I wonder how many asked. I wonder how many have given any thought to the price that must be paid, the burdens to be borne, the hardships to be met if the survival and success of liberty are to be assured.
One might suppose that religious freedom would lead to widespread and unselfconscious manifestations of religion in the public as well as the private lives of the citizens. The reverse seems to have happened. We include the Almighty in our pledge of allegiance (a recent correction of a slight oversight), we inscribe “In God We Trust” on every coin, and yet we all but prohibit religious expression at public gatherings in order to safeguard the religious views of the individual. To make the nation safe for religion, we confine the practice of religion to the church building and we stunt its growth. A good many colleges have shared in this backward advance. We have protected the flower from the wind, but we have also obstructed the sunshine.
We have prided ourselves on the excision of links with the past, perhaps under the misapprehension that in so doing we were but freeing ourselves from prejudice and outmoded ideas.
The two groups within the free nations are identifiable by the philosophy of government to which they adhere. One believes that the unit of society, i.e. the nation, has become so large, so complex and the parts so intricately and intimately interrelated that the decisions pertaining to the various aspects of our living together must be made, and the programs determined, administered and paid for by a strong centralized government. I am confident that the vast majority of people who hold this view are honest, patriotic, thoughtful citizens who earnestly desire to maintain and advance in the United States as elsewhere a strong, dynamic society in which people may live in peace and prosperity.
The other group believes, with equal conviction and equal integrity that our society can only remain vigorous and can only be successful in meeting the same objectives if individuals are granted the largest possible measure of freedom and self-reliance in making decisions and in carrying them out, and if the functions which are assigned by the people to the government are carried on at the lowest effective level of government where the govern mental officers are closest to the people they represent and the problems they are responsible for resolving.
Great treasures are only earned and safeguarded by hard work, personal sacrifices and vigilance. A strong diverse, dynamic system of colleges and universities guided and restricted only by their respective boards of control is truly one of the greatest treasures we possess.
In effect the bill discriminates against church related colleges and universities. How ironic that this pending legislation, so often claimed as a great boon to higher education, should downgrade the efforts of some institutions to act upon what is probably our greatest national need – a spiritual search that will lead the individual citizen to a philosophy of life that girds him with courage, confidence, serenity and a sense of human fulfillment in this new age of human doubt amid the eternal atomic fear. Harold Blake Walker has observed that America has mistaken a standard of living for the purpose of life. The proposed legislation will tend to confirm and perpetuate that grievous national pattern of values and may well lead us into America’s great educational leap backwards. Church and State have been proclaimed forever separate in our nation. As State involves itself in education, Church and Religion must be withdrawn.
As we call upon the government to meet the needs of the underprivileged here and abroad, we are perhaps acknowledging certain rights of man, but if, in so doing, we salve our consciences and think that we are fulfilling God’s injunction to us to give and serve, we have missed the whole point of the blessedness of giving. God’s claim upon us cannot be met by group action. The restorative powers of the Christian life, courage and serenity, and the abolition of fear are God’s gift to us, if we will earn them, if we will individually nourish the divine spark within, and prove in our own lives the meaning of Paul’s statement, “The greatest of these is charity.”
It has become fashionable to downgrade our patriotism and soft-pedal our national advantages as a result of the sincere effort to promote peace through the United Nations. In similar fashion we avoid public expression of sectarian faith in an effort to avoid offending our fellow citizens who may be of a different faith. Our fellow citizens are, I believe, the poorer for this over-sensitivity to their feelings and, in like fashion. I think the world is the poorer if we fail to hold high the banners of freedom and responsibility and religious faith which characterized this country at its beginnings and which have been our greatest glory.
The educational system prefabricates the national mind and spirit; it forms political and economic attitudes; it either fosters or smothers such personal qualities as initiative, courage, self reliance, pride, patriotism, and resilience.
My last point is the effect of government subsidy upon the diversity of educational institutions. If there is one aspect of our colleges and universities that has been uniquely responsible for the dynamism and the strength and the vitality of the American nation, it is the extraordinary variety of experiences provided to the students of this country. There are colleges that are extraordinarily liberal politically and others at the opposite extreme. There are colleges with a whole curriculum built around the humanities and others with academic programs focused on and supplementing work experience. Each campus has its own unique personality.
