Easley discusses ethics in politics
Eva Binda | Monday, November 6, 2006
Declaring ethics and core values in policy-making as “not optional” Friday afternoon, North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley delivered a speech in the Snite Museum on the importance of drawing upon personal values in setting the right policy.
In the talk, entitled “Intersection of Politics and Values in the 21st Century,” Easley said the right policy is “the one that allows people to reach their potential so they can use their God-given gifts.”
Easley, a Democrat, is the first Roman Catholic governor of North Carolina, a predominantly Protestant state. Although he attended UNC-Chapel Hill, Easley named University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh as “one of my heroes.”
Easley admitted that his “religious faith guides [his] policy,” but insisted this view does not violate the separation of church and state.
“It’s natural and appropriate to navigate public policy with our own internal moral compass,” Easley said.
He repeatedly referred to the importance of relying on one’s core values in making and enforcing policy, helping less powerful members of society.
“Small steps properly taken for noble purposes strengthen the weak among us,” Easley said.
During his time as governor, Easley has taken steps to improve education and shorten the achievement gap between people of different races in North Carolina. One example, Easley said, is reducing the sizes of kindergarten classes.
“So many good and strong people in North Carolina were made weak by their lack of education,” Easley said. He explained that North Carolina’s traditional economy – based on agriculture, textiles and furniture manufacturing – made it difficult for some people to pursue higher education.
Easley said he has worked to provide more funding and scholarships to make higher education more accessible to those of lower socioeconomic levels.
Although Easley said much progress had been made on the state-level in North Carolina, he had plenty of criticism for the politics in Washington, D.C.
“Too many in Washington have forgotten their core principles and left Americans in their wake,” Easley said. In the nation’s capital, he said, there is “too much concern for party politics” and not enough concern for constituents.
“[Politicians in Washington] are focused more on future elections than future generations,” Easley said.
He said that among other reductions, Washington has cut Federal Pell grant scholarships, despite “the clear need for a more educated population.” Whenever cuts are made on the federal level, the states have to make up for that loss, Easley said. He also criticized how Washington has been funding the war effort.
“You create the budget to fit the war effort, not the war effort to fit the budget,” he said.
Regarding foreign policy, Easley predicted that “as other powers emerge, we will be challenged more militarily than in the past.”
The U.S. must rely on core values, Easley said, because “we will no longer be able to coerce others. We will have to be able to persuade others.” He said he believes America must be viewed “as moral and with values.”
Despite the critical tone regarding Washington, Easley insisted on the need to remain optimistic regarding the future.
“We must remain optimistic, hopeful and confident,” he said. “Confident that our people will succeed, hopeful that the words of our leaders will come with action and optimistic that values will strengthen a weakened America.”