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September 27, 2010

Hope, Growth, and Enterprise: Social Justice Lessons from the Life of Jack Kemp

By , , , and

Abstract: As we speak about America and free enterprise and the conservative principles that mean so much to us, it is not enough to uphold and defend those ideas. We must put them into action to help all people. In this process, we should ask: What are people essentially about? They are about relationships, particularly the primary relationships that come first and play the biggest role in shaping a person. And which are those? The relationships within the family. The root of those relationships is marriage: a man and a woman partnering in life with the power to have a child and then, working together, to be present in that child’s life. The ultimate value in life cannot be measured by the amount of money or property you have, but by who you have to enjoy those things with you.

ROBERT L. WOODSON, SR.: I’m humbled by the opportunity to introduce Jeff Kemp. I worked closely with his father, Jack, in the mid-1980s when the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise was just beginning to support the movement for resident management of public housing.

I received a call from then-Congressman Kemp, who asked if he could come over and sit in on a conference of public-housing residents in my office. He spent more than four hours with us and filled an entire yellow pad with his notes. You know that it was rare for Jack to sit and listen for four hours—to anyone— but he did, and after that meeting, he worked with us to sponsor legislation to empower public housing residents to manage and eventually own their properties.

This initiative brought no political advantage for him, given that public housing wasn’t at the top of the conservative Republicans’ agenda. Jack was not motivated by political calculations, but by principle and passion. He understood that the character of a nation is determined by how we treat the least of God’s children. That conviction was fundamental to Jack’s approach to everything he did.

And so it is with his son, Jeff. Some years ago, I attended a dinner at The Heritage Foundation where Margaret Thatcher was the keynote speaker, and she said something that I will always remember: “That which thy father bequeathed thee, earn it anew if thou would possess it.” In his actions and public service, Jeff Kemp is well on the way of earning his father’s bequest. Like his dad, he understands that argument and theory are no substitute for effective remedies and solutions.

I’m not going to talk about Jeff’s reputation as a football player, a star athlete, a scholar, and an activist. Those accomplishments comprise his reputation and his resume. In the arena I work in with low-income grassroots folk, resumes and reputations are not as important as testimonies and character. The Bible speaks to this. For example, Goliath may have had the reputation and the resume, but David had the testimony.

The testimony of Jeff’s character is that he has his father’s passion and intellect and his mother’s heart for Christ. Those qualities have tempered him so that he uses his celebrity not to promote himself but in the service of promoting God’s will in the lives of those who are forgotten and marginalized.

Jeff understood the heart expressed in a statement about what a true leader is by Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest whose life and teaching centered on acts of compassion and love. Nouwen said:

The first thing that struck me when I came to live in a house with mentally handicapped people was that their liking or disliking me had absolutely nothing to do with any of the many useful things I had done until then. Since nobody could read my books, the books could not impress anyone, and since most of them never went to school, my 20 years at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard did not provide a significant introduction.

Not being able to use any of the skills that had proven so practical in the past was a real source of anxiety. I was suddenly faced with my naked self, open for affirmation and rejection, hugs and punches, smiles and tears; all depended simply on how I was perceived at the moment. It forced me to rediscover my true identity…. [T]hese broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of that relevant self, the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things, and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self, vulnerable [and] open to receive love regardless of any accomplishments.

Likewise, what Jack exemplified and what Jeff understands is that in order to truly be a leader, one must be a servant. I believe that is the principle that motivates Jeff Kemp. He truly is using his celebrity to promote the interests of God’s people. I am honored to have been able to call his father my friend, and now I am delighted and blessed to call Jeff my friend.

Robert L. Woodson, Sr., is founder and President of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

JEFF KEMP: Bob began by saying that he was deeply humbled, and I am more humbled to have him introduce me like that, with the quote from Father Nouwen.

Because football was such a central part of our lives as Kemps, many family anecdotes and “lessons learned” come from that arena. I was just thinking of a football game in New York City when Dad was running downfield near the sidelines. The other team was coming toward him, but he didn’t run out of bounds like some of those prissy quarterbacks these days. Unfortunately, their middle linebacker hit him head-on and knocked him unconsciousness. Mom and I were there in the stands at Shea Stadium, and he was lying face down in the mud for five minutes or so. They kept him in the hospital overnight in New York City before sending him back to Buffalo the next day.

Well, the headlines in Buffalo’s papers the next morning assured everyone, “X-rays of Kemp’s head reveal nothing.” I can laugh because, like Dad, I’ve had my share of concussions, so that applies to me as well. In my last season playing in Philadelphia, I suffered a concussion and was taken to the hospital, where I spent the night. In the stands with my wife, my kids were crying when they heard it was Daddy that was hurt—until they found out that they got to ride to the hospital in the police car with the sirens blaring. It was the most exciting day of their life.

Which illustrates a Kemp family principle: Every problem brings an opportunity; something good can be found in every crisis. Dad was definitely a man of great passion.

The Kemp family deeply appreciates what The Heritage Foundation stands for and the American ideals that are advanced here in so many ways. It’s amazing to get to listen to the panel of those who are promoting social justice around the world, such as Philippa Stroud, Kevin Andrews, and Jay Hein, who our family knows from his association with Senator Dan Coats. Dan is a great friend. He was to my father, as is his wife, Marsha, a great friend of my mom’s.

So we’re really blessed to be a part of this team, and everything in Dad’s life was about teamwork. That’s one of the gifts that football brought to him and that he took with him into the political arena.

The “team” can’t be limited to just your party. A person serves his party best by serving his country first, and you can’t change a nation unless you can get at least the majority going in the same direction. Dad took that teamwork approach into the political realm. He never saw people as the opponent: It was the policies or the ideas. You could always get a few more people on your side if you could make sure that they realized that you weren’t against them but against some ideas that maybe they weren’t yet enlightened enough to have abandoned.

