What Would You Say?

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Author: Notre Dame Faculty

Many American presidents of the past century have turned to the academy when the times called for rhetoric that informed and inspired as it brought the nation together. Father Hesburgh even drafted ideas for President Gerald Ford’s speech commemorating the bicentennial. So in the weeks before Election Day 2012 the editors invited a few dozen Notre Dame professors to play presidential speechwriter — without knowing the outcome of November 6. The White House has tapped you, we wrote in our appeal, to draft part of the president’s 2013 message to Congress based on your interests and expertise. In a few hundred words, what would you recommend he say?

Burying the Hatchet

I come before you after a long campaign, one that — like all contests in our democracy — emphasized differences. But before we get down to working on the people’s business, I ask you to consider how we go about dealing with one another. Each one of us won election to the office we hold, but the public’s trust in Washington is alarmingly low. That situation is good neither for us nor for America.

We need to do better. We’ll argue on occasion, and there might be times when you and I will want to take a breath and count to 10 — or, possibly, 100. But any politician’s political future should always take a backseat to our nation’s future. Let’s never allow the next election to define how we consider proposals during this session of Congress. Short-term solutions will not cure our longterm problems nor will they do anything to contribute to the national interest.

The American people expect — and deserve — more than the paralysis that partisan polarization has produced in recent years. Some of you might disagree, but we share in common much more than what divides us. Later this year, we will observe the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. In it Abraham Lincoln spoke about “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” and he called for “a new birth of freedom.” Tonight I ask that we commit ourselves to government with a new birth of cooperation. Tomorrow will be different if we look beyond ourselves to what really matters — America’s tomorrows and the generations to come.

Robert Schmuhl is the Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Chair in American Studies and Journalism and director of the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

Peace in the Middle East

The Middle East has entered an uncertain period. People’s revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt fostered hope for an Arab Spring, but the subsequent violence in Libya, Syria and the Gulf reminds us that there is no “one size fits all” response to events whose course we might influence but certainly cannot shape. It is imperative that the world understands clearly where America stands. Today I set forth the principles that will guide U.S. foreign policy toward the region.

First, we will support the emergence and consolidation of free and open societies marked by the rule of law, representative and accountable government, and the protection of human rights as defined in international law — as well as our own Constitution.

Second, the United States will enter into productive diplomatic and economic partnerships, security alliances and robust programs of cultural exchange with nations that honor these standards. Our strong historic relationship with the state of Israel is rooted in this agreement — we expect it to play by these rules, and we hold our own nation to them as well.

But our friendship with Israel does not preclude the development of stronger partnerships with other nations from Egypt to Iran — and it will be a goal of my presidency to build mutually beneficial alliances with all governments that enter into honest and transparent negotiations and dialogue with us on contested issues. Call it the era of New Partnerships for Prosperity.

Third, much of the work of bridge-building is rightly done by civil society: universities, development organizations, cultural exchange programs, business partnerships and the like. Yet our own foreign policy has too often failed in understanding the Middle East, especially the complicated religious, ethnic and cultural dynamics that often shape not only revolutionary groups but also official government policy.

Therefore today I am making permanent the ad hoc Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy established by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011 as part of the government’s Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. This will build an infrastructure to advance religious and cultural literacy about the region among our diplomats, military leaders and policymakers in areas ranging from energy and agricultural policy to gender and religious engagement. We will lean heavily on our top universities in providing this expertise, as well as on our own military and civil leaders returning from substantive service in the Middle East. Only by drawing on the experience of our own citizens as well as interlocutors from the region can the United States exercise prudent leadership and craft constructive policies.

R. Scott Appleby is a professor of history and the John M. Regan Jr. director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

Funding Public Television

Except for my opponent and me, no single figure was equally attacked and defended more than Big Bird during the presidential campaign. But Big Bird will never be fired, nor will he need a Facebook campaign to save him. His Sesame Workshop employers don’t rely on the government funding that is channeled through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to show him how to get to Sesame Street. Private and corporate donations, program sales and merchandise revenue take care of that. But it is likely that with continued threats to the financial health of PBS, the children of Billings, Boise and Bangor won’t get to watch Big Bird because the local stations that air PBS programming rely significantly on government funds.

We have seen this funding dwindle for decades now. It is beyond time for public broadcasting to be sufficiently supported. Many of us have access to hundreds of television channels; can’t just one be mobilized to serve the public, rather than advertisers and shareholders?

