Values That Matter

Readers responded last week to my request for thinking about shared values for a genuine American renewal. What values can we agree on, I asked, as a foundation for a unified starting point – a common American “center” that transcends culture, religion, politics?

[This exchange of ideas took place primarily on the blog’s Facebook page, where more than 80 readers clicked post like: ]

Ideas were offered and important points were made. Values were identified and we heard the deeply felt need for government policies that reflect them. Frustrations were expressed, as well as some feelings verging on hopelessness.

I wrote of my belief that a small unified core of determined Americans could generate a powerful moral presence, if we articulate essential values clearly and project a vision for the future with a compassionate and welcoming spirit.

This would be immensely attractive to a nation desperate for the feel of solid ground beneath its feet.

A dynamic initiative will not require large numbers at the start. It will grow rapidly. I believe the vision of a civil order based on trust and responsibility will draw Americans to it from every walk of life – from every religious faith, from every economic condition and political philosophy.

A signed pledge would make individual commitment very clear. Such a pledge could be added in the back of the book, if you think this is a good idea. Please let me know what you think.

The hard part is this: It will require a willingness to temporarily set aside some of the political differences that separate us – until such time as we have secured the stability necessary to address common problems in our communities.

What is essential is not that we agree on every aspect of personal belief, but that we join with one another to restore the integrity of a civil society that allows for constructive cooperation, engaging with one another respectfully, so that we can secure the safety of our families and the economic well-being of local and regional communities.

If this is our priority we cannot allow America to disintegrate in unrestrained acrimony and hostility. We will have to choose our battles. Some will have to be fought on another day.

My request for your thinking may not have been clear regarding the distinction between government policies and the principles behind them. My intention here is to take the first step in building a foundation on which we can then proceed to structure debate and build policy.

Among genuinely committed Americans, finding common ground in our values will alter perceptions and increase our ability to actually listen to one another.

Stephen Covey wrote that “most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.” If Americans are to recover the vision of this country as free and fair, this will have to change.

In his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote:
Every human has four endowments — self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom, the power to choose, to respond, to change.

Our challenge is to establish a condition, a mental space, in which we can sustain this freedom and attract our fellow-Americans to it.

Having asked you last week to identify the values that should characterize such a condition, I will share those that I consider essential for a free and just society.

I add these to our commitment to defend the Constitution and respect the rule of law: Justice, equity, truthfulness, honesty, fair-mindedness, reliability, trustworthiness, and responsibility.

There you have it. These values are essentially universal, having been taught by every world religion down through the ages. Unfortunately, many of the followers of religion don’t get it, and so our work is cut out for us.

I would appreciate receiving another round of feedback from readers. Please focus your comments on basic values and the principles to live by – and share the reasons why you think the future of the world depends upon them.


In the coming weeks: Economic reconstruction and a future built on fairness.

Note to readers: You can support this blog and the book project by suggesting that your friends and associates take a look.