I also want to acknowledge Mom. Bob, it was nice of you to say that I have Mom’s heart. Dad had an amazing amount of passion; Mom has an incredible amount of compassion and relational skills, which she has shown throughout her life, and all of us kids are blessed to have her as our mother. I would also like to recognize my associate, General Jimmy Collins, who is the CEO of Stronger Families, the organization that I’m privileged to work with in the Seattle region and throughout the nation.

To begin, I just want to mention a couple of labels that apply to Dad, not that labels are good, because I think that, too often, labels can divide us, but these are kind of uplifting labels. First of all, he called himself a “bleeding heart” conservative, and he certainly was. Second, I think he would call himself a Winston Churchill–Abraham Lincoln American. Those were his heroes.

At Dad’s memorial service, my brother Jimmy noted his full list of heroes. It contained nearly 30 amazing historical characters, including Jackie Robinson and some African–American football players who broke into the ranks of pro football. Truly, it was Abraham Lincoln’s righteousness and the indefatigable spirit of Winston Churchill that were Dad’s inspiration in addressing America’s problems and bringing solutions.

One final label: Dad was a “QB capitalist.” The quarterback gets the team in the huddle, reads the situation, casts a bigger vision, and calls a play. But after they break the huddle and they get out onto the field, he must deal with whatever’s coming at them, and he adjusts to try to make sure that everyone advances and that everyone’s strengths are used to the greatest advantage. That’s how Dad saw capitalism: He believed that it wasn’t meant to benefit only a select few who rise to the top and stay there, but that it was a vehicle for those who are at the bottom to also rise.

He identified with the poor and the disenfranchised and believed that for conservative ideas to realize their ultimate value, they must be applied for all people. Conservative principles have great merit: They’re true. Yet for some reason—be it societal prejudices, the size of government, or inertia—we fail to ensure that those wonderful free-enterprise, capitalist ideas on which America was founded reach their way into the barrios and the neighborhoods where Bob Woodson does his work.

However innovative or creative a kid may be, if he doesn’t have a solid education, he’s going to have a hard time figuring out how to use those talents to start a technology company. There need to be some very aggressive efforts to make sure that free enterprise and capitalism are made to work for the poor and the disenfranchised who have yet to have the opportunity to experience their benefits.

Dad revered the Declaration of Independence, absolutely revered it. It found its way into every speech, and, of course, he viewed it to be a declaration not just for Americans but for all people, in all places, for all times.

Though he had won acclaim for his accomplishments in football and for his leadership in the political arena, during the last days of his life, he was really quite reflective. He told Mom and each of his kids and some of his close friends, including Senator Coats, that he believed that his true legacy was not in the arena of football or politics, but that it was his family, and he recognized that this legacy had been the product of a team effort. He gave incredible credit to Mom.

As we speak about America and free enterprise and the conservative principles that mean so much to us, it’s not enough to uphold and defend those ideas. We must put them into action to help all people. In this process, we should ask: What are people essentially about? Well, they’re about relationships—particularly the primary relationships, those that come first and play the biggest role in shaping a person. And which are those? The relationships within the family.

What is the root, the “DNA” if you will, of those relationships? It’s marriage—a man and a woman partnering in life with the power to have a child and then, working together, to be present in that child’s life to bring them the things that Mom brought me and that Dad brought me. As much a proponent as Dad was of ownership, the ultimate value in life can’t be measured by the amount of money or property you have, but by who you have to enjoy those things with you.

Dad talked about that legacy in a letter he wrote to me a couple years ago. He said, “Family is by far our greatest accomplishment. Mr. Churchill once said that a man’s greatest monuments to his success are his children.” He went on: “In no small way, looking at you—Jennifer, Judith, Jimmy, and you, Jeff—I know that my monuments are our children, and that you all stand taller in life than the Washington Monument.”

Every parent looks at their kids that way, though we now have a culture that’s distracting us from relationships. Today’s society is so materialist and oriented to consumption and entertainment. I’m a free-enterpriser and a capitalist, as Dad was. He wanted everyone to have a piece of the rock, as he called it, or a piece of the pie, and he wanted to enlarge that pie and believed that a rising tide lifts all boats. But, at the end of the day, fulfillment doesn’t come from just having the creature comforts. It comes from being able to share in those relationships that matter the most to you: family, children, and the heritage of the extended family.

Dad cared a lot about what happened to the generations that followed him. One time, I think in 1988, he was giving a speech on the campaign trail. Mom and all of us kids campaigned with him. It was a lot of fun. And he said, “We’re doing this not just for our time, but for all time; not just for our kids today, but for our posterior.” Everyone started laughing, and Dad had no clue what was going on. I can’t remember exactly, but, knowing my irreverence, I probably came up and tapped him in the middle of the speech and told him what he had said.

But he did have a good sense of humor and could laugh at himself as well. I think that’s another lesson that conservatives need. Our ideas are based on principles and values that are time-honored, but we cannot consider ourselves as paragons of virtue and set ourselves above others. No one wants to learn from anyone who thinks they are above others. It’s humility that allows your ideas to be transferred. It’s conveying those principles through stories about the lives of other people that really makes a lesson accessible. That is why Dad was always telling stories about the friends of Bob Woodson—the Bertha Gilkeys, the Alice Fraziers, and the Kimi Grays—and about the entrepreneur who started with nothing.

As I looked at the title of this forum—“Hope, Growth, and Enterprise”—I added “Family” to that because, ultimately, hope, growth, and enterprise lead to an opportunity for families to thrive. That’s what God intended, because he’s a God of family, a God of caring. We have to treat this nation like a family and export our ideas so others can enjoy the benefits that we enjoy.

Dad had roots and personal experience that really assisted him in conveying to others the value of the ideas of free enterprise, of opportunity, of home ownership, of capitalism, of liberty for all, and especially the ideas about low tax rates and economic growth that sometimes seemed to be aligned only with one party. He carried them to everybody and showed how they should apply to all, which is why they took on great appeal.