Perhaps government funding isn’t the answer, given that it turns public broadcasting into a political football every four years. Perhaps establishing a trust with funds from the FCC’s auction of spectrum space, or even an annual charge for spectrum-space use, is the answer. That space was granted to broadcasters for free in exchange for a commitment to serve the public interest. We can readily question whether the public interest has ever truly been served by commercial television. Let us see instead what a strong public broadcasting system can offer this country.

Christine Becker is an associate professor of film, television and theatre.

Declaring War on Ignorance

Fifty years ago, U.S. primary and secondary school students’ scores in reading and math placed them among the very top in the world. Today, the typical student’s performance ranks only in the middle of the top 30 industrialized countries. This performance is unequal to our capabilities and poses a threat to America’s future in the world economy.

Moreover, during the past four years, the industry that lost the greatest number of jobs — 600,000 — was state and local government. Our public schools alone laid off tens of thousands of teachers as we reduced spending for public education. This is the opposite direction from what we should be taking.

At a time when two wars are winding down and expenditures for them declining, we should now declare a “War on Ignorance.” I will ask Congress to authorize additional outlays of $100 billion per year for the next 10 years to support primary and secondary school education at the federal, state and local levels to fight this war. There is no better time to invest in education and the future of America.

Jeffrey H. Bergstrand is a professor of finance.

A Modest Proposal on Sprawl

Let me turn now to our built environment, because it relates to our economic predicament and there are hard truths here for us to confront. This administration will do everything it can to tap America’s energy resources and minimize our dependence upon those who wish us ill. But we all have a duty to husband our resources more wisely. And this means being smarter about how we build our neighborhoods and towns.

Like most of you, I love to drive. I am grateful for the personal mobility the automobile gives us. But in service to this mobility, with the best of intentions, we have squandered our wealth and the best of our cultural heritage to build a transportation infrastructure in which the automobile is a necessity rather than a convenience.

We imagine this infrastructure is a result of free choices and market forces. It is not. It was created and sustained largely by federal policies and subsidies, and it is an infrastructure we never could afford.

Given the extent of our national debt and our obligations to national defense and the social safety net, we can no longer subsidize automobile-centered development. Therefore, though this administration will encourage the private sector to drill for and reserve American oil, we will diminish federal subsidies for the interstate highway system and eliminate federal subsidies for the road infrastructure of states and local communities, which will be required to bear the financial obligations of their infrastructure or to look for an alternative. This will also make clearer the financial benefits of traditional town and neighborhood infrastructure. Above all, this will place upon our state and local governments both the burden and freedom of choice: How best to spend tax dollars wisely and for the common good.

Scripture tells us: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Our fiscal crisis challenges us to limit our appetites. But there is the possibility of great good — if we are smart, if we are just, if we are generous. If we learn again to live within our means; learn again to live in harmony with and be good stewards of nature; learn again to make durable and beautiful buildings and places; learn again that we need one another in order to flourish — we will also find that we have worked through our economic crisis and created durable wealth.

Philip H. Bess is a professor of architecture.

Science and Wisdom

Our commitment to elevate education in our society will capitalize on the synergy of the sciences and the humanities in the service of a full human life. We will continue to unlock the secrets of the universe for the purpose of easing human suffering, providing sufficient energy and resources and protecting the environment. But we will not forget the crucial role of language, of history, of philosophy and other fields of inquiry in thriving societies where every person can flourish.

It is necessary to understand what is, as science and technology can reveal. But science is not value-free, and its discoveries require wisdom for their beneficial application.

Therefore, it is also necessary to engage the questions of what ought to be, to enter into that great conversation as old as speech itself that lies at the root of the world’s diverse and fruitful cultures.

So we will take seriously the accumulated insights of the ages, and we will add our voices to hand off an enriched legacy, both scientific and humane, for the future. We will not sacrifice one for the other: We will hold in the highest value both our scientific endeavors and our furthering of the unique human story, and we will invest in a future that sustains both the physical world and the human spirit. As that great American, Father Ted Hesburgh, said, “Science can make man comfortable, but only wisdom can make man happy.”

Gregory P. Crawford is the William K. Warren II Foundation Dean of the College of Science and a professor of physics.

