Address to the Frederick County Democratic State Central Committee

Frederick, MD | March 9, 1996

we must seek a common existence, rooted in our common humanity, which faces worldwide problems requiring common solutions.

It's great to be back home in the 6th District. Yes, I said back home because Westminster where I was born is part of the 6th District. I surely hope that every member of the Shriver Family living in Union Mills, as well as in Westminster, will go to the polls on Election Day and swell the numbers for Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Steve Crawford, and all other Democrats in the Free State of Maryland.

It is time for a "big comeback by us Democrats". Two years of Newt Gingrich and his crowd is enough! When I said "back home" in the 6th Congressional District, some of you may have been surprised. But listen to this bit of historical information: --

When John Schley founded Frederick, Maryland in 1745, he did so with the help of his wife. Soon thereafter, she gave birth to a daughter with an appropriate name, -- her name was "Eve".... Eve, just like "the Eve" in the Garden of Eden. Eve Schley was John Schley's daughter. But most of you will be surprised, I am guessing, to learn that Eve Schley's Mother was named Mary Shriver! Eve was the first baby ever born in Frederick. So, almost from the beginning I have had "relatives living in the 6th Congressional District!"

I feel completely at home in this environment, and with all of you. I am only sorry that my niece, Willa Shriver, who is married to Dr. Konrad Baaker was not able to be with us tonight. But I am glad I still have relatives here, all of whom I hope will vote the straight Democratic ticket in November..."Enough ancient history!"

I just wanted everybody to know that I am very glad to be back in Frederick and in the 6th Congressional District! Let me add only one final point: -- I am very happy and proud that my son, Mark Shriver, is a member of the House of Delegates in the Free State of Maryland! Once again, we have a Shriver voting the right way on matters of importance to the citizens of our State. Today, the Republicans nationally blame the Federal Government for everything that is wrong. "Rely on free markets", they say, and everything will be again the way it was before. But all of us should know "that is not true".

We know many markets are not free. The price we pay for food and gasoline, for a hospital bed or for heating oil, has climbed almost beyond sight, not because of competition but because a few people and a few organizations wield great economic power, and because Nixon, Reagan, Ford, and Bush ran up the largest deficit in the history of our country. Not just debts in the billions and billions. Debts in the trillions were saddled upon the American people by Nixon, Reagan, Ford and Bush!

Some Democrats say there is nothing wrong that more programs eminating from Washington cannot succeed in curing. They say we need only rely on Government, and all will be well.

In my judgment, neither the Reagan-Bush-Gingrich approach to our national problem nor the big Government approach of some Democrats are correct. In the words of Adlai Stevenson, "let's talk sense to the American people." Let's discuss the realities we all can see, rather than repeating outdated phrases. What are those realities?

Mankind has entered a new era. Our philosophic, religious and political beliefs can still provide the framework for our activity in the years ahead. But the problems we now face are different in nature, not just in size, from those we faced before. They will not respond to the old shibboleths and nostrums. Nationalism, great power chauvinism, individualism, old-fashioned liberalism, populism, conservatism – none of these alone is sufficient for the future! Instead, we must seek a "common existence," rooted in our "common humanity", which faces worldwide problems requiring "common solutions". And, the first place - where we must bring our common efforts to bear on our common human problems - is here at home!!!

Common existence at home starts with putting the government -- as the expression of our common will, -- on the side of the consumer, the taxpayer, the individual and the community!!! Government must abandon those tasks that individuals, families, and neighborhoods can do for themselves. But, it must protect the conditions in which they can remain truly free and independent.

We have learned -- through welfare waste, through schooling that doesn't educate, through houses we can't afford, through products that don't last -- that government and corporate bureaucracy are no substitute for self-reliant individual effort. But we have learned also – through medical tragedy turned into economic disaster, through joblessness that persists even while prices soar -- that the self-reliant individual and family can be reduced to myth if government, while "getting off people's backs, " does not remain on their side.

I'm opposed to centralized, rigid, unresponsive bureaucracy; I worked to combat that kind of bureaucracy in business, as head of Chicago's School Board, and later in Washington and in the Foreign Service. In the Peace Corps, in Headstart, in Legal Services for the Poor, in Foster Grandparents, we created the least bureaucratic, public enterprises in modern governmental history, but a purely negative approach to government will get us nowhere. Only a governmental policy actively working for the small and the personal can turn this country away from the large and the anonymous; only a national commitment to the human scale can restore a sense of community.

Such a commitment means many things:

To the millions of Americans who want work and cannot find it, our commitment must be "jobs". The independence of Americans and their families depends on work, and there is much work to be done.

To the tens of millions who see the fruits of their work consumed by uncontrollable infiltration, my philosophy is to put limits on the forces that produce spiraling prices. To talk of "free markets" as the solution to inflation is a fraud. A market dominated by a handful of giant oil companies is not free. And, the domination of other markets by concentrated private power must be ended.

