- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 15, 2000

Honoring Elliot Richardson in his own words

I expect hundreds will come today to honor and mourn a great American, Elliot Richardson, at Washington National Cathedral. I will be there. I knew him through his books and a couple (too brief) encounters, but his humanity and his patriotism were obvious. I think he believed in our democracy with his mind, heart and soul.

This was a man who by all accounts was blessed with extraordinary gifts a brilliant mind, wealth, position, lineage and good looks, too. He was called a "prince of the Eastern establishment." Yet this man, with limitless opportunities, chose honesty, hard work and public service.

I searched the obituaries and commentaries, looking for something reaching past the "in-the-know" elite, media and Washington power structure looking for something calling out to ordinary Americans to take note, something announcing to all citizens of this country the loss of one of their champions.

Mr. Richardson died on Dec. 31. It seems fitting that his death was in his native Boston and that the Washington correspondent for the Boston Globe, Thomas Oliphant, came closest to distilling the essence of this hero ("Richardson's Specialness, Op-Ed, Jan. 4). He wrote of duty and honor, integrity and reason, of a veteran, a reformer, a public servant who believed "the proper political business is to govern." He also wrote of exhilaration, joy and human frailties.

Elegant as Mr. Oliphant's elegy was, Mr. Richardson's own words best illuminate him. He had a penchant for the quote "Citizenship is the highest office." He spoke of the American Revolution putting forth a brand-new political idea by creating a government deriving its powers from the governed, and noted that the U.S. Constitution "cast aside earlier notions of a contract between governors and governed and made all the institutions of government representative of the people and continually accountable to them."

He also said that citizenship "is an office which we, individually, may or may not exercise responsibly, courageously or consistently, but it is a responsibility nonetheless which we cannot abdicate. It is ours." He spoke of diffusing power and broadening citizen participation. In the wake of Watergate, he wrote that there is a "need for integrity: to achieve and maintain a self-governing society, its citizens must feel some attachment to its free institutions and humane values and be capable of resisting any attempt to betray them."

"People can and if the system is to succeed they must be capable of contributing to an intelligent consensus about basic choices."

He began his book "Reflections of a Radical Moderate" by saying: "I believe profoundly in the ultimate value of human dignity and equality. I therefore believe as well in such essential contributors to these ends as fairness, tolerance, and mutual respect."

I heard him speak, and he said, "Once you affirm the equal treatment of every human being, equal standing under the law, equal entitlement to be treated with respect you must therefore accord appropriate recognition to [people's] views and interests."

Among the obituaries, I noticed reference to the "Boston Brahmin," a label he shunned, holding that stereotypes diminish individuals.

His book's final word, just as the preface, challenges us. "Every American who cares about his country every one of us who is proud of what it has achieved and looks forward to what it may yet attain shares responsibility for keeping its values alive."

Mr. Richardson, recipient of our country's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was a beacon of hope in a world of growing cynicism. I hope his faith in our system of government and "we the people" will prove justified.

PATRICIA WIGGINTON

Rockville

'Culture of death' sends message that life has no value

Congratulations to The Washington Times for its excellent Jan. 9 editorial "No intrinsic value." I found the timing to be particularly appropriate, given that we soon will mark the 27th anniversary of the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the most significant contributing factor to our culture of death.

The Amy Grossberg-Brian Peterson infant-killing case is only one example of a world turned upside down by our culture of death. Numerous media outlets passionately support abortion rights while portraying the execution of convicted murderers as cruel and unusual punishment. The media depicts the school shootings of recent years as examples of the need for gun-control legislation rather than as the logical conclusion of children being taught that life deemed inconvenient is of no value.

Finally, let's not forget Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan's declaration that the 1999 tour would be the last one, in part because of her desire to have a baby. Given Lilith Fair's support of Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading provider of abortion services, Miss McLachlan's decision seems incongruous.

When will we as a nation wake up to what the culture of death is doing to us?

R.L. AUSTIN

Annandale

Surveys say public tuning in to public broadcasting

Your Jan. 3 editorial "MPR and friends" reveals you are unaware that the American public does not share your view on public broadcasting. Survey research (Opinion Research Corp., September 1999, and Gordon S. Black Inc., March 1998) shows:

m Americans strongly support federal funding for public broadcasting: Eighty-three percent believe Congress should increase or maintain funding at current levels, with 53 percent supporting an increase in funding for public television.

m Americans believe that public broadcasting is balanced: More than three-quarters (79 percent) feel PBS is "reasonably balanced" in the content of its programming, neither too conservative nor too liberal.

m Americans value public broadcasting for providing noncommercial, nonviolent alternatives to commercial television: Nine out of 10 Americans believe public television does as well or better than other networks, particularly with children's programming and educational programming.

m Public broadcasting meets today's needs: Eighty-two percent of Americans think PBS is more important than or as important as it has been in the past.

We are proud that the American people see public broadcasting as a valuable resource that deserves continued support, and that Congress recognizes this.

JEAN M. BUNTON

Director of communications

Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Washington

Croatia has long been on the road to democracy

The article "Ruling party admits defeat in Croatia" (World, Jan. 4) notes that the triumph of the opposition in Croatia's parliamentary elections is "a result which the United States and the European Union would welcome as Croatia's coming of age as a democracy." Although unnoticed or unreported by most observers, democracy has been taking root in Croatia for some time.

The late President Franjo Tudjman and his ruling Croatian Democratic Union party monopolized national television and sometimes brought lawsuits against opposition newspapers, but publications such as the weekly Feral Tribune of Split regularly printed stinging criticisms of the government. A healthy civil society, the bulwark of any democracy, sprang up, with groups ranging from the Movement for Social Democracy and Justice to Women's Action to the Zagreb Anarchist Movement operating throughout the country. I learned that it was difficult for someone without ties to the government to obtain a bank loan or certain other favors because people felt free to tell even a stranger about their problems. Now the once ineffective opposition political parties, thanks partly to help from the U.S. Agency for International Development and other governmental and private organizations, have been able to win a major electoral victory.

Croatian democracy is still a work in progress, but the progress has been steady and rapid. With increased American cooperation and assistance, Croatia could be a valuable ally in promoting stability in the Balkans and perhaps elsewhere.

LORNA HAHN

Executive director

Association on Third World Affairs

Washington

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