City Club of Chicago Ė Morality and economics
August 18, 2004
Praise God. Thank you. I actually get to start off
today, especially after going about the room and meeting all of my old and
new friends, I feel in a mood to do something a reporter, I think, asked me
about the other day, because you know I got caught in one of those moments
when you don't know the camera's on and you're horsing around. WGN caught me
singing, and this became a subject of conversation. Another station
approached and said, "Why don't you do a couple of numbers for us?"
I did that after some persuasion, obviously.
But a reporter asked me how long I'd been singing, and all of this, and when it is that I feel tempted to burst into song. And I have to tell you, after going around this room and feeling the warmth and feeling the welcome that you all have extended to me, this is one of those moments when I feel like bursting into song.
So, took the wonderful excuse that today happens to be Joyce Saxon's birthday. And so, as my first act today, I would like all of you to join me in a rousing rendition of that good old favorite, "Happy birthday to you." [sings]
I also have to say that, apart from the wonderful welcome I've gotten in the room here, I have felt a wonderful welcome from the people of Illinois, and especially people all around Chicago, as I have gone about my business here. And that has made me want to burst into a few lines from that other old wonderful song. You know it, right? All of you know that song? "My kind of town, Chicago is." [sings]
Yes, indeed. I have felt that bursting up in me for the last several days. Chicago is my kind of town. Illinois is my kind of state. And Illinoisans are my kind of people. But why is that? It's not only because of the warmth and friendliness and courtesy that I've found in so many different quarters. Whether people are agreeing or disagreeing, I have found that a lot of folks in this great city, in this great state, are people who are going to approach you in the spirit of the frontier that Illinois once was--a spirit that is openhearted and openhanded and willing to judge you on the basis of what you can do and what kind of character you have, not where you were born and what your background is. And I think that is one of the great American characteristics that Illinois has represented down through our heritage.
I think it also represents a deep commitment of heart to the great principles that are at the foundation of our whole way of life in this great country of ours. It's no accident, therefore, that our greatest statesman in terms of those principles, Abraham Lincoln, has lent his name to this great state of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln.
Now, some folks I know have been a little critical of me, because since I stepped into the state, I have had near my heart and on my lips the great moral principles that are at the basis of this nation's founding, and I have talked about the great moral crisis that we are in, and the issue of moral principle, abortion, that is at the heart of that crisis. And I have done so quite clearly and quite consciously. I want to let everybody know, because people are raising questions about this, and some people are saying, "He's just a one-issue candidate," and so forth and so on. I want to make perfectly clear that the Alan Keyes that is here today is the Alan Keyes who has been speaking out and working, year after year, and over the decades, with people of good heart, and I will continue to do so.
I will not hesitate, I will not vacillate, I will not equivocate. I will stand my ground, and we will all be heard!
But part of the reason for that is because there is a fundamental importance to our American life and character, to our moral principles. It's one that should be obvious when we look at our politics. After all, we are founded on the great belief that we're all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. I have wondered over time how we can pretend to be a people who could leave the name of God out of our public life when we have invoked the authority of God as the foundation of our public life.
Can I say that over again, slowly?
I have wondered how we can be a people who would leave the name of God out of our public life, when we are a people who invoked the name of God as the basis for our public life. I think that that is a contradiction.
So, I think morality is important, I think it's primary, I think it's a priority, if we are to maintain our American identity. But you know what folks don't often think about? They don't often realize that in the most practical sense possible, that same morality is the foundation of all our material success. All of it, without exception, I would say.
And why would I say such a thing?
We are preoccupied, as well we should be, here in Illinois, with economic challenges. There is, I would have to tell you, an unequal distribution of opportunity, as I am noticing it, in this state. There is a lot going on, there are hardworking people, and they are taking care of their families and building futures. And then there are others who haven't quite caught up, and they don't have jobs, and they are worried about the future. And it is right that we should focus on the question of how we are going to make sure that opportunity is offered, that work is available, that hope is available to all of the people of this state.
But one of these days, I think, we're going to start to realize that when candidates get up and start talking about jobs, jobs, jobs, and then you look at their record, and every vote they have taken and every stand they have taken seems to be discouraging to business and to business opportunity and to business development--when are we going to stop being taken in? Without businesses, there can be no jobs!