Everywhere I go, I meet people from lower economic strata and other racial backgrounds who immediately say, “Oh, your daddy, I loved your daddy. He treated everyone alike.” That happened to me yesterday. Jimmy and I were going to a meeting, and a security guard said, “Man, your dad, he treated everyone with dignity.”

At the dinner commemorating Dad when my brother Jimmy launched the Kemp Foundation just a month ago, the man serving me—his name is Moses—said, “Your voice is just like your daddy’s, and you look like your daddy.” I said, “You knew him?” He said, “For twenty years he was coming to my hotel.”

That is something Dad would like, the fact that Moses viewed it as his hotel. He was the waiter, but he viewed it as his hotel, and he took pride in it. That’s the team attitude that my dad always appreciated. The lineman thinks it’s his team and that the play depends on him, but he’s smart enough to know he needs a quarterback and a coach and a trainer and an equipment man as well.

Moses said, “One thing about your dad, he treated everyone alike. That’s what I loved about your dad. He’s a good friend.” That’s another important point. We should become friends with the people that need avenues to opportunity. We have to go beyond talking about ideas to witness how they are embodied in real lives. We should go into the neighborhoods and meet the grassroots leaders and the people they work with. That will help us to avoid categorizing them, giving them some label that is affiliated with some government solution. Bob Woodson has a network of community leaders that he can introduce us to and with whom we can form friendships. That’s certainly what Dad did.

But Dad was accustomed to mixing it up with people of every economic stratum and background. He grew up in Los Angeles in a racially diverse area. He played pro football, so he was in the huddle with African–Americans all the time. As conservatives, that’s what we need to do: mix it up, build friendships, and listen to the folks who are experiencing the problems, because the solutions will come from them. That was the genius of the partnership that Dad and Bob Woodson had throughout those years.

Dad knew, firsthand, the opportunity that the free market can provide. His dad ran a company. It started with just two motorcycles, yet he named it the California Delivery Service. That gives you an idea of where Dad got his unbridled optimism and his macro-view of possibilities. That optimism was a Kemp trademark, and it should be a conservative trademark.

I was reading some documents that Dad had written several years ago about his intellectual journey studying economics and the works of Friedrich von Hayek and Ludwig von Mises and the others. Dad said that he loved the principles of free enterprise because they resonated with human dignity and human opportunity, but he sensed too much pessimism, too much negativity. He wanted optimism and hope and inclusive opportunity.

When I was talking about that with Australian Representative Kevin Andrews, part of the international team of experts working for social justice, he noted that some of those economists developed their ideas during times of incredible tyranny—the eras of World War I and World War II and totalitarianism—when there was some reason to take a look at the difficulties around the world and have a tinge of pessimism. By the same token, Dad said that those conservative economic principles should be presented today with optimism, and that’s what we always saw in him: that ebullient, positive spirit. He always had a sunny disposition, even if he was arguing his point. He was never angry at the people he was arguing with; he was angry with the ideas that were holding folks back.

In football, when the defense attacks the quarterback, it’s called a blitz, and it doesn’t seem to be fun to have a bunch of 250-pound guys and the “small” 200-pound guys coming at you all at once trying to destroy you. But an amazing thing happens in the blitz: The other team cannot cover every receiver in the deep part of the field, so if you can figure out how to get rid of the ball before they hit you, the situation is better for throwing a touchdown pass during the blitz than at other times in the game. The best quarterbacks aren’t saying, “Oh, I hope they don’t blitz me with all those people!” They’re saying, “Bring it on.” The more challenge, the more opportunity.

In fact, the word “crisis” comes from a Greek word that denotes a time of decision, a juncture that can bring both danger and opportunity. That is how we should be looking at the problems in the inner cities of America today or the places throughout the world where there’s deep poverty and where people are disenfranchised. We need to go to those people and ask them what they want, what’s working, and what the barriers are to their solutions and success. Then we have to ask how we can create free enterprise and opportunity, how we can allow economic growth to work for them, and how we can get capital to them. Dad was probably the only conservative who quoted Jesse Jackson, who said “Capitalism without capital is just an ism.” That’s the one thing they agreed on.

One of Dad’s favorite quotes was from Jonathan Swift, who said, “Vision is the art of seeing what’s invisible to others.” We have to see in those who have not yet succeeded that they want to succeed, that they just need the opportunity. To win the hearts and minds of the majority of the people, conservative ideas must be presented in those terms.

Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge: You’ve got to imagine the dreams that people have if you want to speak to how they can achieve success. That was what Dad always said: that he started from the dreams that were in the hearts of the people. Ronald Reagan was great at that; he spoke to the common man’s dreams, and then the conservative principles made sense.

One of the things that Jennifer Marshall and I spoke about when we considered Dad and his legacy was the idea that conservatives really need to do their homework and understand the benefits of their policy positions before they go out in the marketplace to debate them. They need to present a better idea rather than simply opposing another idea. Evidence and alternatives are more persuasive than mere opposition.

Something that we can learn from my dad is that before you begin to hammer out policy, you have to do the groundwork, and that means going into the neighborhoods and meeting the people. It means going to the poor and the folks who are suffering the problems and saying, “I believe you have the solutions. I’d like to learn what those are and what’s standing in your way, and what resources we can bring through our creative free-enterprise system.” That system has generated an incredible amount of wealth, and the nonprofit sector and corporate sector are ready to provide support to get that engine of development primed.

So before you do your policy work, your research, your policy development, you have to do your groundwork. Before you think about how to create good marginal tax brackets or green-lining our inner cities, you have to talk with the people and see what their real problems are and the solutions they would suggest.

