The Directions of Contemporary
If we achieve full employment and greater economic
growth—if we have cities of gold and alabaster—but our
children have not learned how to walk in goodness, justice and
mercy, then the American experiment, no matter how gilded,
will have failed.
In September of 1863 Abraham Lincoln dedicated a cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and asked: "Can this nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, long endure?" Questions about the national character lie at the heart of the future of the American experiment. Today, many observers believe that the nation's greatest weaknesses are in the civic, cultural, and moral domain where government is often deficient and unworkable. Jack Kemp has written: "A society that is indifferent to its moral and spiritual life is indifferent to its future." 2
William Bennett, under the auspices of the Heritage Foundation, released an "index of leading cultural indicators," in 1993. It showed that since 1960 there had been a 560 percent increase in violent crime, a more than 400 percent increase in illegitimate births, a quadrupling of divorces, a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes, a more than 200 percent increase in the teenage suicide rate, and a drop of seventy-five points in the SAT scores of high school students. The statistics showed that 30 percent of all births in the United States, and 68 percent of Black births, were in fatherless homes. 3
Public opinion confirms the cultural concerns summarized by Bennett, with much of the blame attributed to government. Shortly before the 1994 election a Times Mirror Center poll found that only 33 percent
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Publication information: Book title: The Conservative Tradition in America. Contributors: Charles W. Dunn - Author, J. David Woodard - Author. Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield. Place of publication: Lanham, MD. Publication year: 1996. Page number: Not available.
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