A Foreign Policy of Humility and Restraint

Campaigning in 2000, George W. Bush presented an eloquent brief on behalf of the proposition that our nation could best maintain its pre-eminence and advance the cause of global freedom by adopting a foreign policy of humility and restraint. He shrewdly observed that our standing in the world “really depends on how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us. If we’re a humble nation but strong, they’ll welcome us.”

Elected on this wise platform, my predecessor rashly abandoned it after September 11, 2001. Failing to finish the just, necessary, but limited war to bring to justice those who attacked America from Afghanistan, he began a new war in Iraq against an odious regime that had nothing to do with the attacks upon us, and he committed our country to a herculean exercise in global social engineering to build nations in places they’d scarcely been before. He did all this against the well-intentioned advice of many of our allies around the world.

Further, to wage these wars of choice on the cheap, my predecessor put the bill on the government credit card. The resulting deficits are not only financial millstones around our grandchildren’s necks, they already burden our economy as it recovers from its worst crisis since the 1930s.

My administration will never shrink from protecting our country from those who wish it ill nor be stingy in giving succor to our friends in liberty around the world. But it will do so by recognizing that we can best defeat our enemies and aid our friends not through arrogance and profligacy but rather by relearning the global virtues of humility and restraint.

Michael C. Desch is on leave as the chair of the political science department and is a co-director of the Notre Dame International Security Program.

Relighting the American Lamp

We have to re-think America. If we want other countries to dream the American dream, we have to begin by delivering life, liberty and happiness for our own people. If we want the United States to be a beacon for the world, we have to shine.

We have to deliver human rights, because without a moral republic, nothing else matters — not power, not wealth, not even knowledge. We have to start with the right to life. Other rights are no good to people whom we kill in the womb, or lethally inject, or leave to die in poverty or sickness.

We must have a fair society, where all pay taxes proportionate to their wealth and none lack shelter, health care or schooling, no matter who their parents are. We must share the power and rewards of our industries among all workers, not just the wielders of wealth.

We must build a society for future value, not for present profit. That means modernizing our infrastructure and revaluing education so our schools catch up with the rest of the world and our research institutions retain pre-eminence in learning and thinking.

We must re-awaken American pride in real democracy, stripping plutocracy out of the system, limiting campaign finances, purifying politics.

We have to re-think our place in our hemisphere and our world. Our past greatness grew out of resources we no longer have. We have to face that fact. We cannot police the world alone or enforce our will by exercising our might.

So we’ll stop making enemies. We’ll join international collaborations for peace and justice. We’ll disavow wars except as a genuine last resort to defend right. We’ll work for ever closer union with our neighbors. We’ll spread our values by example and attract friends by welcoming them as equals.

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto is the William P. Reynolds Professor of History.

Ensuring Equal Opportunity

Fifty years ago Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”

We have come a long way since 1963, but not far enough. Equality is not about being the same; it is about having equal opportunity, a fair playing field. America is strong because of our diversity, but with diversity comes the responsibility to strive for the day when we all have the chance to live our lives in freedom and the pursuit of happiness. The American dream is that we all have the opportunity to at least try to follow our dreams.

This dream is not yet a full reality. Inequality based on race, class, gender, religion, orientation and ableness still occurs. The top 1 percent of us controls nearly 35 percent of the country’s wealth, while about 22 percent of U.S. children live in poverty. Women seldom receive equal pay for equal work, and fair access to our amazing universities, decent wages and even the possibility of owning a house remains out of reach for too many of us.

The dream of equality is within our grasp, but we all have to work together. We can start with a focus on education and the workplace, with renewed support for schools and teachers, student loans, equal pay for equal work and a living-wage policy. It is time for us to recognize the value of community and collaboration, to continue the hard work of creating the America where equal opportunity is a fact — not just a lofty goal.

Agustín Fuentes is a professor of anthropology.

We the Immigrants

The time has come to write a new chapter in our nation’s immigration history, one that sees immigrants not as threats but as gifts, not as people who take jobs but who create them, not as individuals who grab from America but who give to it. Without immigrants we would not have companies such as Intel, eBay, Yahoo! and Google. Nor many of the people who build our houses, put food on our tables or care for our elderly. Nor Americans named William Penn, Albert Einstein and Knute Rockne. Immigrants are key to our ancestral past, our cultural present and our economic future.