In the 1980s, before Bob Woodson and that “Opportunity Society” of Congressmen, including my Dad, gave input regarding the Housing Act, they met with resident managers of public housing who identified seven barriers to turning their communities around and getting rid of drugs and crime. With that input, they then developed the legislative proposals, which, to the shock of a lot of people, won passage with bipartisan support.

So before you get those great ideas on paper and create the lobbying strategies and the marketing strategies and the public relations strategies, the “homework,” if you will, of making good policy happen, you need to do groundwork. That means going into the neighborhood, like Dad did with Bob, and meeting the Bertha Gilkeys and the Kimi Grays and learning about the solutions from them.

One of the principles that my dad trusted and followed was the principle of subsidiarity, which says that, based on the dignity of each human being, societal functions should be assigned to the most local levels, which are closest to the individual, and that “higher level” institutions should yield authority to the local entities. As Pope Leo XIII wrote: “A community of higher order should not interfere in the internal order of a community of lower order, depriving the latter of its functions.”

In the words of Bob Woodson, this is the “zip-code test.” Are the solutions identified, designed, and controlled by those who live within the local zip code? This is why low tax rates, urban enterprise zones, school choice, parental authority, competition that creates better opportunities, and home ownership make sense: They move power back to the local level.

Following this principle, the most important unit, the one that is closest to the individual, is the family. Dad understood that, and that’s what has inspired my life mission: the belief that without strong marriages, our country cannot be a free and strong nation. We can’t presume to export our great ideas to the world when, at home, that foundation of our society is crumbling—in the African–American community, the white community, and the Hispanic community. America’s rates of out-of-wedlock births are unprecedented. Our divorce rates have soared since the 1960s, though recently they dropped a bit, but that’s only because the marriage rate is dropping precipitously. We aren’t yet as far along in this trend as many countries in Europe are, but this is nevertheless a trend toward self-destruction, as George Gilder predicted more than 20 years ago.

Sara McClanahan, professor of sociology at Princeton, conducted research to determine whether or not single parents could raise kids just as well as a married family. They can put just as much love into the kids, and they can succeed, but on the whole, she found that there are far more difficulties regarding educational and emotional outcomes, and certainly with regard to financial outcomes and the risk of drug and alcohol abuse and pregnancies before marriage, as well as in the children’s lifelong earnings capacity. The conclusion was that marriage really does matter, a message that was further explicated in the book that Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher wrote, The Case for Marriage,[1] which documents the benefits of that most fundamental and anchoring institution in society. It “most reliably brings the time, attention and resources of parents to their children.”

Additionally, according to the Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing study,[2] marriage is central to our nation’s economic health and wealth. The study conservatively estimated the annual cost of marriage disintegration to be $112 billion per year for poverty-related expenses alone.

In sum, the touchstone of our policies should be people’s most basic dreams and the fundamental relationships of our lives: the family, the neighborhood, and the community. And as we explore the solutions that exist within the community itself, we must ensure that free enterprise offers people the opportunity to strive toward their dreams and to become whatever God called them to be. Economics, after all, was originally defined as the study of the affairs of the family. Incentives in economics and government policy can have crucial impacts in families. Sadly, disincentives or displacement can do far more damage than incentives can do to create good. This is why government should aim first to do no harm to the family and our cultural leadership should promote community and national-level work to fuel a marriage- and family-strengthening movement.

One of the keys for Dad was the language he used to advance his ideas. He would much prefer to tell a story about one of Bob Woodson’s grassroots leaders than to talk about the theory of policies. He told the story about Alice Frazier, one of the resident managers of public housing, welcoming the queen of England to her apartment and then hugging her against all protocol. When the media asked why she did that, she answered, “Because I was excited to welcome the queen to my castle.” Dad told that story about five hundred times, but it made a point, and no one could argue with it, because it made it clear that those are the people Dad respected: the Alice Fraziers who succeeded in becoming owners, though they started with nearly nothing. That’s who he wanted free enterprise to work for.

I also want to emphasize the importance of focusing on solutions and attacking wrong-minded ideas rather than the people who espouse them. That spirit is really needed today in the political and media realm. Dad modeled being solution-oriented and the importance of positivism. Dad was positive on people. He trusted them to lead their lives and believed they wanted to reach their potential, their own American dream. He taught us the importance of positivism, as opposed to negativism.

For example, if we believe that a policy of affirmative action has some fundamental flaws, we have to do more than criticize it. To go out and attack affirmative action, or a bloated federal government, or inefficient welfare programs, or bad housing programs in general without offering any alternative is basically to say to the people who are dependent upon those less than perfect solutions: “We don’t care about you. We’re much more interested in our federal budget, and I’d like to have my taxes cut so I can buy a second house and also a boat.”

That’s the impact of having a critique without a solution. That’s why we lose elections. We’re not comfortable going into an inner-city neighborhood and meeting Bertha Gilkey and hearing her talk about what works. So our challenge is to go into those neighborhoods and listen—a lot—to develop the language and stories we use to explain our policies. Dad was able to convey his policies effectively because he had done that listening. Think of this analogy. How well would it work for a quarterback to go into the huddle and say, “OK, this is a really important play. It’s third down and 10 yards to go. We’ve got to get this first down! I don’t want anyone to fumble. No penalties, no interceptions, no dropped passes. I don’t want anyone to make a mistake. Don’t screw up! Ready? Break!”

There are so many bad things happening in the world that we are tempted to take that approach: to simply oppose all the bad principles and policies and then give our ideological reason why they are bad ideas. But people aren’t so interested in the ideological aspect of policies; they want real solutions in their lives.

Going back to the football analogy, if he wants to motivate his team, the quarterback should go into that huddle and say, “Here’s the play that’s going to work, and we need everyone doing their part to make it work!” We need positivism, not negativity; thinking offense, not defense; alternatives, not opposition.

Dad was inquisitive. He studied. He learned. He proposed, promoted, debated, and grew. I’m going to list a few principles that can be learned from Dad’s life and legacy.

