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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.”

 

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  • 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: http://www.lewrockwell.com/2013/12/patrick-j-buchanan/duck-dynasty-and-the-new-blacklist/ 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 ... http://www.scribd.com/doc/109518279/Brownv-ind-S-ct-BoardLawExams .... http://www.scribd.com/doc/106665469/Briefinchief-brown-brown-11-1456-PDF .... 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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