Arlen Specter on the Meaning of America

Arlen Specter was a United States Senator for Pennsylvania who served as the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations and Veterans Affairs committees.

Arlen Specter’s five terms made him the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Pennsylvania’s history. A voice of reason, his independence and balance won him endorsements from the AFL-CIO and high marks from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (100% in 2006), the National Association of Manufacturers (86% in 2006), and the Americans for Tax Reform (90% in 2006).

Time Magazine listed him among the ten best Senators in 2006.  Knowlegis rated him the second most powerful Senator in 2006 behind only Majority Leader Bill Frist. A November 11, 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer editorial stated: “Senator Arlen Specter has more clout than some sovereign nations.”

Born to Russian immigrant parents in Wichita, Kansas, Specter was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. 

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Arlen Specter: I would say that the values that we articulate of freedom, opportunity, equality, justice, that there is a gap between what we say and even how we regard our actions in the United States with so many problems. Certainly there is an enormous gap with the way other nations view the United States as to what we stand for. I come down to the structure of our government, separation of powers and checks and balances. We eventually get it right because Americans are decent people, and we really do prize the concept of liberty, and equality, and opportunity, and justice. When the country was founded we had slavery. We certainly didn’t include or comprehend Thomas Jefferson’s statement in the Declaration of Independence of liberty. It took us more than a century to have votes for the women. So we didn’t have really an extensive democracy. We have problems today at Guantanamo. The constitutional right of habeas corpus. We have problems with immigration, but we are working with them. And ultimately I think we will get it right. And our structure of government with separation of powers and checks and balances is really, in a large sense, the greater symbol of what America stands for.

Recorded on: 7/4/07

 


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