The regulated society on the other hand may shield each person against his own and others’ failings, but it circumscribes his creative impulses and represses such characteristics as responsibility, initiative, and integrity. The free society is predicated on the predominance of the affirmative qualities in man’s nature. Its byword is opportunity. The controlled society, even in its best form, assumes the ascendancy of man’s baser motives. Its byword is protection. Unfettered opportunity or protection — they do not lie in the same direction. When we move toward one, we depart from the other.
What, ladies and gentlemen, have we come to when dishonesty, or fiction which is a politer but nevertheless synonymous term, is engaged in by the Congress to hoodwink the people into the acceptance of programs which would be rejected on principle?
Money is a good servant but a dangerous master. Money becomes the master when it takes precedence over other considerations.
As bleak as their financial future may appear to them, it cannot be the reason for abandoning integrity. The course of educational statesmanship is to protect the greatest creative potential and the greatest institutional individuality.
A dependence upon government money silences criticism and destroys political freedom…A person’s vote is not his own if his employer is the government. Project your thoughts a few years into the future when the Federal Government will be the largest single source of funds for all colleges. At that time won’t all academic personnel be inclined to vote for whichever party promises the largest additional subsidies, regardless of anything else the party stands for? I do not believe this is a chimera born of reactionary conservatism. It is a simple application of human nature, an observation on the natural laws of politics. It is a consideration worthy of your serious thought.
If the Congress honestly wished to make it less difficult for students and their families to meet the costs of a college education, then a tax credit could be granted for money paid for college expenses. Or, to go the full way, if Congress honestly wanted to make large sums of money available to education, then it could grant a flat tax credit for any gift to any educational institution.
In a successful free society, a responsible free society, the citizens voluntarily abide by a great number of informal codes of conduct. In the free society, the do’s and don’ts are voluntarily observed by the people who respect those codes as cherished ideals. Those codes of conduct are manifold. They include religious commandments, morals, manners, civility, integrity, professional ethics, sportsmanship, the particular rules of each organization, and above all a sense of lawfulness, not just the observance of the codes for fear of paying the penalties of wrongdoing, but a deep-seated respect for the rules as necessary and useful, and a willingness to use group pressures to encourage the neighbors to observe the codes.
The supposition that you can get something for nothing has overwhelmed good sense and is driving us toward national bankruptcy. In contrast to the ideal of self-reliance stated so firmly by Patrick Henry, more and more of our citizens have come to believe that the government owes them food, clothing, shelter, symphony orchestras, art galleries , medical care, a good income, etc. As Walter Judd has observed, “Jesus said, ‘Seek and ye shall find’, the welfare state says, ‘Sit down, we’ll bring it to you.’” Please note that this is not simply a matter of economic ignorance, it is a whole philosophy of life: the belief that the citizens have a right to be taken care of.
Solzhenitsyn is the voice of conscience. Without condescension, but firmly and forthrightly, he applies his immense powers of perception and dramatic expression to challenge people everywhere to anticipate the consequences of their acts and accept responsibility for those consequences. His message is particularly poignant in our era when the distinction between right and wrong has been twisted and obscured by passion, avarice, cynicism and scorn.
It is, I think, true that we have moved from a reasonably solvent, generally self-reliant and self-respecting patriotic nation to a debt-ridden, quarrelsome, self-doubting, meddlesome welfare state in which the militant concern for the citizen’s rights and benefits seems to have overwhelmed and nullified the concern for the responsibilities which the citizen must bear.
The people of a marginal economy are obliged to work hard just to put food on the table and clothes on the back. Their children must accept responsibility at an early age, contributing their full and regular share to the labors of the household. Laziness, contrariness and self-pity are luxuries that simply don’t fit into the scheme of things.
By contrast, affluence seems to make a people careless, indulgent and improvident. It is only when there is a significant surplus beyond the necessities of life that the children may engage in foolish adventures into a drug culture, or a make-believe revolution, or an identity crisis that takes them off to some remote corner of the earth “to try to find themselves”. Such activities I rate as foolish because they are undertaken largely on an emotional basis without any realistic attention to the probable long-term results, ignoring the track record of those who have already been over the course. It is only the fat purse that can sustain and humor such flights from reality.
Well, what are some of the specific courses of action that might have the most effective and far-reaching results in turning things around? The primary seat of trouble is to be found among the forces which shape public attitudes. Let us consider further the academic community. It is, after all, the principal training ground for the leadership of our society and certainly the main supplier of people who go into the various fields which influence public opinion. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that professors, by and large, are opposed to the profit motive and suspicious of, if not outright hostile to, the private enterprise system.