David McCullough Opens New Constitutional Center With Warning Over The Passivity Of Citizens

I am in Utah today to give a keynote address at the opening of the new Center for Constitutional Studies at the Utah Valley University. I am honored to follow Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough who gave the opening keynote yesterday. It was an ironic pairing since they will open with a devotee of John Adams and close with a Madisonian scholar. They were able to keep us separate to avoid any fights in the halls. Despite our disagreement over the legacy of John Adams (McCullough seems to blow through that whole Alien and Sedition Act business pretty quickly in his extraordinary book on Adams), I was pleased to read how McCullough warned the audience about the rising dangers posed by citizens who are increasingly passive and detached from their government.

McCullough spoke about the greater need to teach history in this country because “we are raising a generation that is historically illiterate and have a very sketchy, thin knowledge of the system on which our entire civilization is based on. It is regrettable and dangerous.” I agree wholeheartedly with that view as well as his warning that we are becoming a “generation of spectators.” I just spoke on that same need in Florida and the need to reinforce our public schools. The low salaries and pressures placed on teachers in our schools is undermining our educational system and most importantly the fundamental role played by the common public educational system. McCullough stressed “Nobody is doing more important work that will last longer than teachers. We are accountable for what happens in government and the direction of the country and the education of our children and grandchildren.”

I regret that my flight came in after McCullough’s speech, but it was clearly a wonderful way to kick off the nation’s newest major Constitutional Center.

This is my second speech at Utah Valley University and I have been incredibly impressed. UVU is now the largest university in the state and the new Center is an extraordinary addition to the academic institutions in the state. The University wisely selected Professor Rick Griffin as the founder and direction of the Center. Griffin was an inspired choice. He is one of the hardest working academics in the country with a deep background in the scholarship on the Framers and founding documents.

This afternoon I will give the “Finale Address” entitled “The Tax Man Cometh: The Life and Death of American Federalism.”

Source: Deseret News

39 thoughts on “David McCullough Opens New Constitutional Center With Warning Over The Passivity Of Citizens

  1. Hoorah! Hopefully this will help shed more light on the subject of the apathetic public in this country. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one shouting “wake up to what your government is doing to you!” Thanks for sharing.

  2. McCullough’s son gave a great commencement speech last Spring. He told the students, they aren’t all “special.” All that pablum sold to them by well meaning parents and teachers was wrong. It was so refreshing.

  3. A normal person’s contact with local government can make that person’s attitude MORE, not LESS, passive, because he or she is more than likely to conclude, “There’s nothing I can do, nothing whatsoever.”

  4. ” … the rising dangers posed by citizens who are increasingly passive and detached from their government.”

    I think the government detached from the people:

    “What happened in 9/11 is we didn’t have a strategy. We didn’t have bipartisan agreement. We didn’t have American understanding of it. And we had instead a policy coup in this country, a coup, a policy coup.

    Some hard nosed people took over American policy and they never bothered to inform the rest of us.”

    I fear that at least since 2010 we’ve been witnessing a quiet, slow-motion coup d’etat whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal and entrench the privileged positions of the wealthy and powerful — who haven’t been as wealthy or as powerful since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.

    (A Tale of Coup Cities, quoting General Wesley Clark and Sec. Robert Reich). Anyway, congrats on the invitation to speak, I am sure they will hear good and useful stuff.

  5. To clarigy my starting point I chose Utah as the state I wanted to do myy “thesis” on in the sixth grade. Great!

    Now my aversion to Romney and earlier experiences of Saqlt Lake City ca’62 prevent me from believing anything good about the BeeHive state.

    I shall Wiki UVU and see if this prejudice can be cured.

    PS. The only thing that is sure about Romney, is that neither he nor his dog will be making Presidential decisions.

    Let us hope that is due to an Obama win, otherwise hell awaits us all.

  6. The article by JT seems to have been written in a hurray. I could not quite get the jist. I can derive that JT doesnt like President Adams because of the Alien and Sedition Act. There seems to be a distance between JT and McCollough who happens to be one of the best historians still writing and living on this side of the waters from Europe or the rest of the world. It is interesting that a constitutional law center is being established in Utah.

    If The Wilard wins the election we will witness a revival of Federalism. This will be system where the Feds tell the states not to intrude upon the sacred rights of corporations, be they foreign or domestic. If guys like JT have their way, the so called civil libertarians will stay home or vote for The Willard because they have reservations about President Obama’s positions on Gitmo or the civil liberties of turbinhead terrorists.

