Richard Haass and ‘the question of us’: UNE welcomes veteran diplomat as 12th annual Bush Lecture speaker
The University of New England welcomed Richard Haass, D.Phil., president of the Council on Foreign Relations and bestselling author, as the speaker for its 12th annual George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture Series on Thursday, March 23.
Among myriad topics, Haass, discussed fond memories of his time serving as an aide to President George H.W. Bush, as well as his views on the current state of political affairs both globally and in the United States. He also discussed topics from his newly published book, “The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens,” to an enthusiastic audience at the Harold Alfond Forum on UNE’s Biddeford Campus.
The annual George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture honors the legacy of the President and former First Lady as political and community leaders. Haass, an award-winning diplomat, previously served in the White House under the elder Bush, the State Department under Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and in the Pentagon during the Carter administration.
He was U.S. envoy to the Cyprus negotiations and the Northern Ireland peace process and, after Sept. 11, served as U.S. coordinator for the future of Afghanistan. He is the recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal, the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award, and the Tipperary International Peace Award.
Both in his book and his remarks, Haass contended the idea that citizenship must be revised to place citizens’ responsibilities to one another and to the country on equal par with citizens’ rights.
In a post-post-Cold War world, Haass argued, where the revival of geopolitical aggression has created what he called an extraordinary difficult era of history, one question remains: how do we navigate a reality where our principles and our reality collide?
“We have gotten so obsessed with our rights, what we are owed by our country, that we have lost sight of our obligations — what we owe one another and what we owe our country,” Haass remarked, calling his query “the question of us.” “In a democracy, rights are essential, but they are not sufficient. The reason is because rights inevitably come into collision with one another.”
The scholar said citizens need to be prepared to get informed and involved to fulfill their obligations to the country as a means of narrowing the gap between their principles and their practices.
“Obligations are so necessary because they give you a way to hopefully work through the differences in a way that would forge agreement and compromise and make it possible to improve things here at home, to act in the world in ways that are consistent, to avoid violence, and to once again be a democracy that others around the world would hope to emulate,” he said.
Rounding out his discussion, Haass praised UNE’s commitment to being a diverse marketplace of ideas, where knowledge is built upon open expression and sometimes difficult conversations among people from different backgrounds and perspectives — a place where respectful debate is honored and is crucial to its mission.
“I love what you are doing on this campus,” Haass said. “Being a marketplace of ideas is the sort of thing I would argue needs to be done across the country, not just at educational institutions. I think you’re setting a wonderful example.”
Watch the full lecture
Veteran diplomat and best-selling author Richard Haass discusses fond memories of his time serving as an aide to President George H.W. Bush, as well as his views on the current state of political affairs both globally and in the United States.