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Lieberman says moral values
at heart of strong community
(April 12, 1999)
he Declaration of Independence and the Huskies' national championship victory both contain keys to community, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman said April 5 in a talk at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Lieberman, who was on a two-week break from Washington, said he was delighted to be in "Husky Heaven." Lieberman said the "heavenly feeling" still evident a week after the basketball championship is a fitting basis for discussing community because the victory is a unifying experience, giving the feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves.
"Our appreciation is not just of the victory, but of the values underneath it as well," said Lieberman. He cited perseverance, sportsmanship, and a quest for excellence, among others, as values driving the victory. This quest for excellence can extend to the building of campus community, he added.
Sponsored by the religious communities at UConn, Lieberman's speech was part of the Husky Renaissance program for building community.
Noting that faith in God preceded the call for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence, Lieberman spoke about the "tension between rights and freedoms on the one hand and the responsibilities of government capable of sustaining rights and independence and interdependence on the other."
Government and laws can only go so far, he said. People must take responsibility for themselves. He suggested religious life as one way people can find and sustain the values necessary to have a healthy community.
"A sense of responsibility grows out of faith," says Lieberman. "If we throw out common values, we become a nation of strangers."
Lieberman cited a study that found most middle-class Americans have strong opinions about the importance of moral and ethical values, but are afraid to judge what is right and wrong for fear of being deemed intolerant. This grows out of the triumph in the 1960s of tolerance and rights, which was positive for many groups, including women, African Americans and America.
Homosexuals are beginning to gain greater rights as well, he noted.
This is all positive, "but the pendulum has swung too far,"said Lieberman. He called for people to speak out against actions that are immoral and unethical and do not deserve to be tolerated, such as excessive violence in the entertainment industry.
"A values vacuum has been created," he said. "Democracy and morality are a critical connection and the need for right and wrong exists."