    Time will tell whether this new school in the state of Utah will make any inroads on the promotion of civil rights. I doubt it.

  7. ““we are raising a generation that is historically illiterate and have a very sketchy, thin knowledge of the system on which our entire civilization is based on. It is regrettable and dangerous.”

    *************************

    Well, regrettable maybe, but not so dangerous or unprecedented. In the good ol’ days of American freedom and starting in about 1870 a full 20% of the US population was illiterate. That rate has slowly declined to an illiteracy rate of .6 % in 1979 (the last year of the study done by the National Center for Educational studies).

    http://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp

    Also, public primary and secondary school education enrollment rates for young people was about 50% in the later half of the 19th Century compared to about 96% today. In 1940, only one half of the population had completed the high school. That rate rose to 80% by 1991.

    College graduation rates were 10% of the population in 1960 but have climbed to about 28% of the population today. That does not include the percentage of those with some college education only those who have completed the requirements for an undergraduate degree.

    It’s hard to make an argument that past generations did a better job of raising a generation of historically literate and constitutionally savvy offspring given those dismal numbers for formal education. Try understanding notions of equal protection and due process of law with no formal training. All in all we’ve done a much better job of educating the next generation than our parents did.

    The more likely conclusion is that the educated population of past ages understood and valued the blessings of constitutional government and worked hard to ensure its place in the American experience. I think that sentiment continues on today unabated – the comments of Pulitzer Prize winning authors looking for a speaking fee notwithstanding.

  8. nick

    “McCullough’s son gave a great commencement speech last Spring. He told the students, they aren’t all “special.” ”

    *****************

    Well he’s dead wrong as any geneticist can tell you. We all have unique gifts that come into play in unexpected ways when we apply ourselves. I’m not of the “Exceptional Gene” school of thought. We need different people at different times and we’d better hope to god those folks, when called upon, are indeed quite special.

  9. EJ
    1, September 20, 2012 at 9:38 am
    Hoorah! Hopefully this will help shed more light on the subject of the apathetic public in this country.
    ———————————————-
    I don’t think the public is apathetic. Not at all. They are not as corrupted as a governing body that is selectively deaf . How can anyone say that in the face of what is now a GLOBAL movement …. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_movement ….
    . It is an apparent schizoid state of deliberate denial that allows such a statement.

    Which may, in fact, be why people are reluctant to do the thang that people who are labelling them as apathetic say they SHOULD do……

    which is what?, btw……..

  10. Are people cranky or is it just me.

    Here I am calling Utah the birthplace of Fascism and saying it is occupied by jeans wearing talibans, who call themselves Christian.

    Must be the approaching annihilation election and the cold winter of survival afterwards.

    Anybody seen the great bird of happiness lately?
    Anybody got a “cheer-up”link?

    I WON’T bring up my woes today.

  11. If we are passive, what is proof?

    Here is one:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/18/obama-appeals-ndaa-detention-law

    These people are fighting for their lives. We don’t seem to understand that we are. We are lured by the

    two-party one lie system.

    They are fighting for due process. We are not. Are we protesting the NDAA? The executive manner of expanding the AUM powers so in effect they are equal in practice to what NDAA now prescribes?

    Can we not see the forest for the lies?
    Say a lie often enough and with right spin/choice of words, then folks are believing them.

    We see it every day in the Romney campaign. The lies about what he said about the 47 percent.

    But of course it feels hopeless. We fought back against Vietnam, and what did we get? Etc, etc.

    Go take a pill and forget it. Let your grandchildren fight it out. Maybe theu’ll make it up to the one percent and will not be effected. Always hope, the American dream.

  12. This afternoon I will give the “Finale Address” entitled “The Tax Man Cometh: The Life and Death of American Federalism.”
    ===========================================
    Do you know what has historically happened to the Tax Man? That’s because they don’t think it isn’t fair.

    Taxes are necessary for civilization, but lets keep everything in perspective.

  13. McCullough is a bonesman. Went to Yale and was a member of the secret society Skull & Bones, same squad George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and John Kerry was a part of. This is why this guy is trash. How can you say the word “constitution” in the same sentence as “David McCullough”? Is Skull & Bones in line with what the founders wanted?

