The University of Chicago News Office
May 8, 1998 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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What has happened to morality in the United States?

Council on Civil Society presents solutions

Why have America's morals deteriorated and what can we do about it? The Council on Civil Society--a joint project of the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Institute for American Values--will release a report Wednesday, May 27, examining the erosion of American values and offering solutions.

The report headlines a one-day symposium on morality, "A Call to Civil Society, Why Democracy Needs Morals Truths," which will be held at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City.

"The most important message in the Call is the insistence that American democracy is uniquely dependent on the moral formation of its citizens," said Jean Bethke Elshtain, chair of the Council on Civil Society and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago's Divinity School. "The hand of government and state power has never weighed as heavily on its citizens in this country as it has in other places. Therefore, Americans have to be more self-governing, show more restraint, be more respectful of their neighbors. That is what we are trying to remind people of in this document. It's reassuring that so many people have signed this document since there is so much diversity of opinion among the group."

The report defines the fundamental fixtures and moral ideas that have historically constituted civic virtues Americans consider essential to healthy functioning of democracy. These include the family, the community, religious institutions, voluntary civic organizations, arts organizations and educational institutions. The Call examines the ways in which these values have eroded over time and offers solutions to America's social dilemma.

Among the speakers at the symposium are Elshtain, Judith Martin, author of the syndicated "Miss Manners" etiquette column, and Alan Wolfe, Boston University professor and author of One Nation, After All.

The Council on Civil Society is composed of 25 people from a wide variety of social and political perspectives, all of whom have endorsed the document. The council includes David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values; Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana; Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut; Margaret Steinfels, editor of Commonweal; William A. Galston, former Clinton White House domestic policy advisor; James Q. Wilson, Collins professor of management and public policy at UCLA; and Cornel West, professor of religion and African American studies at Harvard University.

A schedule of the symposium follows.

Wednesday, May 27

Carlyle Hotel, 35 E. 76th St., New York

9:00 a.m. Registration

9:30 a.m. Welcome, David Blankenhorn

9:35 a.m. A Call to Civil Society

Why this Call? Why now? Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago

10:00 a.m. America's Best Political Scholars and Miss Manners Offer Moral Reasoning for the Perplexed Regarding the Current Mess In Washington

Jean Bethke Elshtain, moderator, University of Chicago

Judith Martin, author and "Miss Manners" columnist

James Q. Wilson, University of California

Questions and Open Discussion

Noon Break

12:15 p.m. Lunch

Adulthood and Its Discontents

Keynote address by David Gutmann, Northwestern University

Response by Judith Martin

2:45 p.m. Break

3:00 p.m. Do Americans Believe in Moral Truth?

David Blankenhorn, moderator, Institute for American Values

Alan Wolfe, Boston University

Daniel Yankelovich, Public Agenda

Questions and Open Discussion

4:30 p.m. Adjourn
Last modified at 03:51 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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