And so, at the end of the day, we had better look at what it takes to create a successful environment for true job creation, to turn vacant lots in our neighborhoods into places of business that will offer people the work they need to support their dignity, to support their families, to support their hopes and their lives.
We have a special American way of doing that. And I have had, over the course of the years, lots of opportunities to think about that special American way--in contrast, by the way, with things that have been done in other countries. In the old Soviet Union, and countries that subscribe to communism and socialism, they think as, I'm afraid, some of the folks who are engaging in our politics. They think that you promise people jobs, and it will come about because you have built up a bigger government and a more powerful government, a bigger bureaucracy and a more powerful bureaucracy. Are we supposed to act as if we have not learned the lessons of history from the 20th century?
As a great nation, we stood in competition with nations that were founded on the notion that you offer hope and jobs to people by offering them government power and government domination. The states and nations founded on that misguided understanding are gone, and we are still here.
Why on earth should we believe that an approach that failed egregiously again and again and again in every country where it has been tried is really the basis for offering jobs and hope to people in this state who have neither jobs nor hope? It's not going to happen.
What we have to do is look at our paradigm of
success. Our paradigm of success has been based on entrepreneurship, it has
been based on the establishment of businesses by people who are willing to
take the risk and have the courage to take the initiative, to see a need in
their community and build a business to meet that need. It has come about
because we have been able to develop a system where ordinary folks with good
ideas will win their way through the system to find the capital that they
need to invest in that business and built it up so it can provide jobs for
their neighbors and for their community. That is who we are.
And that system of economic liberty, of entrepreneurship and initiative, it is that system of economic organization which respects the potential of each individual, which respects the potential of the people, not just the power of the government. It is that system that triumphed over communism and triumphed over socialism, and stands today still as the greatest beacon light of material hope for every people on the face of the earth.
But here's what I'd like you to think about: what does it take to make that system work? Oh, I know, we concentrate on the money and the investment and all, and this is true. But when are we going to, though, sit down and remember? Let's see, we have a system that is based on initiative and risk-taking. What does it require to be somebody who's going to stand forward and reach for an opportunity others don't see; stand forward and follow a vision that's clear in your head, but that others don't quite get yet because you haven't helped to make them see it in the world? You know what it takes? It takes courage.
Now, when I go back through all of the books that talk about philosophy and morality and ethics, do you know what they call courage? They call it a virtue--that is to say, a moral element of human character. That's what they call it.
So, it turns out that without this moral element of human character, our system wouldn't work! That's interesting, isn't it, because it means that one of the key elements of our material success is the existence in our people of this moral virtue. Take it away, and we will fail.
I remember once talking to a businessman who was coming through the country. As it turned out, as I recall, I think he was from Kenya, and he had been a participant in a program where we bring over people, and they go around the country talking to folks in our different cities about how they do business and what's involved, and so forth. I was assistant secretary for international organizations at the time, and when such visitors were leaving the country, they would come to the State Department and they would sit down with high-level officials, and we'd chat with them about their impressions, and so forth and so on. And I asked him what it was the struck him most, as he was going around the country, about Americans. And he said what really had struck him forcibly about American business people--particularly the small business people, and the independent folks, and the entrepreneurs--was how hard they work. He said he just couldn't believe how hard they work, how much of their lives they devote to making sure that business is going to be a success, how they'll work 16, and 18, and 20 hours, how they'll go without sleep, and, at the end of the day, still not be guaranteed success by anybody, but they'll give their all.
Do you know what that means? That means that you get up in the morning, and you really wish you could go back to sleep, but you get up anyway. You come to evening, and you want to go see that movie, but you keep working anyway. It means that your bowels are yearning with a few more hours with a few more hours with your family, and you'd really want to go home right now, but you will go to dinner and will meet that potential client, and you'll sit there through it all because you know you've gotta get that job done anyway. You'll sit up late at night going through the figures, you'll get up early in the morning to make sure that the store is open and that the employees are ready. You'll take the risks, you'll bear the burden, and you'll put aside all those things that might make life more pleasurable. What do we call it when people have that kind of discipline? We call it self-discipline, we call it moderation, we call it a sense of responsibility, we call it virtue--and that, too, is a moral characteristic.