  14. JT, how can you be honored to follow a man who was not only a bonesman, but admires John Adams, who imprisoned people under the Alien & Sedition Act.? This Act basically punished American citizens for criticizing the government. It was about as unconstitutional as you can get. How could ANY president be in favor of punishing those who were only exercizing their first amendment right to free speech? Thankfully, that horrendous law was laid to rest when the greatest president ever, Thomas Jefferson immediately invalidated it upon taking office in 1801.

  15. Do republicans, i.e. Romney, or conservatives (who carry bibles and guns), have a monopoly on lies or misleading claims, greed and corruption? When the populace is unwilling to examine without prejudice we all loose. This blindness is as dangerous as apathy. Politicians are proven slaves of donors regardless of the D or R that follows their name.

  16. Tricksy

    How about we focus on lies…

    Do you think Obama is dismantling welfare? Do you think Obama was born in Kenya? Do you think Obama hates America? Do you think it is possible to get pregnant from rape? Do you think there is global warming? Do you think 47% of Americans think themselves victims and are not responsible for themselves? Do you think lower taxes and greater defense spending will erase the deficit? Do you think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? Do you think Saddam played a role in 9/11? Do you think the Romneys struggled as college students? Do you think corporations are people? Do you think Romney remembers cutting off a kid’s hair while he was in prep school? Do you think Fox News is fair and balanced? Do you think death panels were part of ACA? Do you think Obama has thrown Israel under the bus? Do you think Obama wants to take away our guns? Do you think H. Clinton wants to hand over the US government to the UN? Do you think Obama is a Muslim? Do you think Ryan’s acceptance speech had multiple untruths?

    Are you growing tired of this list? Probably not as tired as I am of “both sides do it”.

  17. Eeyore 1, September 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Tricksy

    How about we focus on lies…
    ———————————-
    Figure out the lies. Are you the liar?

  18. Tricksy:

    “Do republicans, i.e. Romney, or conservatives (who carry bibles and guns), have a monopoly on lies or misleading claims, greed and corruption?”

    ********************

    No, they are just so damn good at it!

  19. Matt, getting personal is mean spirited, and unfortunately what politicians feast on. If we applaud diversity, let’s be civil. You can disagree with me without calling me a liar. What i make is observation. I appreciate your thoughts which is why I read the blog; challenge should provoke thought, not anger. Go placidly amid the noise and haste…..etc.

  20. Larry: Your full of skull and cross bones and the sh — word too. David McClough, or however one spells it, is is a good historian.

  21. “Larry: Your full of skull and cross bones and the sh — word too. David McClough, or however one spells it, is is a good historian.”

    Why doesnt he write about the history of Skull & Bones then and tell us what really happens there?? Oh that’s right, he can’t. It’s secret.

  22. Tricksy 1, September 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Matt, getting personal is mean spirited, and unfortunately what politicians feast on. If we applaud diversity, let’s be civil. You can disagree with me without calling me a liar. What i make is observation. I appreciate your thoughts which is why I read the blog; challenge should provoke thought, not anger. Go placidly amid the noise and haste…..etc.
    =============================
    Tricksy, I did not call you a liar. If you think I did, explain.

  23. Eeyore, i considered your questions rhetorical…they are very well worn. Like an old pair of shoes, they give you comfort, but they have no appeal to others.

    Matt, I stand corrected, you ‘asked’ if I was a liar. Or did I miss the point again? FYI, I consider myself a realist. I do not look at the world through tinted lenses.

  24. Tricksy 1, September 26, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Matt, I stand corrected, you ‘asked’ if I was a liar. Or did I miss the point again? FYI, I consider myself a realist. I do not look at the world through tinted lenses.
    ===============
    I did not ask you if you were a liar. Read the above post. The lack of intelligence is astonishing.

    Maybe you need bifocals.

  25. Already have the bifocals; will schedule an examination :-) If it is not too much of an imposition, please take the time to help me understand properly.

  26. Tricksy 1, September 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Already have the bifocals; will schedule an examination :-) If it is not too much of an imposition, please take the time to help me understand properly.
    ===========
    I don’t know what you’re talking about. You said I said you were lying. I didn’t say that. You need to explain.

  27. Tricksy 1, September 28, 2012 at 7:28 am

    The circle is complete. Thanks….
    ==========================
    Goodness. What circle?

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