By Austin McCroskie
Joseph Lieberman, former U.S. senator and 2000 Democratic party vice president nominee, was the guest in the spring “On Topic” series with President and Chancellor Ken Starr on Tuesday night in Waco Hall.
Starr and Lieberman began their conversation with a “tale of two cities,” as Starr put it, discussing the current controversies surrounding the protests in Baltimore and the Supreme Court decision on same sex-marriage laws.
Starr asked what should be taken away from the Baltimore, in terms of the relationships between communities and local law enforcement.
“These explosions and the communities in which they happen…have really been painful to watch,” Lieberman said. “We have come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.”
Lieberman said he grew up with his parents telling him that the police were on his side.
“The police were there to protect us from the bad guys,” he said.
He said he does not run to criticize the system, but if he were an African-American watching the current string of events occur, he said he would be concerned.
“In our system, the only way to deal with that is case by case with investigations,” he said. “In some cases, we may prove that the police officer was unjustified in force,” but he said the police might not be justified in other cases.
Lieberman said none of the events in these communities justified the chaos and unrest that is occurring, most recently in Baltimore.
The conversation then moved to the Supreme Court decision of same sex marriage.
“If King Solomon were here, what would he say?” Starr asked.
Lieberman said there was a possible Solomonic split in the decision, specifically if it is constitutional, and whether states will be required to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states.
“The court has to ultimately decide if they want to end this discussion, or whether they want to show deference,” Lieberman said.
Starr asked Lieberman what prompted him to write his book, “The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath.”
“My religious beliefs have been a central part of my life, a motivator, a comforter, a director,” Lieberman said.
He said he left the Sabbath during college, and then he began to come back to it. “The more I came back to it, and the busier I got, the more it meant to me,” Lieberman said. “It became a sanctuary of my week.”
Lieberman’s political accomplishments were also recognized Tuesday night by Tommye Lou Davis, vice president for constituent engagement.
In her brief biography of Lieberman, Davis recalled the Stanford-born senator’s professional career. Lieberman first took office in 1970 as a senator in the Connecticut legislature. A decade later, Lieberman made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. House of Representatives, but later became Connecticut’s attorney general.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988. He served four terms before retiring in 2013. In the Senate, he most notably served as chair of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Lieberman holds degrees in political science and economics from Yale University and a law degree Yale Law School.
Davis also said the “On Topic” series is design to bring people to Baylor who can shed light in unique ways on important issues to Baylor.
At the end of the program, Dominic Edwards, Baylor student body president, read questions the audience were able to write on note cards ahead of time.
“What advice do you have for the young people, the students, in the crowd,” Edwards asked.
“Don’t let your college years go by without appreciating that they will be, probably, the best four years of your life,” Lieberman said. “Beyond that, be excited in the world you are growing up.”
Lieberman currently teaches an undergraduate course in political science at Yeshica University, where he serves as the Lieberman Chair of Public Policy and Public Service.
In closing, Lieberman said students should value and appreciate their time at Baylor because it is a great school and because these could be the best four years of a student’s life.
“Go forward with a lot of confidence,” he said.
Jonathon S. Platt, web & social media editor, contributed to this story.