The ideal is to create a world where people have the right to stay in their homelands. But until that happens, we must work harder so the American dream does not become for some a human nightmare in which families are separated, workers are exploited and people die in our deserts. Almost 12 million people without documents live in the shadows of our country, and we cannot benefit from their labor while excluding them from full participation in our society. While we will not promote illegality, we must commit ourselves to ensuring our laws and systems are just for everyone, including the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

We cannot allow ourselves to feel threatened by those who are different. We deport something of our souls when we fail to see something of ourselves in those struggling for more dignified lives. And though we have many needs here, we cannot forget our responsibility to a larger human community. People are the real wealth of nations. Unless we fight issues of human insecurity abroad we will have no lasting security at home.

So I am asking my fellow Americans not just to seek to have more but to be more. The greatness of America is interwoven with the immigrant story, and we must not let that narrative unravel, even as we face many challenges on the road ahead.

Father Daniel G. Groody, CSC, is an associate professor of theology and director of the Center for Latino Spirituality and Culture at the Institute for Latino Studies.

Respecting Posterity

I am proud to lead a nation whose exceptional achievement consists not in its power (which is never a criterion of right and, as history teaches us, may evaporate surprisingly quickly) but in its capacity to integrate people from all over the world, regardless of their creed, race, ethnic background or rank, and to be more meritocratic than any other country I know.

The reasons we face such difficult times are many. First, our national achievement stands in strident contrast to the increasing jingoism and the willingness to use force in international relations, even outside of real self-defense.

Second, the complex structure of the American constitution, which derives its vitality from the separation of powers, also presupposes willingness to compromise, since legislation needs the cooperation of the president, House and Senate. But the acrimony between the two parties is such that it is difficult for people in and outside America to trust that the United States will find a solution to its pressing problems, such as the public debt.

Even more disturbing is, third, the low intellectual level of our political debate. Of course markets are the most efficient mechanism for achieving an equilibrium of supply and demand — but only if their political frame is not itself up for sale. Lobbying, however, and the increasing dependence of campaigns on private funding have undermined the moral autonomy of the political realm.

Fourth, the idea that there is a rational way to determine the common good has been laughed away by right and left alike. What we need is a rational and more complex concept of justice that takes our duties toward future generations seriously. Since they yet lack both purchasing power and the capacity to vote, they are the great losers of market democracies.

We see their interests threatened in the way we use scarce resources with little concern for ecosystems and our climate. We must not make the mistake of neglecting the rights of future generations until environmental catastrophes of our own making force our hand. Instead, we must consider a more long-term approach, possibly through the creation of a federal agency charged with safeguarding the interests of future generations and curtailing activities that
would violate their rights.

Vittorio Hösle is the Paul G. Kimball Chair of Arts and Letters and director of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study.

Including Disability

Around 56 million Americans live with a disability. We have made great advances with levels of inclusion. But we have not done enough.

Marc Maurer ’74, the president of the National Federation of the Blind, says the biggest issues for blind people in the United States are unemployment and lack of access to educational resources on the Internet. We must make this commitment to educational opportunities for people with disabilities.

Recently our courts threw out a copyright infringement lawsuit against universities working with Google to digitize their book collections, which makes them accessible to people who have limited vision. Blind people now have new access to 10 million books. But we must do more.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 13 percent. It should not double that of the rest of the population. As we strengthen our economy, we must strengthen our commitment to fully include people with disabilities in the workplace.

Since July 2010, we have nearly reached our goal of hiring an additional 100,000 people with disabilities to work for the federal government. It is vital now that employers in state and local government and the private and nonprofit sectors commit themselves to disability inclusion and renew that commitment regularly. This might be as simple as issuing guidelines on disability etiquette in the workplace or in recruitment, offering mentoring programs, or simply making presentations more accessible.

None of this is new. A friend of mine, who teaches literature at the University of Notre Dame, recently sent me a 1762 novel written by an English woman, Sarah Scott. It’s called Millenium Hall. It describes a house, run by women, where disability doesn’t exclude people from the workplace but merely modifies their inclusion.

In this house, “the cook cannot walk without crutches, the kitchen maid has but one eye, the dairy maid is almost stone deaf, and the house maid has but one hand; and yet, perhaps, there is no family where the business is better done.” Most people fail, the novel says, “not from a deficiency of power, but of inclination.”

We have the power and the inclination. We must do more and we will.