  1. Poverty is not permanent. People are moving through cycles, and we’ve got to make sure we give them the opportunity to get out of poverty. Entrepreneurs are everywhere, and we need to unleash their innovation by offering the support they need and clearing away impediments. Upward mobility is the cornerstone of America.
  2. Labor and capital, workers and owners, may be the same person at different stages in life. Labor and capital are not natural adversaries. The laborer who does a good job and keeps working hard may someday own the hotel, and he would certainly hope to have capital gains someday, so let’s explain to him why the capital gains tax rate should be cut. Then employers, who might employ your son or your daughter or your friend, can employ more people, and someday when you start to accumulate capital in this country, you’ll get to keep it. A lower tax rate would help people who already got ahead in life and will help you when your chance comes.
  3. The Gideon principle: Recognize potential. In the Bible, there was a guy named Gideon who was afraid. He did finally turn out to be a pretty good leader, but before he was a good leader, while he was hiding in a wine press grinding out a little wheat to get some food for his people, with opponents all around him, God’s angel came to him and said, “Gideon, great and valiant warrior.” He wasn’t yet a great and valiant warrior, but God spoke to him in terms of what he was going to become. This is what a dad or a mom, or a grandpa or a grandma, does to their kids and grandkids, and that’s really how we should view and speak to the inner cities, barrios, and low-income rural areas of America. That’s what Bob Woodson does. He goes to kids who are living in violent zones, and he says, “There’s greatness in you. We’ve just got to unleash it and get rid of the stuff that’s stopping you from being your very best.” That’s the Gideon principle. Let’s infuse positivism into our country.
  4. Ideas have consequences. We need great ideas, and we need to connect them to the practical, show how they relate to real life and helping people reach their dreams and potential. In essence, America is an idea, and though it’s still in the process of embodying its ideals, it’s based on principles and values that could be made universal and that all people could enjoy. Mr. Lincoln described “that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time…the promise that in due time weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”
  5. Welcome debate. Put our conservative ideas out there. Talk with anyone.
  6. The Good Shepherd is the greatest model for both life and politics. Don’t be afraid to leave the 99 that are doing okay to save that one; the 99 will know that you care for them too when you’re caring for that one. We must lead from the heart and with our heart.
  7. Empower people with ownership. Ownership is crucial. Dad used to creatively edit the Declaration of Independence to list it among our rights— “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.” He believed that owning a piece of property gave you a stake in the community and that, through ownership, you built a legacy. That’s why he created incentives for people to own property.
  8. Put conservative principles in service to all. Martin Luther King said, “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” That’s really how conservative principles should be put into practice: by applying them to serve those who haven’t yet experienced their benefits. Everyone can gain. A rising tide lifts all boats. We’re not risking anything, and we’ll have a far richer life as a family, as an American family, if we take these ideas to the poor and the disenfranchised and the forgotten.

I’ve got to say this about elections and voting. If you don’t get someone’s vote in the first cycle, keep reaching out to them in the next election, and the next election. If a conservative candidate goes to campaign in the inner city or the barrio, in the first year, maybe only one, two, three, or four people will respond, but the next time, it may be 10 or 20 or 30 and, eventually, thousands. Where there is competition, the tide can turn, and soon, people of all backgrounds and all income levels will have Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, competing for their votes rather then one party taking them for granted and the other simply writing them off, which is ridiculous and wrong. So compete for the vote. Go to the people. Sharpen our ideas and convey them in a way that they can appeal to someone who’s on the fence, or even the other side.

Dad used to say that people don’t care much about what you’re saying until they know that you care. And he did care. Jack Kemp passionately cared.

Jeff Kemp is founder and President of the Washington State-based Stronger Families.

Questions & Answers

QUESTION: Apparently you support marriage enforcement, but the number one point is how we can improve America’s current marriage index score of 60.3 when you say we’ll be striving to reunite only fathers and children. What about mothers and children?

JEFF KEMP: David Blankenhorn at the Institute for American Values and Linda Malone-Colón at Hampton University’s National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting recently published The Marriage Index.[3] David Blankenhorn said that they published the marriage index because America pays so much attention to the economy and the leading economic indicators, considering the economy to be a measure of how we are doing as a nation. He thought, “Why not pay comparable attention to marriage, which is the primary indicator of whether or not our kids are going to receive the love they need and whether or not our society will continue to prosper?”

They basically considered the out-of-wedlock birth rates, the number of children being raised by their mom and dad, the divorce rate, the marriage rate, and the marital satisfaction rates. They then aggregated all those into an index and created a profile that shows that, since 1970, our marriage index has gone down from 76.2 to 60.3 in our nation. In another page, they presented a marriage index for African–Americans, which went from 64 in 1970 down to 39.6 today while the out-of wedlock-birth rates are now 71 percent.

There are a few signs of hope and turnaround in the black community. The federal Healthy Marriage Initiative has been seeking to address dissolution of marriage in the African–American community quite aggressively recently, and perhaps the pendulum can swing back as we make the issue of reuniting fathers and children a top priority through the programs of advocacy, family reconciliation, and community mobilization.

Your point was why we don’t also talk about reuniting mothers and children. The organizations that are working to strengthen marriage and the family believe that males and females, mothers and fathers, each bring unique and necessary gifts to children and that the best environment for children to thrive is a partnership of male and female parents. In no sense are they saying that women are not needed. It’s just that there’s less of a mother deficit than there is a father deficit, so the major emphasis is on getting more dads connected to kids because they have been absent.

We do live in an age where, sadly, there are some mothers who are also now disconnected from their kids, so we need to encourage both mothers and fathers to connect to their kids, and marriage is the very best glue to do that.

JENNIFER MARSHALL: Can you tell us a little more about the Kemp Foundation and your plans?

