Character is Destiny

The Autumn 2004 issue of Oregon Quarterly, a magazine for the University’s alumni, carries a short, pithy article about Oregon Senator Wayne Morse. It’s yet another piece of context for students, especially if you are working to give them more background on the war itself. On August 7, 1964, Morse was one of only two United States senators to vote against President Lyndon Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin Resolution—the legislation that the President sought, based on misleading information, to escalate United State involvement in Vietnam. “What makes a man like Wayne Morse so compelling and yet such an anomaly is that he believed that the Constitution should never be sacrificed for political expediency. Doing so, he believed, would cause us to lose our bearings, our identity as a people. The pretext of military necessity inherently strains a democracy because it shuts down inquiry and careful consideration. And in our system, if the Congress surrenders its power and responsibility to declare war, the Constitution is in jeopardy.?  And later on in the article, “Character is destiny. And the destiny of a nation depends not only on a respect for its word but also an adherencr to its principle. Adherence to principle, Morse urged, meant pursuing just ends by means compatible with those ends.”

Posted by on 09/27 at 08:07 AM
  1. I’ve wondered for some time why more people haven’t been more concerned about abuses to the
    Constitution. Lately I’ve been thinking that maybe a lot of people don’t see clearly what problems the Constitution was designed to solve, so they don’t appreciate how good a document it really is, or how much trouble we are likely to get into when people with less wisdom than Madison and Hamilton start improvising.

    I see a growing interest in improving young people’s understanding of the Constitution, through programs such as We the People. I hope these programs keep growing.

    One thing that makes teaching Constitutional issues to adolescents is they usually don’t have enough real world experience to make sense out of abstract terms like “federalism.” It seems to me linking investigations of local history and politics within a Constitutional frame--relating what happens and how people act locally to discussions of why the Constitution is set up the way it is--has alway seemed to me something worth doing.

    Posted by Michael L Umphrey  on  09/27  at  02:49 PM






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