Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 told a Law School audience Monday that optimism is a persistent force for change in the international and domestic political landscapes.
Following a panel discussion entitled, “The 9-11 Commission: Putting the Reforms Into Action,” Lieberman briefly addressed a lively audience of law and undergraduate students in the Sterling Law Building Monday afternoon. Along with other remarks, Lieberman identified salient individuals and organizations determined to change the political fabric of the United States and the Muslim world. He also called on Congress to take a more active stance in response to the commission report.
“Foreign policy has been at its best when it’s consistent with those values on which this country was founded,” Lieberman said.
At the beginning of his talk, Lieberman attributed the existence of the report to people like Mary Fetchet, co-founder and president of Voices of September 11th. After losing her son in the Sept. 11 attacks, Lieberman said Fetchet fought for more attention on the events that led up to the attacks.
“She took that grief and turned it into a fierce resolve to change,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman said that while the Homeland Security Act and the 9-11 Commission provide a means to defend the nation, there must also be a proactive approach for long term solutions.
“Yes we must defend ourselves, but there is an offensive strategy too,” he said.
Organizations like Americans for Informed Democracy, headed by Seth Green LAW ’06, have constructed the inroads for peace by creating a dialogue with the Muslim world, Lieberman said.
Congress has also made a positive impact, Lieberman said. The International Youth Opportunity Fund to help governments of Muslim countries create better public school systems, along with the student and faculty exchange programs between Muslim and American universities are often overlooked examples of indispensable pieces of legislation passed in the bill, Lieberman said.
Substantial congressional activity unrelated to the Sept. 11 attacks has enhanced American foreign policy as well, Lieberman said.
“We’re attempting to make our focus on human rights a permanent and consistent one,” he said, noting the Advance Democracy Act, which seeks to promote democracy in foreign coountries.
After Lieberman concluded his speech, he briefly answered questions from the audience, including a request to explain his nomination of Alberto Gonzales for attorney general. In this case, he said, it was not shown that Gonzales either “shaped or condoned torture,” so there was no reason to reject his nomination.
“Generally, I don’t base my decision on whether I would appoint the nominee,” Lieberman said. “The burden of proof lies with those who are against the nominee.”
On flyers, posted to tree trunks and light posts lining Wall Street, some expressed their disapproval of Lieberman’s stance on Gonzales’ appointment and other issues.
“[He] voted to confirm torture-endorsing Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, [he] also confirmed Rice and Ashcroft,” one poster read.
Tiffany Wan ’07 said she was pleased Lieberman answered questions about these criticisms
“I’m glad someone asked the tough question about Gonzales, because that’s basically why I came,” Wan said.