Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attentionâ€¦.I hope you enjoyed your meal.Â Now it is time for the real dessert of the eveningâ€¦.or perhaps it would be better to say that now that we have nourished our bodies, it is time to nourish our souls and our minds.
Our keynote speaker this evening was, until yesterday, the most sought-after Orthodox Jewish speaker in the nation. Lucky for her, the new "number one" is going to be too busy over the next few months to give her any serious competition.Â But come November, his schedule may just clear up.Â I know many of us in this room hope so.
At any rate, our keynote speaker may no longer be the most sought-after Orthodox Jew in the nation, but she is certainly one of the most controversial—perhaps of any religion.Â Â And that speaks volumes about the age in which we live today.
Our speaker tonight has stated that her conversion to Judaism has greatly influenced her moral understanding of things.Â We at the Claremont Institute share this moral understanding.Â As with our speaker, it guides our speech and our actions.Â Yet we at the Claremont Institute are non-sectarian: officially we are neither Jewish nor Christian, though many of our staff and supporters would consider themselves one or the other.Â The mission of The Claremont Institute is a secular mission: It is to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life.Â Â So how is it that an organization such as ours, and a person of such religious conviction as our speaker, come to share such an important thing?Â The answer, I believe, can be gleamed by reflecting for a moment on the moral meaning of America.
America was the first nation in human history founded upon an idea, the idea of political freedom.Â This idea is rooted in the fact that by nature, every human being possesses equal rights, by nature every human being is born equally free.Â By nature, there is no social hierarchy among humans—no principle of who rules and who gets ruled—as there is among the rest of the animal kingdom.Â But freedom for the Founders did not mean freedom to do whatever one pleases.Â Humans are free because, unlike the lower animals, humans possessreason.Â Thus our freedom stems from the fact that we are not enslaved to our passions, however "natural" we may think them to be.Â As Samuel West put it in a sermon delivered during the Revolutionary War, "where licentiousness begins, liberty ends."Â Or as Jefferson wrote, man is free from all but the moral law.Â This is the simple meaning of the proposition that "all men are created equal."
From what begins as a fact rooted in nature—or a "self evident truth" as it is described in the Declaration of Independence—springs key moral and political implications.Â If all men are equal with respect to their natural rights, then no man can legitimately or justly rule over another man without his consent.Â Tyrannical rule, or rule without consent, is "unnatural" in this sense—it violates nature as a moral standard of how man ought to behave.Â The moral justification for individual freedom and government by consent is derived from the principle of human equality, itself rooted in human nature, and discernible byhuman reason.
At the heart of the idea of nature as a moral standard is the distinction between men and women.Â All moral obligations arise from the fact that only through the union of a man and a woman can a new human being be created.Â From the moment of conception, nature places an obligation of first order on the parents, both toward each other and to the child.Â That this is so, is apparent to anyone who has raised children: a new born child is utterly helpless and dependent, and it is the responsibility of those who created that new life to care for it—for if those who created a new life are not responsible for its well being, who else can be?Â From this natural obligation of parents for their children springs our obligations to each other as friends and citizens, obligations grounded in the fact that we all share human nature.Â This, I believe, is what George Washington meant in his First Inaugural address, when he said that "the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality."Â The principles of private morality, contrary to what our current president may say, are immutable because they are bound up in human nature. Â The morality of the family is intrinsically tied to the morality that justifies individual liberty—one cannot reasonably defend one, without defending the other, and to deny or disparage one, is to deny or disparage both.
In this most important and fundamental thing—the meaning of morality—revealed religion and reason agree. Or, as the American Founders would have put it, right reason is no less the voice of God than sacred scripture. In fact, the Founders would have argued, without reason and nature, it is impossible to distinguish true from false revelation—true revelation conforms to the dictates of the natural law.Â Â This, I believe, is the thing we share with our speaker this evening.
But it is this very idea of an objective, rational moral standard that is denied today by many people, most fiercely by our intellectual and political elites.Â The moral teaching that dominates our popular and political culture, no less than our universities—what one might call the morality of non-judgmentalism—is built upon two contradictory ideas: first, that nature is morally neutral, or, that all morality is conventional and therefore arbitrary.Â Man by nature is radically free of any moral restraints, natural or otherwise.Â Second, because man is radically free, no one has a right to be judgmental of two or more consenting adults, so long as they do no harm to others.Â But why is consent necessary? Why is harming others wrong?Â Why limit the principle to adults?Â If man is radically free by nature, do not the requirement of consent and the prohibition against harming others represent restrictions on his freedom?Â In addition—and this is where the argument for non-judgmentalism collapses on itself—if morality and the idea of human nature are simply conventional, then why is freedom good? and why is it wrong to judge or persecute various groups of people?Â Thus is our situation today, where the most educated of Americans say it is impossible to judge or criticize the most heinous actions in world history.
A society that understands the natural justification of freedom, however, understands the family to be a central feature of the conditions of freedom. That society protects the family by encouraging men and women to get married and stay married, and to raise their own children, and raise them well—and it discourages divorce and single parenthood.Â As our speaker is fond of saying, parents must be selfless, and they must learn to put their children first, ahead of their own selfish desires.Â We must work hard to make our families strong and healthy.Â Such work requires sacrifice and dedication.Â But it also yields tremendous happiness.Â For those of us who know the definition of "is," virtue is its own reward.Â With strong families, then, is sheltered the idea of natural human equality, the idea upon which the civil rights of all citizens rest.
Our speaker tonight is a remarkable woman.Â Her resume is impressive.Â After her undergraduate work at the State Univ of NY, she took her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Physiology from Columbia University.Â She holds a post doctoral certification in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from the Univ of Southern Calif, having practiced family counseling for 12 years.Â She has taught at Univ of Southern Calif, Pepperdine University, UCLA, and UC Irvine.
She has written a number of books, the most recent of which is aptly titled, Parenthood by Proxy: Don't Have Them If You Won't Raise Them.Â She produces a syndicated weekly newspaper column, and is a contributing editor to USA Weekend.
The way most of us know her is through her daytime radio talk show, the Dr. Laura program.Â Five days a week, approximately 20 million Americans tune in toÂ Â hear her, in her own words, "preach, teach, and nag," reminding people of their responsibility, and trying to persuade them to do the right thing.Â As she says, her show is not about mental health, but moral health.Â I am afraid, doctor, your patient is in rather poor condition.
As if all this were not enough to keep her busy, and I have mentioned only a partial list of her activities, she is now in the production stage of a syndicated daytime television program, which will air one month from now, on September 11. We wish her the best success in that.
Dr. Laura is a wife, and, of course, she is her kid's mom.Â She is also a black belt in karate.Â Whether there is a relation between those two things I will let her say.
Above all, however, Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a soldier. And that is why we invited her to be with us this evening. The work she does is honorable. It is noble.Â It is patriotic.Â She understands, in a way few people do today, that there has been a long and sustained attack on all that we hold dear, as Americans, and as parents.Â The enemy is well organized and motivated.Â What they lack in rational and moral capital, they make up with deep resources in our media, our colleges, and our legislative halls.Â But make no mistake, the good doctor knows what we are up against. Just listen to her on the radio.Â Her message is clear and simple, and she speaks with pure conviction.
In 1858, as America was coming of the mind that slavery was not necessarily a bad thing, that perhaps it was actually a "positive good," Abraham Lincoln summarized the situation as this: "In America, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed."Â There is a battle going on for the moral health of the American mind, and it is perhaps the gravest threat America has yet faced. It is therefore, both an honor and a pleasure to introduce to you a lady who is fighting on the frontline of that battle.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Dr. Laura Schlessinger.