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William Bennett seeks to guide Americans back to moral roots

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Former U.S. drug czar and education secretary William Bennett wants to guide Americans back to their moral roots — way back — to a time when this country’s founding fathers were penning the Constitution.
Bennett, co-director of Empower America, an organization dedicated to promoting conservative principles and ideas, hopes to provide a remedial moral education to Americans through his new book, “Our Sacred Honor,” co-published by Broadman & Holman of the Baptist Sunday School Board and Simon and Schuster.
“This book is a large-scale cultural reformation project,” Bennett said. “America has lost a lot of ground, culturally speaking. My aim is to share with a new generation of Americans the private and public reflections of the founding generation as to what we must do in our private and public lives to make America safe.”
This book is Bennett’s third volume dedicated to molding a virtuous America. In two previous books, “The Book of Virtues” (on the New York Times best-seller list for 88 weeks) and “The Moral Compass,” Bennett endeavored to reawaken the lost art of moral education.
Bennett claims Americans are more worried about this country’s cultural state than about anything else.
“I have argued for years that it is not the economy that is the source of our present discontent,” Bennett said. “It’s not, and most Americans now agree, citing moral decline as our chief malady.” He cited a recent Wirthlin Poll that revealed 72 percent of Americans say the country’s problem is of a moral and spiritual nature, not an economic one.
“We have fallen way short of our duties and aspirations, and I do not except myself in this regard. In some places, we have become the kind of place civilized societies of the 19th century sent missionaries to.”
Bennett said he is most concerned about America’s younger generation.
“I don’t think kids are growing up in a good cultural environment because we’ve lost a lot of territory. We still have wonderful families and schools and pretty good television shows, movies and books, but we’ve lost a lot of ground.
“However, America leads the world in crime, murder, divorce, rape, pornography, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases. America is having good economic success, but our children are not learning to walk in justice. This country will be a failure if we don’t teach them how to do that.”
Bennett said the reason he believes he must go as far back as the country’s founding fathers to locate virtuous teachings is because “the founders were quite simply extraordinary men and women with extraordinary insights into the ways of humankind.”
“They aspired to greatness in their public lives and to piety and virtue in their private lives. And we, all of us, could do more of the same.”
Bennett said he does not claim reading “Our Sacred Honor” will solve America’s current societal problems.
“But I do insist that it could be part of a step in a long journey toward moral reform and cultural (revival) in America.”
While acknowledging a high regard for America’s founding fathers and mothers, Bennett said he does not delude himself into thinking they were perfect. In fact, his book points out some of their flaws. John Adams was obnoxious and vain; George Washington had a violent temper; Thomas Jefferson taught frugality to his children, yet died with debt of more than $100,000.
“They, themselves, acknowledged if men were angels, there would be no need for government,” Bennett said.
He said he does, however, admire the insight America’s founders shared on vice and virtue, love and marriage, work and leisure.
“I would like our founding fathers to be understood, and for people to genuinely develop an affection for them. I would like to raise them from immortality to mortality.”
Bennett said he hopes “Our Sacred Honor,” which is divided into seven chapters, each devoted to a specific virtue, accomplishes at least five objectives:
1) Memory. “I hope the book contributes to the memory of our founding American citizens for today’s young people. They have inherited the greatest rulers ever, yet they do not know their founding fathers.”
2) Unity. “I wanted to try to remind people that there are some unifying ideas to this republic. I want our citizens to feel a common bond with other citizens. The great strength of America is its diversity, but the idea of liberty is the greatest declaration of independence. It is a sign and symbol of equality.”
3) Absolute and clear recognition of God as creator. “These men and women believed in the country they were establishing. Our country was established for a moral and religious people.”
4) Raise the sights and goals of children. “The answer to a lot of what we need to do for children in this country is to raise them up. We need to raise their sights. Our culture has lowered their sights. They think less of themselves, they have no self respect and they don’t set high goals. The most important thing we can do is to raise the sights of those children by reminding them what they have inherited.”
5) Book of advice. “Our forefathers thought about their lives and planned the country with an intensity that was extraordinary. Their advice is worthy; we would benefit from heeding it. They aspired to greatness in their public lives and to piety and virtue in their private lives. They took life seriously. One word you will not find in this book is, ‘Whatever.'”
Broadman & Holman will release “Our Sacred Honor” to Christian bookstores in September.

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  • Terri Lackey