So, it turns out that when we start to examine what it takes to make our businesses work, it takes a special kind of moral character, and without it, we would not have achieved success.
And let's be clear that businesses, as all of you know, are also about one very important ingredient, aren't they? Because you've got to have, at the end of the day, not just an idea in your head that looks good, you've got to be able to communicate that idea to others. You've got to be able to work it out, so that somebody who doesn't get the benefit yet will trust you and work with you, until that benefit becomes clear. And you'll sit down, and you'll work out the details. "I'll contribute this, you contribute that, and if we all work together, at the end of the day, we're going to see a great outcome, and we're all going to share in the result."
But if I've told you I'm going to contribute X, and you're going to contribute Y, when we get right down to it, what is business based on? It is based on our belief that we'll keep our word. It is based on trust. It is based on the confidence that comes from knowing that you work with people who have some integrity. Isn't that true? Last time I looked, trustworthiness, honesty, that commitment to keep your word, that's a moral virtue.
People who go about our society thinking, "No, there's economics and then there's morality; why are you always talking about morality?"--apparently, they don't understand business. Apparently, they don't understand what it takes to keep the doors open, to keep the employees working. They don't understand what it takes to put out a quality product every day. They don't understand what it takes to keep faith with your clients. They don't understand what it takes to keep faith with a vision that is realized because you had the discipline, the persistence, the honesty, the integrity not to let that dream die. They don't understand what it takes.
I have come, over the years, just like that visitor to our country, I have come over the years to have enormous, not just respect, y'all, but an enormous affection, and enormous love for the hardworking people, workers and leaders, who make this country what it is economically.
And I've also come to an understanding that we're also a good illustration of what that word "economics" is all about. As I recall, last time I was here I went through this, but I'll do it again. That word "economics" is fascinating, oikos nomos. It's a Greek word, originally. And the meaning of oikos is household or home, and nomos means the rules or regulations or conventions that govern the household. So, in the literal sense, economics is about household management, it's about successfully making sure that your families are strong. Isn't that amazing?
And all these people say, "Well, Alan, you're always talking about how we need to respect the marriage-based family, how we need to do what's necessary so we'll maintain the moral discipline to commit ourselves to the future, to raise our children up decently, to put aside our own gratification so we can educate them in the way that they should go. You're always talking about how we must instill in their hearts that faith in God that is the true foundation of self-respect. Why are you always talking about morality?" Well, I'll tell you why: because without that moral integrity, we can't have strong families, and without strong families, we will not have a strong economy. The family is the basis of our economic success.
Here, again, what are we looking at? We're looking at people who have the ability to make and keep their promise to the future--and to make it not with their lips only, but to look in themselves and know, if you are born with a special gift or talent, that's a gift from God. It's also a promise to that family that doesn't exist yet, to that community of which you are a part, to that nation that you are a part of, and to that future that you can help to build.
Our gifts and our talents and our capabilities, they are, as it were, promises. I believe they are promises made by God through us to the future and for the betterment of humankind.
The question that's put to us, in all that we are capable of doing, is, will we submit to keep that promise? Will we be people of integrity?
I think the answer that we have seen in much of our business--but there are exceptions; we all know this. They've become more frequent, sadly, because we do live in an era when people have forgotten the moral basis of economics and business, and you and I both know that that has led to serious lapses. People entrusted with the care of pension funds and other things who have not kept their obligations straight, and have worked for their own profit at the expense of those whom they should serve. People who are at the helm of businesses, who put their own greedy little personal interest above what they owe to their stockholders, what they owe to those clients that they're supposed to be serving with a quality service and a quality product. We've seen it happen. We've seen some great heads roll in the last few years. Folks who used to sit in fancy boardrooms are now sitting in a lot less fancy jail cells, for that very reason: because we have forgotten that economics has a moral basis and it also has ethical and moral requirements.
But on the whole, I'd have say we wouldn't be the great country we are if it wasn't the case that those people are the exception, they're not the rule. I think there's an exceptional quality that has been manifest in the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people.
Sadly, in the last few days, I've had to think a lot about things that I have studied in graduate school and knew about in one way or the other, and that is the fact that, sorry to tell you all, I guess you've noticed it, but our political life really doesn't live up to that standard of integrity. I can see the shock on all your faces. "How dare you say that?"