JEFF KEMP: Just this last month, my brother Jimmy followed through on some dreams that he and my dad and mom had planned before Dad’s passing and established the Jack Kemp Foundation. It’s going to be led by my brother Jimmy, who is building a team to support it based here in D.C. There are three principal passions that it pursues, reflecting those that Dad always talked about: passion for our country, for ideas, and for people. There are three activities in the foundation’s mission.

Number one is the Kemp Papers. Through a partnership with the Library of Congress, Dad’s papers and writings and video and audio recordings are kept. They will be digitized and made available to the public for scholarly and, hopefully, grassroots study and for implementation of those ideas.

Second, the Kemp Forum, which will present a series of debates, a civil competition of ideas, oriented (in the spirit of my dad) to a search for free-enterprise solutions incorporating incentives, opportunity, ownership, and growth.

Finally, the Kemp Initiatives, demonstrations and partnerships with groups that are putting free enterprise and incentive-oriented market economics into practice. The first is a partnership with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University called Enterprise Africa. There are some amazing changes that President Kagame in Rwanda has made to move his country toward a market-based, dynamic economy, showing how free enterprise is breaking out in one of the most war-torn and difficult spots in the world.

Jimmy is also considering partnering with Bob Woodson in his violence-free neighborhood zones approach, where young people are trained to be peer mentors as a solution to gangs and violence in their schools. It’s an amazing initiative; they target only the hardest schools, communities, and cities in our country.

Those sorts of projects are the kind of opportunities that the Kemp Initiatives will pursue. For more information, contact Jimmy Kemp at the JackKempFoundation.org.

ROBERT L. WOODSON, SR.: You mentioned the 71 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate. Are any of the researchers looking into the 30 percent of the families in those communities who are maintaining strong families and what it is that explains why they are maintaining those families?

JEFF KEMP: Linda Malone-Colón is studying success in the black family. The keys that we’ve found in marriage success are: having a role model, preparing for marriage, and knowing that marriage is a lifelong commitment and having that concept of commitment, which is a rare thing in society today. In other words, these couples persevere through their challenges. A lot of people view marriage as a consumer item these days—something that is there for your benefit to take or leave. An enduring marriage results from the attitude that people bring into it, which many times is rooted in a religious conviction.

Mentoring and small group support also help to strengthen a marriage. With the presence of a group of people around a couple supporting their marriage, the divorce rate is cut in half. The marital satisfaction rate goes up 73 percent when couples join a small group of other married couples in mutual support.

Those are all keys to marital success, as are skills training and marriage enrichment programs that teach communication and conflict resolution skills. Nearly every marriage has some element of conflict, and you may not get rid of it. The survival skill is better termed “conflict management” than “conflict resolution.” When a couple understands that there may be conflict within any marriage, they will not be so shocked when differences arise, and they won’t bail out at the first signs of disagreement or after just a year or two, which is where the first big spike in divorces occurs these days.

So those are some of the keys to an enduring marriage: a support system, skills so there can be an action plan when differences arise, and, above all, understanding that marriage is a lifelong commitment. If you don’t have that understanding, if you approach marriage like a cohabiting relationship that you can simply leave, then you will get out of it when the tough times come, and you will never develop the intimacy that comes through trial. As I said earlier, crisis creates opportunity.

JAY F. HEIN: Jeff’s presentation was a tour de force. I don’t know if bragging is allowed in heaven, but I think I can hear a “Bravo!” and I think I can picture Jack Kemp nudging whoever might be next to him to say, “That’s my son.”

We miss Jack Kemp, and so Jeff, Joanne, and your family have our condolences. We share your sorrow in that loss, and we in this room and elsewhere share a deep sense of gratitude for the legacy that he left us: a legacy of ideas and ideals and a spirit of championing the causes of the least, the last, and lost, which Jeff so very effectively articulated.

I think you will be encouraged by our next panel, which brings evidence that the social-justice conservatism of Jack Kemp—his life and his legacy and his ideas —are not only thriving throughout this nation, but have taken root across the oceans as well. We’re going to hear now from international perspectives about how compassion and conservatism are uniting to create a free and just and prosperous society in communities throughout the globe.

This whole enterprise that Jennifer Marshall is hosting today was forged in a conversation between myself and Joe Loconte, whom many of you know through his writings if not in person, and Tim Montgomerie, who is a leading intellectual light in Britain. I remember our earliest conversations when Tim said fancifully, “It would just be like reuniting the old British empire.” We changed that a little bit in our mission, which is to unite a community who believe the same things: that people are full of promise and that we must bend policy and systems toward them and the institutions in their communities that have served them most effectively.

Now you’re going to hear from two leaders—one from Australia and one from Britain—who are going to speak to this marriage of policy and practice and explore how we can create new policy solutions to enable the Bob Woodson types in communities all across the globe to do their work more effectively.

First we’ll hear from the Honorable Kevin Andrews. Mr. Andrews was elected to the Australian Commonwealth Parliament in 1991. As his party held government through that decade, he served as minister in three very critical departments: first Aging, then Employment, and lastly Immigration. He is now a leading voice of the opposition and an articulate spokesman, promoting both our cause and also the renewal of the political future of his country. I am pleased to acknowledge his wife, Margaret Andrews, who is with us today.

Following Mr. Andrews will be Philippa Stroud, who is standing for Parliament in Britain—and we hope we’ll be adding her voice to that chamber. Philippa currently serves as Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice, which is a profound engine of change in Britain, competing in the marketplace of ideas with great success to elevate the stories such as those we just heard about from Jeff Kemp in Britain’s discourse.

You’ve heard from Iain Duncan Smith if you attended this conference in its inaugural year. Iain Duncan Smith works with Philippa Stroud, and they have had great influence on David Cameron, leader of the opposition, the Conservative Party, in the Parliament and champion in shaping a new agenda for the Tories, which, indeed, may be a party in power very soon.

