Posted on December 3, 2004
WASHINGTON - Delivering the keynote address to the National Conference on Citizenship at the Ronald Reagan Building this afternoon, Senator Lamar Alexander presented an agenda of "Ten Ways to Unify Us." Addressing an audience of 400-500 American history and government teachers, students, librarians, leaders of foundations and non-profits, and federal, state and local officials, Alexander warned that "there is a disunity in our country that does worry me . . . that I believe is the greatest question facing our country." "There is a disagreement between those who are comfortable saying we are proud of where we came from but prouder to be American, and those who are more comfortable seeing America increasingly as a federation of ethnic groups," he explained. "I believe ethnic diversity vs. American unity is our most fundamental national disagreement, but I also believe it is a false choice. We need both - just as an engine needs the right mix of gasoline and air to run in top form." "Being an American is more than a geographic or ethnic identity," Alexander said. Rather, he argued American identity "is an ideology composed of a number of principles in which most of us believe, principles such as equal opportunity, liberty, laissez faire, the rule of law." To address the question of American identity, he suggested "ten ways to unify our country": Keep the Oath of Allegiance for new citizens. Allow applicants for citizenship who show proficiency in English to become citizens in four years instead of five. Give financial help to legal residents who want to improve their English. So children are ready to learn in English, provide $1000 Equal Opportunity Grants that parents of low-income children could spend before and after kindergarten at any accredited institution. Establish summer Academies for Outstanding Teachers and Students of American History and Civics. Provide for state-by-state NAEP results for U.S. History. Stop the government from making distinctions based upon racial and ethnic identity. Decide which persons from other countries should be allowed to work in our country, create a legal status for them, and then enforce the law. Amend the United States Constitution to allow citizens who were not born here but who have lived here for twenty years to run for President of the United States. Reform the presidential primary system.