapolis. Sharing the podium with Hamilton was retired Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard.

Held during the two-day We The People state finals, the dinner honored the attorneys, law firms and school teachers who have taught Indiana high school and middle school students about American history and democracy through the We The People program.

Indiana Bar Foundation president Judi Calhoun, Delaware County chief deputy prosecutor, served as master of ceremonies.

Hamilton and Shepard were recognized during the evening with the William Baker Award. This honor is given annually by the bar foundation to attorneys who exhibit an outstanding dedication to civic education. The crowd gave the pair a standing ovation.

Both men said they were surprised to receive the award and they are grateful for all the work the volunteers did through the We The People activities to help the next generation understand citizenship.

The IBF also honored the Pierre F. and Enid Goodrich Foundation and the Winchester Foundation for their continued financial support of the We The People program.

Shepard focused his remarks on civility and incivility in American life. He stressed the need to carefully listen to those who agree as well as disagree with us and to use respectful language when speaking. Civil dialogue, he said, will lead to a high probability of acceptance of whatever compromise results.

The retired Chief Justice also criticized gerrymandering, in particular, for driving citizens apart by rewarding people for moving to the edge instead of to the center.

Shepard said Americans today have not had the profound experiences, like the Great Depression, World War II and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, to bind them together. That is why, he said, the work of the bar foundation and civic education is even more important.

“It is one of the few genuine ways that we can help students and younger people understand the enormous value that this incredible venture that the American experiment has been has the capacity to build an even better society in the future,” he said.

Hamilton, too, underscored the value of civic education, noting each generation must learn citizenship skills anew. The succeeding generation must pass along its knowledge of the country’s history and heritage as well as teach the values of respect, empathy, tolerance and integrity.

“The privileges and opportunities as citizens we have in a representative democracy are wide and generous,” he said. “The demands upon us are imperative. We will not have liberty and justice for all, as we so often pledge, without responsible leadership and citizenship.”

Recalling his time in Congress, Hamilton said bringing people together, building a consensus behind a solution, is the toughest job in representative democracy. He echoed Shepard by noting the need to work through differences in a respectful manner rather than just hammering the opposing side.

Citizens, he said, have the responsibility to work together for the common good. Along with upholding the civic virtue of tending to their professions and their families, he reminded the dinner guests that using their civic skills to influence their communities and their nation is an essential element of representative democracy.

Representative democracy, he continued, requires citizen to act with mutual respect and tolerance as well as empathy and humility. He also called upon citizens to not just preach civic virtues, but to practice them.

“I don’t have a sure-fired formula for our success as a country,” Hamilton concluded. “I do have a sure-fired formula for our failure and that formula is to back away, to disengage from our responsibilities as American citizens. If you and I become … a nation of spectators, we will surely fail. Democracy, said (President Thomas) Jefferson, is never a final achievement, it’s a call to an untiring effort.”



  • Such cynicism!
    I sure wish I could tell JS his cynical post is off target .... but the modern record is with him, so he is just cynically brilliant, as is his habit. And now comes Shepard and Hamilton, elitists both, the former on the payroll of George Soros, attempting to argue that a kommissar system is better than what passes for representative government. To borrow from JS, perhaps the 13 Fed Reserve bankers would like to just appoint all of our judges, and, what the heck, representatives as well. Dialectical Mammonism, anyone?
  • humbug
    Democracy, feh, whatever, that is now mostly a slogan used to justify war. Take ten thousand elections and if every one is a phony alternative between banker controlled party a and banker controlled party b, there's no real choice. Where is the democracy when you have incidents of historic profound social change imposed without legislation and instead by judicial fiat. Brown v board, roe v wade, and whatever the current excuse of a case the gay rights stuff is flying under. None of those things had much "democractic" support and it took a well funded "litigation strategy" combined with PR savvy to reprogram the tastes of the majority and accustom them to the new laws mostly imposed by black robed fiat. After about a decade of brainwashing on each topic the public was goofed into believing that was somehow "democracy." If the powerful & rich elite of this country want a change, they can make it happen, democracy be damned. Just like any other country. Laws be damned! Look at the illegal immigration laws this county has had for decades even as the millions have tramped across the borders. And the bar cops will now punish lawyers for daring to mention "unlawful residency status" of an adverse party in a suit. Amazing how this "democracy" works. Democracy is as much a false god as any other and America is just as corrupt as any other. Lets jettison all the jingoism and be realistic and more humble about our vaunted "democractic system." Spare us the phony speeches.
  • Duck Duck Cooked Goose
    PJB has authored a great article dealing with the subject discussed in these comments, to wit, a dissidents perspective on elitists defining what is "civil" to discuss. My own case, personally approved as just and mete by Indiana's highest court five years ago, further defines how subjectivist views of "civility" can easily become political repression. Here is PJB on that process: Here are links to my Supreme Court briefs (one from ND Law School prof Charlie Rice) showing how civility overwrote Rule 12 standards for something called "insight" (actually a pyschological/feminist code word) to burn my legal career at the stake ... .... .... the ashes of my previously bright career -- I served at the right hand of a state attorney general for four years and litigated for the Christian Right in courts the nation over -- should serve as a warning to all others who may one day be found "uncivil" for holding views like those PJB discusses in his article. Soft persecution is here, for the Left seeks to use all at its power to silence the Christian Right. In the case of Duck Dynasty there is no constitutional cause, since it is private discrimination based upon contract .... in my case it was constitutional, since it was governement licensure based upon ideals of political correctness.
  • Who gives a duck?
    Yes, JS, as many cases in the courts and before administrative tribunals demonstrate. The question relevant to this site is, if one decides that she does not give a duck, can she be an Indiana attorney? That is, are pledging the oath and following the actual rules of professional resp the test, or is pledging allegiance to A&E's view of what should and should not be said?
  • framing debate
    right on bryan! civility today is becoming a phony mask for political correctness
  • Just be civil and baaa when told
    I find it troubling when powerful elitists focus so much of their energies on advancing civility and incivility in American life. Too often this means "we have the power and will define the discussion topics." When the powerless then attempt to discuss that which the powerful do not want to hear -- yes, you guessed it, that is simply not "civil." Thus civility becomes code for shutting down dissident opinions and/or discussions that the rich and powerful do not want to entertain. Orwellian and Huxleyian all in one. (insert polite golf claps here}

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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.