Philippa knows of which she speaks. In addition to being an innovative thinker in the policy arena, she worked for 17 years in front-line ministries and other non-governmental organization activities throughout the globe with the least, the last, and the lost. Thus, she has an authoritative voice and a legacy of service.

Jay F. Hein is President of the Indianapolis, Indiana-based Sagamore Institute for Policy Research and former Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

KEVIN ANDREWS: The motivating force for my decision to join Parliament, to stand for election, was in fact marriage and family. Margaret and I have been involved in working mainly with engaged couples, providing marital education and pre-marital education in particular, for a long period of time prior to my election. What motivated me is knowing that more can be done. I asked, can the parameters, which are set by governments and policy, be improved in a way so that the work that we were doing on the ground could actually have more impact and more effect than we felt was happening?

It was that motivation, born from personal experience, that led to me standing for, and ultimately being elected to, Parliament. We’re still involved in that marriage-strengthening work on weekends, at least a few times a year. I try to be as anonymous as I can and work with engaged couples, helping to mentor them. I’ll come back to that point of personal commitment in a moment.

When I reflect on my own life, I realize that, although I didn’t come from a particularly wealthy family, I was given three of the most important things that a person can be given in life. First, I had loving parents. In fact, there’s a small parallel with the Kemp family, because my parents ran a trucking business as well. I remember my father and, indeed, my mother getting up at all hours of the morning in order to do the work that was necessary to be done.

Second, those loving parents gave me and my brothers the best education they could afford. But third, and most important, they gave us encouragement, optimism, and hope—and that, in essence, is what this seminar is all about. What can we do that can give hope and optimism to people so that they can have a happy life, so that they can “pursue happiness” as set forth in America’s great founding document?

I fundamentally believe that we cannot have a strong nation without strong marriages. We can’t have a healthy nation without healthy families.

“How can we live together?” has been the question that has troubled policymakers and thinkers for millennia. In every society, that’s the central question. What is it that actually brings us together so that we can have that individual and societal pursuit of happiness? Essentially, that pursuit is based on two pillars that respect human dignity: freedom and responsibility. Without freedom, individuals cannot have full human dignity; nor can they without a sense of responsibility: in the words of your great patriot Daniel Webster, “wholesome restraint.” That restraint applies not only to individuals, but also, I believe, to the state itself.

The “good society” is one that is a synthesis of faith and freedom, of liberty and virtue, of free market and moral responsibility. It includes both a quest for prosperity and a practical, personal concern for those who are poor and marginalized. I think these are the pillars that must undergird any efforts in which we undertake to bring about social justice for the poor and the marginalized.

I was given some material written by Jack Kemp, and there was something among those writings that I think was important. He depicted America as a nation split by two economies. The first he described as a “mainstream economy that is democratic, capitalist, market-oriented, entrepreneurial, and rewards work, investment, savings, and productivity.” The other, he said, was “similar to third world socialist economies and predominates in the pockets of poverty throughout urban and rural America, with barriers to productive human and social activities and a virtual absence of economic incentives and rewards.” The task, he said, was to bridge those two economies.

I reflected on what that great British statesman Benjamin Disraeli had said more than a century earlier when he talked about “two nations,” more with regard to the lack of connection between people, between individuals, between the rich and the poor than the economic circumstances and the poverty that resulted from that disconnect.

I believe there are a number of principles that we should apply to the way in which we pursue social justice, whether it be in America or Canada or New Zealand or Australia or elsewhere. We can look at the goal of social justice simply as the redistribution of wealth, or we can see it as creating that bridge that enables individuals and families to join the mainstream—to become part of the mainstream in a relational sense, person to person; to join it socially within the communities that exist within our societies; and to join it economically, to be part of the market: that is, to be part of the broader underlying basis of society.

Social justice, therefore, is, in my belief, a personal commitment. It’s not simply an overarching bureaucratic state or program. Indeed, something which Jeff touched upon when he mentioned subsidiarity, it means really trying to find local solutions for local problems. The “one size fits all” solution may sound grand in its aspiration, but rarely does it work when you’re actually on the ground. What is needed is what Bob Woodson so eloquently said to us here last year: It needs that personal commitment of people in their own locality who understand that locality and the circumstances that they’re dealing with. I think that reflects also the work of Jack Kemp as well.

Third, it requires perseverance and dedication. There are often setbacks, but we need to be able to go on cheerfully, and indeed optimistically, and to keep in mind that victory is never complete, nor is defeat ever final. Whatever the setbacks, whatever the ups and downs—anybody involved in politics knows much about the ups and downs—to go on cheerfully and optimistically is important.

Fourth, we must look to evidence and outcomes above claims and assertions. There are many claims and assertions made, but in the end it’s what practically works that is going to make a difference in the lives of people. To apply the words of James Madison in Federalist Number 37 in this context:

It is a misfortune inseparable from human affairs that public measures are rarely investigated with the spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good, and that this spirit is more apt to be diminished than promoted by those occasions which require an unusual exercise of it.

This is consistent with an approach that says that local solutions to local problems are the answer; that’s what we must encourage. Then there’s not a grand solution that we as conservatives can say is the way that we will fix the world. Such a utopian dream of abstractions is not going to lead to real outcomes for real people. But there are a set of principles and models that we can learn from, and that’s what we’ve been learning from what Jeff said this morning and what we’ll learn now from what Philippa has to say to us.

Coming together like this and discussing how we do things practically within the spirit of which I’ve been speaking helps all of us to go back to our communities, our own societies, and our own countries and try to advance the cause of human happiness in this world.

The Honorable Kevin Andrews was elected to the Australian Parliament in 1991. He serves as Deputy Chairman of the House Economics Committee and Chairman of the Coalition Policy Review.

PHILIPPA STROUD: Jennifer has asked me to share a few words on the significance of Jack’s ideas and how they can be applied in a British context and how we have found Jack’s commitment to hope, growth, and opportunity to be central to everything that we are doing. I want to start by saying a little bit about where this social justice movement began for me personally in the U.K.