Essaka Joshua is a specialist in English literature and the Joseph Morahan Director of the College Seminar.

A Deeper Dive Into Health Care

I lead a country seemingly divided as never before. Yet our divisions are not unprecedented. We are less divided than our ancestors were during the Civil War, or when racist language and economic practices were widely tolerated.

However, since divisions today seem so intractable, let’s distinguish between actual divisions and how those divisions operate in our national conversation. It is this latter reality that concerns me more than the differences of opinion themselves. What reinforces this paralyzing sense of division when grounds for agreement exist? Among many reasons, I’d like to isolate one: the nature of our elections in relation to our nation’s political health.

Our elections are bitterly fought; they are expensive; and they feature carefully packaged presentations of views that not infrequently pass over into dishonesty. High-stakes campaigning follows well-grooved patterns: Demonizing opponents and pandering to audiences regardless of the implications.

We must create better conversations about serious issues by freeing them from our tight, two-year electoral cycle. To address long-term problems we need longer-term discussions immune from derailment by electoral changes.

As president, I pledge to work in a non-partisan way to make those crucially important conversations possible. We need to model a successful process. I propose that we make a trial of this process by addressing health care — both because it is so urgent and because opinions about it are so strong.

Thus, after consultation with both parties’ congressional leaders, I will invite 12 of our fellow citizens to engage in a two-year Forum for Health Care. Their task will be to examine complex issues and propose solutions. I believe we all agree that what we have is not satisfactory, and that we all want the best healthcare we can reasonably afford. I want to give a group of serious-minded people resources to consider health care in the right depth.

I trust that we will encounter difficulties doing this — for instance, ensuring accountability in a process that needs to be free from undue interference. But we as a nation need to learn how best to create the right processes necessary for solving big problems.

Father Paul V. Kollman, CSC, is an associate professor of theology and executive director of the Center for Social Concerns.

Balancing the Natural Budget

Nature provides us with bountiful natural capital like fish, timber, fruits and vegetables, and we benefit economically from bees pollinating our crops and wetlands cleaning our waters. Yet in the recent election, neither my opponent nor I highlighted how much our economy depends on this natural capital. We agreed that the earth is warming and hence it costs more to cool homes and protect coastlines from monster storms. Yet the environment remains an unnecessarily polarizing topic.

Our nation has a proud history of bipartisan success in boosting the economy through environmental protection. The Clean Water Act brought Lake Erie back from the dead and today it is one of the world’s most valuable freshwater fisheries. President Carter created the Department of Energy in pursuit of what every president has called for since: energy independence. The first President Bush amended the Clean Air Act to reduce acid rain, protecting highly valuable tourist waters stretching from Minnesota to Maine. The time has come to make the protection of our natural capital a bipartisan priority once again.

Green can be gold, but inadequate environmental stewardship has created a sea of red. Invasive species cost the U.S. economy more than $140 billion annually. So I will direct the secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to close the nation’s doors to pathogens, weeds and other harmful species that threaten the health of our crops, forests, livestock and wildlife. Climate change is costing our nation billions more, so I will direct the Secretary of State to restart international negotiations to slow climate change, and I will ask Congress to pass legislation to help our country adapt to a warmer world. Instead of a legacy of partisan wrangling, we owe our children and grandchildren the gift of restored natural capital and a strong economy.

David Lodge is a professor of biological sciences and director of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative.

Reviving Our Competitive Spirit

America’s economy faces a multitude of challenges, perhaps the greatest of which is unemployment. At the heart of our ability to create jobs is our ability to compete. The sobering news is that America’s competitiveness, on the whole, has waned for quite some time. The process has occurred over decades, and it cannot be attributed to one political party or the other. Some factors have been in our control and others have not, but the deterioration was masked by an unprecedented age of credit expansion that felt good at the time but was unsustainable and nearly brought our entire economic system to its knees in 2008.

The good news is that the situation has stabilized. Today we have a chance to do what many generations have done in our great history: Work together to make America better for tomorrow.

In order to improve our competitiveness, we must play to our advantages. Fortunately, as a nation we have many. The dollar continues to be the reserve currency for the world. In addition, we are uniquely gifted with a culture that celebrates innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit, which have been essential in our ability to cultivate effective leadership in corporations and capital markets as globalization introduces new opportunities and challenges.

