Former Director of the Christian Coalition Ralph Reed spoke last night on values and the disintegration of the American family to an almost-filled Cook Auditorium.
Reed, now the director of the conservative consulting group Century Strategies, said the greatest problem facing U.S. society is the failure of parents to uphold their responsibilities of caring for their children.
Reed said most of the functions of parents have been shifted to the government.
“Big government is a symptom of a deeper problem,” he said.
He said that while technological innovation and the booming economy are evidence of a prosperous America, there is equally as compelling evidence of social decay, like deaths caused by AIDS and murder.
“This is social chaos that has no precedent … in human history,” Reed said.
Reed said school vouchers are a good way of allowing parents to escape the failed public school system and also criticized President Bill Clinton for not supporting a test voucher program in Washington, D.C.
Reed likened the current state of children caught in dangerous and inefficient schools to the civil rights fight of the 1960s.
“We simply can’t have people graduating from high school unable to read their diplomas … this is a civil rights issue. This is a moral issue,” he said.
Reed criticized the welfare system for its policies which he said discourage and destroy families, like prohibiting job acquisition or marriage.
“What we have done is take all the things we know cause people to prosper and we have subsidized the opposite of them,” he said.
Reed said he sees an integral role in public politics for the clergy and people of faith.
“Not only is it consistent to be involved in politics as a person of faith but they are the most noble … of all those who get involved in politics,” he said.
Reed said without the “fiery sense of right and wrong” which accompanies faith-based politics there would not have been movements for civil rights, against the Vietnam War or for the American Revolution.
In a press conference earlier in the day, Reed said he thinks adherence to traditional, biblical family values will be the determining factor in the race for presidency in the year 2000.
Reed said he thinks the veto of the partial-birth abortion ban by Clinton was one of his greatest policy errors.
“That veto placed him on the radical left,” he said.
Reed also said he thinks it is problem at the College and in the rest of American higher education that there are not many conservative professors.
“I think there is an obligation to expose students to viewpoints other than their own,” he said.
Approximately half a dozen members of the Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance protested the Reed speech outside of the Murdough Center.
Covered with fake blood, the protesters said they were trying to spread the message that Reed was hurting homosexuals by his intolerant positions.
“His opinions are causing youth who know they are homosexual to have low self-esteem and kill themselves,” organizer of the protest event Ezekiel Webber ’00 said.
One DRA member was lying on the steps in front of the entrance way pretending to be dead.
The protesters who moved to the auditorium after Reed began speaking were silent throughout the lecture and didn’t ask Reed anything during the question-and-answer period which followed his speech.
The rest of the audience, mostly students, were also responsive to Reed, without any hostile interruptions.
“I think that we’ve stressed the importance of civility in public discourse here at the College and I expected nothing less,” Director of the Rockefeller Center Linda Fowler told The Dartmouth after the speech.
The Rockefeller Center, along with the Rockefeller Public Issues Forum and the Conservative Union At Dartmouth, sponsored Reed’s visit to campus.
Fowler said she thought Reed gave a good speech. “I’ve always had a great respect for his rhetorical skill and his political savvy,” she said.
After the speech, graduate student Jason Rosenhouse said he thought it was simplistic of Reed to stress the failures of liberalism.
“There were a great number of successful liberal programs such as Head Start,” Rosenhouse said.