To the many whose hopes are suddenly shattered by economic collapse or unanticipated need -- whether in health or education, whether in victims of crime or of misfortune -- my philosophy is to provide a net beneath which we will not let one another fall and above which we will encourage all to rise. Each paying his fair share of the cost, all of us should be able to turn to the community when faced by risks too large for anyone to _bear alone! We need financially sound programs of health insurance, and ways of extending taxes downward to provide credits to those who have too little income, while fairly taxing those who have much. By prudent combinations of government stockpiling and regulations, we can control the most extreme fluctuations in economic life -- maintaining a stability in food, fuel, and other basic necessities that will enable people to plan their lives without fear of uncontrollable financial disruptions.

To the millions of families who see their children fail and their neighborhoods collapse, the meaning of this philosophy is reunion -- reunion with the most basic sources of our national strength Anti-neighborhood practices like red-lining and block-busting must be reversed. Anti-family practices like forced separation of parents on welfare must be ended. Discrimination against working women must be stopped. And, we need flexible work schedules to permit parents, fathers and mothers both, to care for their children. Finally, we must find ways to redesign our housing, tax, and other policies to allow families to live together rather than in generational ghettos.

I do not pretend to have all the answers. But we can find answers together only if we are guided by some vision of where we want to go; It is a vision of freedom, of fairness, and fulfilling work, that shapes the policies I favor.

Those policies cannot stop at the water's edge. Domestic and foreign affairs are inseparable. A century ago Kierkegaard wrote: The individual no longer belongs to his God, to himself, his beloved, to his art, or his science..." Today no nation belongs to any one God or science, or solely to its citizens or its ideology. By circumstance, we belong to a still separated but "now seamless world."

In such a world, the shaping of a common existence is the precondition of a secure existence -- and perhaps of any existence at all. We have ignored this truth too long. Seeking dominion, we have meddled too much abroad, as we have interfered too deeply in the lives of our citizens. Our indiscriminate interventions abroad came from fear. "Cold War fears" which led to fear of change in some places, escalated, until we opposed change in all places. That's not the American tradition.

We can best fight for the freedoms in which we believe by ceasing to act like International Tories -- like Redcoats of the 20th Century. We are the descendants of the men who fired the shot heard round the world! But when our arms and aid go to reactionary tyrants abroad, when our food is used for politics instead of hunger, when the CIA lawlessly subverts governments abroad, when our military and intelligence establishments use dangerous drugs in unethical experiments at home, is it any wonder that foreigners, once our friends, conclude that our values have collapsed?

And when our government for so many years acted as if the regime in Saigon was even more worthy of support than our friends and allies in Europe, Japan and Israel, is it any wonder that our citizens began to wonder if commitments of any kind make sense? Abroad, as at home, our challenge is to redefine the role of government. And the first step is to recognize commitment to a common existence.

Our founders make a declaration of independence. Ours must be a "declaration of interdependence". The United States must play a more positive role with our European and Japanese partners in resolving international recessions. One helpful and courageous step has been the commitment of our troops, along with troops from Britain and France and many countries, to establish and maintain peace in the Balkans.

We were once a symbol of hope not because we manipulated events abroad but because we embraced ideals that moved nations and shook the world. We can be a symbol of hope again.

The irony of America today is that we have everything to achieve our objectives: We have the people and the resources -- no nation has freer, better people or richer natural resources -- we have the highest political, religious and philosophical traditions; we have everything we need today...but leadership!

The test of leadership now, as it was for Lincoln, is to reach and bring into action the better angels of our nature. No poll can prove this, but I am convinced that people's cynicism about politicians rises and falls with the politicians' cynicism about people. There are many frustrations in modern life, even in the best of times, which a demagogue can invoke. He may win some passing applause and perhaps even votes, but if he releases the worst instincts of people, we will reap the whirlwind. Look at Pat Buchanan's appeals to every worry haunting every American. He plays on our fear.

How will we decide who shall lead the American people from 1996 to 2000 AD? The truth is that no one man or woman is qualified to lead single-handedly. From the experience of 30 years in public and private life, I know it is vital to do as much listening as talking, as much questioning as answering. For the American people are the greatest teachers of all. What we will need is a rallying together, a mutual struggle, not just a commitment to a candidate, but a commitment to one another.

So I look forward to a people's campaign. And I am grateful to the many who are here and willing to start such a campaign in the 6th Congressional District...people committed to justice and community, regardless of region, race, religion, and all the conventional divisions of left, right and center.

When my own family came to Maryland over 250 years ago, they came with dreams that millions of Americans have come to share. Those dreams nourish me today. They will inspire all of us in the days and months ahead. Whenever Washington lacks positive direction, you may be sure that something is struggling to be born in the nation. There is a wind coming! It can be a good wind or an ill wind; it is up to us, together, to set its direction.

Let us remember there is no conservative or liberal remedy for the sickness of the national spirit. The cure will come from honest, truthful leadership that summons the best in all of us -- as we remember John Kennedy once did. His legacy awaits the leader who can claim it. Bill Clinton can claim it. Steve Crawford can claim it. But, truthfully, their efforts will be useless unless everyone of us here tonight also pledges our time, thought, and money to those ideals which have always inspired patriotic Americans. Let us remember those last words in the Declaration of Independence: --

..."For the support of this Declaration", Jefferson wrote, "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor"...

All of us must make the same pledge today!