We will do well to remember that capital and jobs will go where they are encouraged. Thus, while they seem to be ideals increasingly questioned, we must continue to encourage free and fair trade, open markets and investment of all sorts, including foreign investment in America.

Commensurate with that, we must combat protectionism and remember that healthy competition cuts both ways. In that spirit, we must work with other countries to nurture the complex and essential ecosystem that is the global market and provide the necessary level of regulation which fosters a level playing field without the unnecessary and crippling burden of excess oversight.

Above all, strengthening our competitiveness will require us to build a broad and strong consensus across parties and the populace. We simply cannot be a house divided against itself.

Scott Malpass is vice president and chief investment officer at Notre Dame and a concurrent assistant professor of finance.

Temperance is a Political Virtue

The campaign is over. Or is it? By the time I finish this term as president, high school and college students born in the 1990s will have known nothing but the fierce partisan conflict animating our most recent election campaigns and our work as public servants. Policy reforms, judicial nominations and even the functioning of the federal government are now hostage to the winner-take-all efforts first of one political party and then the other. Our young people do not know, and the rest of us can barely remember, a political atmosphere less poisoned by personal attacks and an unwillingness to value substantive achievement above political gain.

Partisan conflict can result from genuine difference of opinion, and I do not ask anyone to abandon their convictions. But it is also a luxury, a temptation to squabble for the transient goods of better polling numbers, enhanced fundraising opportunities and tiny electoral victories. Waged within each of our parties, this partisan conflict has had the effect of squeezing out our most moderate members, who once forced us to compromise for larger goals.

Will anyone replace them? I hope so. Because at this moment in history — buffeted by high unemployment, a looming deficit crisis, inadequate and costly health care, and global threats as diverse as climate change and weapons proliferation — partisan conflict is a luxury none of us can afford.

John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and a professor of history.

Promoting Intensive Parenthood

The mental and physical health of our children is among the worst in the developed world. The ability of young children to self-regulate and get along with others has deteriorated, along with their academic prowess. Even our college students show increased narcissism and a decline in empathy. These outcomes affect us all, because children become our neighbors and our leaders.

We know now through science what our ancestors knew from experience: To raise a healthy, intelligent and socially capable child, adults need to provide intensive care when brain and body systems are rapidly developing. Intensive parenting for young children evolved over millions of years and its components are known to foster optimal health and well-being. The components include extensive, on-demand breastfeeding, nearly constant touch, responsiveness to infant needs, shared care with multiple caregivers, free play and, of course, natural childbirth.

I pledge to you today that we will restructure society so that children receive what they need to reach their highest potential. What I propose is a set of policies that are known to promote the well-being of children: One year paid parental leave and nurse visits to every family for six months after the birth of a child; mandatory high-quality daycare facilities at workplaces so parents and young children can see each other throughout the work day; multiple daily recess periods for primary and middle schools; support for wet nurses and low-cost breast milk; a review of hospital child-birth practices to ensure that they are not unnecessary or traumatic intrusions into natural processes of birth, bonding and development; and mandatory breastfeeding education in every high school. When we make our children stronger, our nation becomes stronger and better able to meet the challenges ahead.

Darcia Narvaez is a professor of psychology. Her Moral Landscapes blog appears on the website of Psychology Today.

Respecting the Rule of Law

America must recommit to the rule of law at home and abroad. The founders of this great nation replaced the dictates of a king with law as the highest national authority. The founders knew they would have to establish their vision with military force, but military force would be deployed in the service of the law.

Since our revolution, America has been a model of nationhood under law. Americans have worked to spread this ideal to other countries and to relations among nations. Our Bill of Rights is a template for the protection of human rights everywhere. The Lieber Code, drafted to govern the conduct of our forces during the Civil War, led the way for international humanitarian law. Americans advocated for a world court, and Americans drafted the United Nations Charter with its central rule prohibiting the use of force except in self-defense or with Security Council authorization.

During the Cold War and in the two decades since it ended, we have steadily lost sight of the proper balance between law and war. Military force has become a predominant mode of American action abroad, instead of a last resort to defend against aggression.

President Eisenhower warned Americans that the military-industrial complex would press us into a militaristic foreign policy. And so it has. Political scientists also bear responsibility for their simplistic policy guidance that the United States should project military power in the world to the detriment of every other possible goal. The result has been decades of wars of choice and, more recently, killing far away from battlefields through the use of unmanned drone aircraft and commando raids. Untold numbers have died, leaving a legacy of hatred, debt and disability, and myriad unsolved problems from environmental devastation to devastating poverty.

