The Content of Our Character by Ward Connerly

  Ward Connerly, Chairman, American Civil Rights Institute, is the University of California regent who led the controversial and successful effort to eliminate the consideration of race, gender, and ethnic origin in the admissions , contracting and employment activities of the university.

Ours is a culture in which anything goes and nothing is absolute. Politicians constantly seek to convince us that left is right, east is west, and up is really down. If it gets votes, whatever you want to hear--"No problem!" Everything depends on "what the meaning of 'is' is," to quote our President. When there is "no controlling legal authority," conduct considered immoral in another time and place is acceptable.

In short, there has been profound weakening of our national character. Yet we see no connection between these acts and the culture that has evolved from that erosion of national character.

We see no relationship between the lack of respect for human life, as evidenced by the unbridled number of abortions performed every day in America, and the rampant lawlessness that has evolved in American society.

Let's define our terms. Character is about one's adherence to moral principles, and moral principles are standards of conduct that distinguish right from wrong. Moral principles are not relative to the political exigencies of the moment. In order for our children to have strong character, they must be taught certain moral principles. And we are cheating them when we fail to teach those principles.

The character of our children can be only as strong as the character of our nation, and currently there are serious problems with regard to the national character of America.

When someone like David Horowitz, who has been identified with civil rights for virtually all of his life, is called a racist in a major national magazine, but gets no apology, and seemingly no one is outraged about it, then we have a national character problem. Of course, the reason for this is that the person calling him a racist is a black columnist, and David was being critical of the conduct of certain black people.

When candidates for elective office publicly proclaim their opposition to de facto quotas and preferences based on race and ethnicity and then shy away from supporting efforts to end such policies, solely because they are afraid of being called racists or "anti-minority," then we have a national character problem.

When the President of the United States appears before a group of Hispanic leaders and states, in the most crass political terms possible, "America will soon look like you," thereby trying to appeal to Americans on the basis of their ethnic identity, then we have a national character problem.

And when the President of the United States can admit that he lied to the American people, but the American people end up being angry with the Congress for making an issue of the President's lying—largely because the state of the economy is good, then we, indeed, have a national character problem.

I learned long ago that character is something that you learn throughout life. The content of our children's character is nothing more and nothing less than the composition of their values.

I learned my values from my grandmother, a maternal aunt, and her husband, all of whom raised me after my mother died when I was four years old.

I learned about courage and the importance of defending your beliefs. My uncle never got past the fifth grade, but he understood to his core the value of courage. He often said, "Boy, if you don't defend what you believe in, if you don't stand up for yourself, you're going to get your rear end kicked twice, once at school and the second time when you get home." So I learned the hard way that the defense of our values defines who we are.

I learned about the principle of equality from a professor, Dr. Robert Thompson, a tall, Lincolnesque individual. I once challenged the proposition that "all men are created equal." I said, "This is phony. I was not born with an equal chance like some other students in college." Dr. Thompson replied, "Mr. Connerly, it's not the reality of equality that matters; it's the aspiration of equality that really matters. What's important is that you and I believe that we are equal and the nation continues to perfect that idea."

I learned about freedom and liberty from that uneducated uncle of mine, James Louis, to whom I made reference previously.

Back in 1954, my aunt and uncle and I traveled to Natchez, Mississippi from Sacramento, California. We drove nonstop, except for fuel and food. Lodging was unavailable for people with our skin color, and we could not enter public restaurants or use public restrooms. My aunt could enter through the side door of " greasy spoons," because her skin was light enough that she could "pass." This experience taught me about freedom and liberty. The memory of what it means to be treated differently because other people have passed a negative judgment on the color of your skin is forever etched in my mind.

These personal lessons in character building helped to prepare me for that fateful moment in November of 1994 when I was presented with compelling evidence that what the University of California regarded as "diversity" was nothing more than a fig leaf for a nefarious system of preferences and de facto quotas.

Once I learned that fact, it was not necessary for me to give any further reflection to the course that I would chart. To do less than oppose practices and policies that classify our citizens on the basis of race and ethnicity and confer public benefits on the basis of those classifications would be a serious flaw in my character and would betray the values that I have been taught to embrace.

Many of those programs that we call "affirmative action" are a perversion of the concept of equality. Having people of various backgrounds in our universities and in the work force is a noble objective. But diversity is not an excuse to discriminate.

The methods by which this so-called diversity is attained are significantly more important than the outcome itself.

It is true that there is a cultural war going on in America, and the casualties are our children. it is not too late to correct that problem. We should begin by telling our children that character is about values and having the courage to defend those values. Tell them that character is about being true to their beliefs even when others all around them strongly disagree with them.

Tell our children that it is important for them to be good citizens and that they should demand that their elected representatives be honest and forthright; even if that honesty and candor might cost them an election or diminishes their popularity. If the content of our children's character consists of an appreciation for the values of freedom, liberty, equality and courage, then our nation will have a bright and glorious future.

Condensed from IMPRIMIS, the monthly speech digest of Hillsdale College (Michigan), Reprinted by permission .

  Read other articles of spiritual enlightenment in the April 2000  edition of The San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue.