Care: title image
Promote education to sustain democracy. title image


Adlai Stevenson believed democracy could not exist without an educated citizenry.

To Stevenson, free and public education was the foundation of democracy, "the most American thing about America."* He believed education helped citizens make informed choices and be actively involved in their government. During the Cold War, he saw the promise of free and open education as one of the free market West’s great advantages over the communist East .

  from the ARCHIVE title image

18th Anniversary of the Bloomington Unitarian Church

Excerpt: " ... For democracy can only survive if the people want it, and to want it badly enough to defend it they must understand it. ... Democracy is ill adapted to illiteracy, but in the hands of the wise it affords the best insurance for the realization of man's immemorial aspirations." (October 22, 1939)

Background: In October 1939, Stevenson returned to his hometown of Bloomington, Illinois to visit friends and family. He also delivered this speech at the Unitarian Church. Stevenson followed his mother in matters of faith, and he attended this church during his youth.

In this speech, Stevenson argued that a defense of democracy requires an educated citizenry. For Stevenson, education meant more than classrooms and textbooks. He believed education in a free society must include care for others, a balance of reason and idealism, disciplined emotion, and patience. He also criticized education that emphasized materialism over idealism.

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