We will return to the founding vision. We will again promote the rule of law in the world, and we will use our military power in strict compliance with and support of that law.

Mary Ellen O’Connell is the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law and research professor of international dispute resolution.

Reconsidering Cuba

We must address the recent history of our relationship with one of our largest and closest neighbors to our south. The oldest among us may remember a time when our relations with Cuba were cooperative and amicable, but the present moment is defined by paralysis. We must move toward an engaged future.

Cuba does not have weapons of mass destruction, Muslim terrorist cells or a drug-trafficking problem. It is not a threat to the United States nor has it indicated that it has violent designs on America or any other targets. Whether or not we agree with a political system is not our criteria for trade or relations with other countries. The text of the now half-century-old embargo does not reflect technological development or globalization. And there is no doubt that the embargo’s aim — to promote regime change — has failed.

The inevitable death of Fidel Castro must not be the only catalyst for change. Cuba is reforming as we speak. We must decide how to engage our neighbor now if we wish to have any input in Cuba’s future. Much of Asia, Europe and Latin America has trade, travel and political agreements with Cuba. While the future of its policies and government must remain in the hands of Cubans, knowledge about its politics and engagement with Cubans in power will be essential to positively influencing any transition.

Cuba is 90 miles from our shores. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 taught us that we must inform ourselves about what is happening there, yet we seem to have forgotten this lesson 50 years later. It is time to rethink the island and our country’s relationship to it.

Yael Prizant is an assistant professor of film, television and theatre and American studies.

Fighting Poverty From Day One

Far too many of our fellow Americans are struggling to make ends meet, and tragically many of the least fortunate are children. It’s time to rethink the way we help those in greatest need in this country. Let’s find ways to promote prosperity for all — not by giving more handouts but rather more hand-ups. Let’s give every child, rich or poor, the chance to thrive and pursue their dreams.

Unfortunately, equality of opportunity is far from a reality. Many of our youngest children are being left behind before they are given a chance. Differences in cognitive ability between rich and poor children are evident as early as age 2. Fewer than half of poor children are ready for school at age 5.

We are letting our children down at precisely the time when we could be making the greatest impact. Evidence from the biological and the social sciences emphasizes that these early years have an enormous impact on well-being throughout life. Much of our personality, intellect and skills are formed in our first five years. Yet only a small fraction of our public spending goes to children during this critical phase. Experimental research has shown that something as simple as a rigorous preschool program can affect a lifetime of outcomes, making kids more likely to go to college and less likely to be arrested or have a child outside of marriage.

Let’s fight poverty and promote equality by giving our children an opportunity to thrive and pursue their dreams. Let’s keep the playing field level from the beginning.

James Sullivan is an associate professor of economics.

Strengthening American Infastructure

We live with a legacy of infrastructure that was largely planned in the 1950s and which enabled and encouraged unlimited urban and suburban sprawl. Although our buildings, factories, roads, railroads, bridges, waterways, ports, airports, water supply and sewage systems have allowed us to thrive and prosper, we now are overwhelmed — much of it too costly to operate and maintain, too susceptible to the forces of nature, too unfriendly to our ecosystems and harmful, even, to our own health.

It’s time to redefine what we mean by growth when we talk about infrastructure. We need to build for the 21st century’s global economy, energy supply and demand, climate and changing ecosystem: Not bigger or more spread out, but smarter, tighter, stronger, more resilient, more efficient, more diversified.

We must be good stewards of our resources, being mindful not to attempt to control nature but rather to integrate our infrastructure into our ecosystems. Our transportation system must be diverse, modular and energy-efficient — a healthy arterial system for a strong body. We must reinvent our cities to be compact and efficient, seeking out new ways to use our energy and material resources and pollute less. We must rethink how we plan for resiliency to face hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, rising oceans and droughts that now too often lead to devastating losses. Building in concert with nature, building in safer places, and building smarter, tighter and stronger will reduce risk. Only a trim, healthy, efficient and sustainable infrastructure will allow our nation to thrive.

Joannes Westerink is the Notre Dame Chair in Computational Hydraulics and Henry J. Massman Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. Diane Westerink is the coordinator of the Computational Hydraulics Laboratory.

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