And I wouldn't want to say that those of us who live in Illinois have some, shall we say, special historical acquaintance with this fact. But you and I both know it's true, don't we? I'm not supposed to talk about it, and I want to be polite. It is true, as they keep reminding you, that I just got here. But the truth of the matter is, y'all, that when something becomes this egregious, you don't have to be here for long to notice it.
I want to tell you clearly that I think the one thing we've got to try, in our public and politic life, to offer to the people of Illinois is we have got to try to offer them the restoration of true integrity in the service that politicians and public figures give to the people of this state. It is long overdue.
And the first prerequisite in politics, just as it is a prerequisite in business, is a fairly clear and a fairly simple one. There's a whole list of things. It's staying up late and getting up early, it's working hard and all these things we talked about. But do you know the most important thing it is, because you're supposed to be a representative of the people? The most important thing is, after all is said and done, when you stand before them and say, "I believe X and will work for Y," that they can trust your word that you say what you mean and you mean what you say.
I hope that you'll forgive me at this point for remembering that, much as I am enjoying sharing these thoughts with you just between us, I do speak in the presence of an election that requires that we always remember that standing right here along the stage with me in your minds in my opponent. I remember that. I was expecting, when I decided that I was going to step forward in this race, given all the hype I had heard and the impression that had been made on many people around the country, including myself, by state senator Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention, I was expecting I was stepping into an arena with somebody who had real substance and talents and capabilities, who was forthright and confident, and who had already, I was told, made it clear that the statesmanlike requirements of the situation meant that you had have clear debates before the people of the state.
He sent a letter to his opponent. It was a beautiful letter. It was! No, I'm not kidding about this. It was a letter that cited the heritage of Illinois, the great Lincoln-Douglas debates, and how folks needed to measure up to the standard that was set by them. It talked about making sure you served all the people of Illinois, and so you had have debates in every region of the state so that nobody would be left out, and that meant six debates. And it talked about the need to make that commitment in order to serve the interest of the people.
Now, the reason I go through all of that is because that means that over here is the standard of service to the people of Illinois--and that standard, by the way, was not established by Alan Keyes. You do remember that. I just found it on the table when I got here, I picked it up and I said to myself, "That's a good standard! I like that standard!"
And some folks on my campaign staff said, "Let's negotiate about this, negotiate about that," and I said, "No, that's a good letter! That's a good standard. First thing I'm going to do, out of the box, is agree with my opponent. Take that." And so I did. People asked me about debates, and I said, "There's the standard that's on the table. Let's go forward with it."
And you know, much to my shock and surprise, I had not been in the arena for 24 hours when what should happen but that my opponent, state senator Obama, holds a press conference, and all of a sudden he's decided that it's only two debates now. And I know some people think that this is quibbling, six debates, two debates. It's not a matter of numbers, though. It's a matter of the standard. He set the standard that he said was necessary to serve all the people of the state and to meet the heritage of statesmanship that Illinois represents. I didn't set it. He set it. And then I hadn't been in the race 24 hours, and he says he doesn't want to live up to that standard anymore!
I wonder what could have affected his confidence in that 24-hour period.
Well, we won't think about that, will we? Some people might accuse me of something if I dwelt on that too much. A lack of modesty or something. I don't know.
But it does seem like an interesting coincidence, doesn't it. You know the first thought that occurred to me, though, as he went from six debates down to two? Since he had said that we needed six to cover the whole state and make sure that in all regions of the state people got a firsthand look at the debates, the question I asked myself was, "Who is he leaving out?"
Who is he leaving out? Who has he decided doesn't need the firsthand look that he said would serve the interest of the people of this state? Who does he mean not to remember when he gets into the United States Senate? Who does he mean to kick to the curb the minute he has power in his hands? Who does he mean to forget in Illinois?
It's not only a powerfully important question in a political sense; the other thing is, it represents a powerfully important question about what kind of service he means to give to the people. He sets the standard, he promises to live up to the standard, he offers his opponent an opportunity to do so, and then when he faces me, he suddenly decides, "No. I'm not going to pay attention to what I said, and I'm going to back away."
