by Johnathan Storlie, PhD
This section concerns itself with the history of public discourse that has become part of our Norwegian Ridge heritage. Just because our town is small doesn’t mean that our people’s dialectical development cannot be influenced by great texts–such as those we hope to continually add to this website. We hope we can become a resource for accessing important local, national, and international sermons, essays, documents, and speeches that have empowered and might continue to empower our public deliberation. By providing these ideas, Giants of the Earth Heritage Center hopes to provide a means to honor rational deliberation of important topics in our town, and to inspire us to meet the demands of our age with the same “can do” attitude and cooperation that we have in the past.
Because presumably no one wishes to be disliked for their opinions, there is always the temptation to retreat into the realm of the innocuous, the eccentric, and the idiosyncratic in order to avoid ridicule. No one has learned this more than our public servants, who are frequently dragged through the dirt, along with their families–their only crime was for doing their job in the best way they understood they were supposed to. Who would want to be a public servant with the kind of mud slinging that goes on in this country? Somehow we need to correct this systemic problem if our republic is to regain its strength. We need to restore civility and dignity to public office so that those rational people who would best represent us in office will be interested in public service.
With most meaningful issues, rational people can disagree, but the system only works when rational people deliberate about meaningful things. What builds a strong constitutional republic is its ability to balance the different rational interests of major groups while protecting the inalienable rights of all, including the minority. John F. Kennedy reminded us of the importance of remaining vigilant in our defense of real issues, and not being afraid to speak out in the face of controversy. Like our founders, he believed that a republic’s apparent weaknesses were its greatest strengths. A republic provides a forum to not only voice opinions but to also hear opinions that one doesn’t like. A republic only works when people’s views are represented, and when there is a meaningful debate about controversial matters in which each different view must put itself forward to be found tenable or untenable in an open forum. If those views are tenable and not merely hypocritical representations, they can then be subsumed into a greater policy, which should result in ever more adaptive investments of limited national, state, and local resources.
“Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed– and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First (emphasized) Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution– not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and sentimental, not to simply ‘give the public what it wants’–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”–John F. Kennedy