When I finished university, I went out to Hong Kong and worked with ex-Triad heroin addicts. I lived in a place called the Walled City, which was a slum area of Hong Kong that had been left out of the treaty between Britain and China and was inside British territory but technically belonged to China and therefore couldn’t be policed by anybody. It became a drug haven, and we worked to bring the addicts out of that context and into a rehabilitation context and to see their lives transformed.

There were some real lessons from that environment that deeply impacted me as a 22-year-old. The first one of these is that transformation is possible. I know that sounds like just a small glib sentence, but the fact that it is possible to turn lives around is utterly absent from public policy, certainly in Britain. That is something that has stuck with me deeply over the years. But the transformation is only possible if it is an expectation deeply rooted in those communities. If it is absent, people only rise to the level of the expectation in those communities.

The second is that it is personal involvement that makes transformation possible, which is why civil society is so important and is at the heart of our communities. Because it’s not top-down government programs that change lives: Change is engendered through people who are deeply involved and through “I will walk this path with you” organizations.

Transformation also is only possible one life at a time, and yet there are millions who are crying out for the sort of support and encouragement and vision that is required to turn their lives around. This has to be a challenge to civil society. It certainly is in the U.K. In the U.K., we are asking who will pick up the baton and run with this? Much has been said declaring that the “third sector” is the way to do this, but actually, our third sector has been crippled by government policies over the past 10 or 15 years. The real challenge is the possibility of scaling up the efforts of that third sector and whether or not that deep personal involvement can be replicated in many, many of our communities.

The final lesson that I learned from my service in Hong Kong was that no life skill is ever wasted. This is a little bit like Jeff’s statement that opportunity lies at the heart of crisis. I worked with Chinese ex-drug addicts who were involved in the underground Triad society. They were used to operating illegally and underground, and they are now using the skills they developed in criminal activity to a good end. They have become the current and future leaders of the Chinese church.

There is never any life skill that cannot be used or turned around. Some of our gang members in the U.K. are among the most enterprising individuals and were able to earn large amounts of money when those enterprising skills were harnessed for activity in the business world.

I came back to the U.K. and started working in the British context to see whether the same lessons that I’d learned in Hong Kong could be applied in the U.K. They could, and those principles were incredibly effective, but results were incredibly difficult to achieve in Britain, because all the grain of public policy was going against you, not with you and for you. Everywhere I went I found hindrances.

I was working with an addict who wanted to come off drugs, and when I contacted a government-based drug organization and said, “I’m working with an addict who wants to go through withdrawal,” they said, “How much does he want to reduce by?” This was complete anathema to me. This wasn’t the question I was expecting. I said “He doesn’t want to reduce; he wants to become drug-free.” There was no expectation of transformation.

You might start supporting a couple who were struggling to keep their marriage together, and you might manage, against all the odds, to get counseling for them only to find that that counseling took them through the process of how to separate nicely and kindly and without conflict for their children rather than really working to support them to resolve their conflicts and giving them the skills that would hold their marriage together.

You might help a young person who’s trying to get back to work only to find that the moment she engaged in work, her benefit withdrawal was of such ferocity that she ended up earning less back in the workforce than she would have had she just stayed on the benefits rolls. There is no vision for opportunity or for supporting someone to go back into the work environment.

This is what we now have in Britain: a maintenance culture that robs people of human dignity and of their desire to make their family work, to live decently, and to provide for those who they love.

At the Centre for Social Justice, our vision is entirely different, and it is this vision that is now impacting the British political landscape and is so exciting. Our vision is that public policy should work with the grain of human aspiration and support the dignity of the human being. I know that sounds absolutely common-sense to anybody in this room, but believe you me, it’s a radical concept. We recognize that a breakthrough with a social challenge may take many attempts.

When I was working with the community of addicts, I remember one guy who we took off drugs 18 times. In the U.K. it would not be possible to take somebody through withdrawal 18 times. They would simply say, “You have had your chance” your first time, and that would be it. We are seeking to move policymakers to embrace a second-chance concept, because if you remove the goal of complete freedom for people and settle for something less, it is totally undermining and dismissive of the value of that individual.

Who are we to say to a child, “You must give up hope of your parents ever staying together”? Who are we to say to a child, “You will never be anything better than the neighborhood you come from”? In Britain, social mobility has ground to a complete halt. It is lower now than it has been in decades. Who are we to say to that addict, “You can only expect a semi-sedated life on methadone for the rest of your days” or “Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to support your family. A life on benefits is fine”?

That has been the direction of our public policy, and that is what we have been seeking to turn around in the U.K., and we have been on an incredibly exciting journey of learning lessons from the grassroots community.

At the Centre for Social Justice, we started a Poverty Fighters Alliance through which we contact the best examples of those who are seeking to transform their communities on the front line and invite them to inform policymaking. We bring to Westminster the best of what we find through an awards program—and that audience is made up of policymakers, decision-makers, and key politicians— and we tell them: These are models of what is really working out there on the front line.

We then take those lessons into the policymaking arena. In our policy working groups we have 50 percent top academics and 50 percent practitioners—frontline grassroots organizations. We reckon that if they agree on anything, we’re on to a good thing. From there, we make our policy proposals.

It’s been a very, very exciting journey. It’s been all about putting hope, growth, and opportunity back into the British society, and I hope that Jack would’ve been proud of what we’ve done.

Philippa Stroud, former Executive Director for the Centre for Social Justice, now serves as special advisor to Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (U.K.)

Show references in this report

[1]Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially (New York: Doubleday, 2000).

[2]Benjamin Scadifi, principal investigator, The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and All Fifty States (Institute for American Values, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Georgia Family Council, and Families Northwest, 2008).

[3]Institute for American Values and National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting, The Marriage Index: A Proposal to Establish Leading Marriage Indicators (New York: Institute for American Values, 2009).

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