The other day I got a question from a reporter, and he says to me, "Well, it is in senator Obama's interest politically, now that you're in the race? He's got all the hype, he's got all the attention, he's got this, he's got that. If he doesn't have to debate you, then he can hold on to his lead and sail into the United States Senate, and that's in his political interest." And I sat there thinking to myself, well, that may be true from the point of view of some cynical, self-centered, selfish political ambition. But the standard in that letter, I don't remember it opening with the fact that it said we candidates have an interest in manipulating the debate process in the service of our cynical ambition, and therefore we'll determine the number of debates based on what serves our narrow, selfish political ambition, and we'll forget the best interest of the people of this state.
Is that what he wrote in that letter?
No, it's not. He sounded like a high-minded statesman--but he's acting like the same old machine politicians that have already proven that they cannot serve the interest of the state of Illinois.
Now, people have been giving me great instruction
since I got here, and they instructed me a little about his career, that he's
a fellow known for challenging the bosses, and his win in the Democratic
primary supposedly represented a defeat for that old political machine, and
so forth and so on. And I'm sitting here thinking to myself, there are two
ways in which you can approach this issue of what you do with a political
machine and the bosses. One is that you challenge that machine on behalf of
the people, that you mean to see an end to the mentality that subordinates
the interests of the people to the power interests of any politicians.
Republicans or Democrats, bureaucrats or educrats,
I believe that it is our job to serve the common good of the people of this
state, not to serve the good of our own power and our own ambition. That's
what I believe.
And if we are going to challenge leadership that has not lived up to that standard, then we need to challenge it in order to put the people of this state back in charge. But sadly, the way my opponent is acting gives rise to the suspicion that, yeah, he's challenging the leadership and challenging the machine and challenging the bosses, but he's challenging them, not because he wants to put the people in their place, but because he wants to take their place.
So I would have to tell you that I think that just as our economic life requires a certain integrity, if we're going to reestablish the same standard in our political life, I think it's about time we demanded the same integrity from our political leaders. Not just that they get up early and stay up late and seek every advantage that's going to serve their own power, but that they give their word and keep it, and that when they articulate that's good for the people, they live up to that standard, whether or not it cuts across their own political interest, their own selfish personal ambition.
I tried to illustrate that, and will continue to do so, by pointing out that one of the things I've said throughout my political career about debates is that if your name is on the ballot, your body should be on the stage; that we shouldn't have phony ballots where we list a couple of names from the major parties and then stick on a couple of other names that qualified, but don't let them be heard.
Don't you realize that when we have a ballot like that, where we have, by systematic means, excluded people from debates, excluded them from media coverage, excluded them from the attention of the public, that ballot is a sham? And if part of the ballot is a sham, it gives rise to the cynical suspicion in the hearts of some people that the whole process is a sham--and when that cynicism spreads in a self-governing society, we all suffer.
So, I have said, and I had a press conference yesterday with the independent candidate and the libertarian candidate to make the point: I think that the as the Rotarian Four-Way Test says, one test you apply, "Is it fair to all concerned?" The notion of excluding people who are on the ballot from debates is not fair to all concerned. Most importantly, it's not fair to all the candidates who are on the ballot and it's not fair to the people, who, in making an informed judgment, should hear from all the candidates before they do. Doing it otherwise would be like a jury that only hears from the prosecution. Is that fair to somebody in here? Because, I don't think it sounds fair to me.
So, I think that we need to look at this as we look, I believe, at other issues. To have strong families, we need a moral foundation. To have great and successful businesses, we need a foundation of leadership that respects the requirements of moral virtue and moral integrity. And if we mean to sustain a strong polity, then we must begin to demand political leadership that respects the moral foundations of our nation's life in freedom.
It's the way I understand politics. I know, should be worried about just stitching together some coalition, go out, put a face before people that will please them, and get them to vote for you regardless of what you believe.
I know that that's the way the game is played, but as I remember that we have people dying in Iraq, risking and giving their lives; as I remember that fateful day September 11th, when we had thousands of our fellow citizens in buildings that collapsed and that left their lives shattered, and their hopes gone, and their families grieving; as I remember schools where kids are sitting at desks where there aren't enough books for them to take home and do their homework; as I remember hopeless faces that long to be at work but have no jobs, hopeless faces that long to be at peace, but have no confidence--I guess I'm reminded that this politics of ours, for all its hoopla and all its festivities, is not a game.
