Question: What are the challenges facing the U.S.?
Stephen Carter: One is the issues of . . . that we think of as the practical issues. And here enough to go are the ones which are always mentioned – race and poverty. The racial divide and the poverty divide in America is huge. It’s a gigantic problem, and it’s a problem unfortunately we tend to view through ideological lenses. So there are people who look at it and they say, “Well that’s a right wing exclusion so we can’t do it.” And people look at it and they say, “That’s a left wing exclusion. We can’t do it.” It strikes me: Why do we have to be either or people? Why can’t we be both end people? I’ll give you one example in the world of poverty. Democrats tend to wanna spend more money on job training and repairing the infrastructure of the inner city. This is a really good idea. This is desperately needed. That’s one ___________. Republicans tend to wanna spend money on propping up families in the inner city and creating better family structures. That’s a really good idea. That’s desperately needed. Why does it have to be that I have to do it the liberal way or the conservative way? Why can’t we look around for ideas that might actually do some good and not worry about their further ideological implications or what else they complicate? The reason is because race is so low on the agenda, and poverty is so low on the agenda that with every issue, we think about how it will affect every other issue that’s more important. And that’s why we can’t do anything about race or poverty, because unless they’re at the top of the agenda, and you don’t worry about what happens to another issue as a result, you’re not gonna fix it because you’ll constantly be shying away from things that’ll hurt some other constituency.
But there’s another crisis also that I wanna mention that’s not amenable to these kinds of __________. There is an integrity crisis, I think, in America. Integrity measured the old fashioned way. If you think of integrity as having a sense of how one ought to live and try to live that way, it’s very hard to get people focused on the idea there might be a right or wrong way to live. I don’t mean a right or wrong way for everybody to live. It’s hard to ___________ folks __________ on the notion there might be a right way for themselves to live. They ought to spend time contemplating not just, “How do I want to live? What do I want to own? What do I want to do?” But, “How ought I to live?” And I want to put the question that way. We’re really good at thinking of how ought other people to live. Everybody can do that really well. What about me? What about other people? How ought I to live? We don’t spend enough time thinking about that. We spend too much time thinking about ways to force others to do what we ourselves ought to be doing. And that, I think, is the first question integrity demands to us: “How ought I to live?” and then find the discipline to try to do that. And that’s something I think is dying in America – that sense of a distinction between how do I want to live and how ought I to live?
Recorded on: 7/25/07