By: Stephen G. Lakis, President, SLLF
“In highly excited times it is far easier to fan the flames of discord, than to subdue them. And he who counsels moderation is in danger of being regarded as failing in his duty to his party.”
These are the words that were uttered by Daniel Webster shortly after he delivered his famous 7 March speech on the Senate floor in support of the 1850 Missouri Compromise. They are as timely today as they were in the run up to the Civil War.
I put Mr. Webster’s prescient observation before you today because it is abundantly clear we are again in “excited times” abandoning moderation and compromise in seeming favor of disunity, strife, and I fear, a general erosion of our hard-won constitutionally protected rights.
The “art of compromise” appears to be, if not dead, then on life-support. And it’s no wonder. We are being driven to extremes on the national stage, pitting Democrat against Republican, challenging the sanctity of the very institutions of our democracy; and it’s tearing us apart.
For more than 40 years I have dedicated our organization to plowing common ground with the goal of bringing all sides to the table for thoughtful discourse. And our formula—just the facts—seems to work. All of us here at SLLF have good friends on both sides of the aisle and the reason is at once simple and oh, so complicated.
We don’t suggest public policy solutions at our programs and in so doing we allow all voices to be heard. We get to know all these legislators for who they are and they are all exceptional. True enough, it’s tough not to wade into some sort of advocacy especially when the subject seems ripe for a good solution! But in the interest of simply getting folks to listen–together–to a set of objective facts and then talk about it–together; well, that seems a step in the right direction.
The audience we reach includes the top leadership in every state in the nation as well as a fair representation of men and women who work for the private sector in the legislative arena. We all know that things work better in this country when we pull together as a united nation and not as a people divided by partisanship, ideology and fear. It’s hard though when our tribal instincts kick in and we close our eyes and ears to our dedication to a higher purpose. When we don’t talk, it’s almost impossible to agree on anything.
So we will keep on with this spirit of nonpartisanship and like everyone of you, I hope and pray we come out of this crisis stronger and more united. At the end of the day, we are all proud Americans bound to one another by our love for our country.
But old Dan Webster was spot-on when he noted that moderation seems like failure to some. He was right then during the run-up to the Civil War, and he is right now in the midst of our self-reflection of who we are as a people and who we want to be for our children and grandchildren.