Involved are issues of life and death, of heart and soul, of spirit and aspiration. And we need leadership that will remember that the crazy quilt of selfish interests is, in the time of real need, not enough. We must be more than a coalition of selfish hearts; we must be a community of people dedicated in faith to the great principles that make us Americans, the great principles that make us free.
That is the goal of my political life.
And I would invite all of those people in this great state of Illinois who share that heart of principle to put aside the superficial words of those who say that we come not from the same place, not from the same home, not from the same state. For, if we stand upon that common ground of principled integrity, then we have made our home on the only ground that matters, and we shall live there in hope, together.
MC:† Lining up for questions at the stage mic.† Go ahead.† Mr. Keyes do you want to come up here.† Yes.† First question.
Jeff Berkowitz:† Jeff Berkowitz, President and Producer for Public Affairs, airing every Monday night at 8:30 on Channel 21 throughout the state of Chicago, and hopefully with Alan Keyes there soon.
Ambassador Keyes, let me give you a multiple choice quiz here.† Youíve said I think this last Sunday that you favor . . . and I think you have said this on Craig [Delimerís] At Issue program . . . that you favor a litmus test for judicial nominees with respect to the abortion issue.† Let me ask you.† Would that litmus be that you would require:
A. †A federalism approach that the issue of abortion ought to be returned to the legislatures as it was being handled prior to Roe v Wade?†
Would you favor a Constitutional amendment that overturned Roe v Wade and said there is indeed a Constitutional right not to [unintelligible] women to choose as they say, but a Constitutional right for the unborn to be protected? †
Would . . . well, would or would you favor another approach? †Weíll call that approach ďCĒ or some combination therein.† If you could flesh out a little bit just what that litmus test would look like as you look at judicial nominees.
Keyes:† Well, before I answer the ďAĒ or ďBĒ question let me do the fleshing in, because I think itís important to understand the answer.†
In the first instance, we must understand especially when youíre dealing with nominees to the federal bench, people who are going to be looking at the Constitution and how it should be applied.† I believe we have to look at them the way, I donít know, the way you would look at engineers and architects who are working on a building and working from a plan as to how that building should be constructed.† It is very true that they look at the plan of the building and on the plan the laws of physics are not all of them written, are they?† The laws of thermodynamics are not repeated on the architectís drawing. †But everything in the architectís drawing, everything in the plans presumes respect for those laws.† Because otherwise the building isnít going to stand up.
I think that our principles as a people, the ones that were articulated in part in the Declaration of Independence, are like those fundamental laws of science that the engineers and architects have to respect.† And what Iíd want to know is that as the judges on the federal bench who correspond in a sense to the engineers and architects who are dealing with our Constitutional structure on an ongoing basis that as they deal with that structure, theyíre going to respect those principles, and theyíre going to apply them in such a way that we do not end up destroying the building because we have ignored them.† Thatís the principle thatís involved.
Now, if you were to turn the clock back to the days before Roe vs. Wade when we had a regime in which the states decided this issue, and in which, by the way, in the immediate years before Roe vs. Wade I think all states but what was it two had decided to put restrictions on or not to allow abortion, I think that thatís a regime that if the courts had left it alone I donít know that Iíd be crusading for a Constitutional amendment to change that situation.†
But my friends, we canít change history.† The court did not leave it alone.† The court made a decision that raised to the national level a challenge of principle, and once that challenge is there it canít be put back in the box.† The simple fact of the matter is that the great principles of our nation require that we respect this premise, we are all created equal.† That means weíre not born equal.† Weíre not equal by motherís choice, fatherís choice, presidentís choice.† It says that principle of equality is established by the creator.† Now, if thatís the case, on what grounds do we say that that babe in the womb is unequal to me or you in terms of respect for its life?† It makes no sense.
The Supreme Court has put the challenge of principle inescapably before the entire nation.† The answer of principle is logically and clearly correct, based both on logic and our history, and that means at this juncture the nation can only give one response, in my view, and that is according to principle.†
So my litmus test would be that we need a change that will be clear in the Constitution.† So, Iíd want judges who respected those principles and would apply them in such a way as to make it clear that there can be no right to violate the fundamental premise of equality that is in the Declaration, and I also would support, therefore, a federal amendment that makes that crystal clear so that judges cannot ignore it again.