Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter thinks the decline of civic education is putting the United States in danger.
During a question and answer session last week at University of New Hampshire School of Law, Souter described “pervasive civic ignorance” as one of the biggest problems in the United States. He warned that Americans’ ignorance about their own government could lead to a dictatorship.
“I don’t worry about our losing a republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion, he said. “I don’t worry about it because of a coup by the military, as has happened in some other places. What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed people will not know who is responsible, and when the problems get bad enough — as they might do for example with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown — some one person will come forward and say ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem.’”
“That is how the Roman republic fell,” Souter continued. “Augustus became emperor not because he arrested the Roman senate. He became emperor because he promised that he would solve problems that were not being solved.”
“If we know who is responsible, I have enough faith in the American people to demand performance from those responsible. If we don’t know, we will stay away from the polls, we will not demand it and the day will come when somebody will come forward and we and the government will in effect say, ‘Take the ball and run with it, do what you have to do.’ That is the way democracy dies.”
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube by PBS Newshour, below: