In A Common Faith, Vermonter and educator, John Dewey wrote of the larger role that we each play in the human drama:The things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves. They exist by the grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link. Ours is the responsibility of conserving, transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than when we received it.
Dewey would argue that every American citizen has a responsibility to conserve, transmit, rectify and expand the American values that we have inherited. Yet the responsibility of leaders who devote themselves full-time to the work of governance is greater than that of average citizens. Our current U.S. president has failed to embrace this responsibility.
In the year 2000, President George W. Bush inherited the leadership of a county that was admired by the world. Our power, our values and our receptivity to the less fortunate were symbolized by the Statue of Liberty that greeted so many of our ancestors after weeks of travel across a hostile ocean. Lady Liberty stood for equality, compassion, moral conviction, democracy and freedom. She stood for a new life in a new land, one in which refugees from any nation could become citizens united as Americans by their equal vote. Yet our country is no longer the envy of the world. Today American provides little moral leadership.
When the World Trade Centers, symbol of international cooperation, were brought to the ground, Bush chose to divide the world into two camps: those who were with us from those who were against us. In doing so he isolated American and a handful of “coalition forces” from the world.
Bush has chosen to promote his personal heritage of privilege and his extreme values at the cost of the moral underpinnings of our society. He has chosen to support a war of aggression for resources. He has chosen to transfer wealth from the many to the few. He has chosen to illegally and immorally support torture, secret prisons abroad, prolonged illegal detention and warrantless wiretapping.
He has chosen to value political expediency over constitutionally-guaranteed protections in his directives to federal appellate judges. He has chosen to further divide our country and our world rather than inspire us to unite in common values. He has chosen fear over understanding. He has failed to leave our “heritage of values” . “more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than when we received it.” He has failed to use restraint, reason, and diplomacy preferring aggression, emotion and force. He has pursued power without concern for the greater good.
With our votes, a year from now, we will replace George W. Bush. We must seek a candidate who will understand that “the things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves.” The next president must understand the awesome responsibility that he or she will have to protect and rectify our “heritage of values.” Our next president must make our American heritage more solid, secure and accessible. If our American Democracy is to survive, all Castleton students must register to vote and elect a president who takes this responsibility seriously.
Professor of Education