1996: Speaker Sam Nunn

Nunn to Graduates: Rebuild Nation’s Moral Fabric

By Kimberly Griffing
Posted May 20, 1996

U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn delivered a message of civic and family responsibility today to the 1996 graduating class from Wake Forest University.

“The toughest challenge for you and our nation in the years ahead will be a challenge of the heart, spirit and soul,” said Nunn to the 1,241 undergraduate and graduate students who received their diplomas during the commencement ceremony.

“We must restore a sense of community, a sense of extended family. We must reach out to millions of neglected and abused children who desperately need someone who cares for them. By saving our children, we will save ourselves and we will save America.”

Nunn, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, addressed a crowd of nearly 10,000 who gathered for the outside commencement ceremony on Wake Forest’s grassy University Plaza.

Nunn noted how 50 years ago, the class of 1946 also faced a world brewing with change. Those graduates served in the military, fought communism, and established world order with the creation of NATO, the United Nations and the Marshall Plan, he said.

The world continues in a similar flux for the class of 1996. From the fall of communism to the freeing of Nelson Mandela, Nunn said the class of 1996 has witnessed global events that were as profound as the end of World War II was for the class of 1946.

As change and turmoil continues in places such as Bosnia, Nunn said America must remain a leader at home and abroad.

“We have the continuing opportunity and responsibility to demonstrate to ourselves, and indeed the world, that our ideas of liberty, our ideas of justice, our ideas of equality, our ideas of human rights and dignity, can all be made to work right here in America.”

With the world looking to America for example, Nunn noted domestic issues the class of 1996 must address.

“The world is watching America today. They are not just watching our President, our Congress and our military deployments, they are watching our cities, our towns and our communities to see if we will stop America’s cultural erosion. They’re watching to see how much we value our children.”

The challenge is one of “restoring values, principles and virtues,” Nunn told the audience.

“It is true the American family has broken down over the last 40 years,” he said. “It is true that one out of three American children is born out of wedlock today. It is true that more than one-third of the fathers of America are not willing to assume the moral, legal or financial responsibility for their own flesh and blood.”

“It is true that too many of our children are growing up without ever having a loving, caring bond with any other human being. It is true that these children are more likely to live in poverty and receive less education, health care, experience a greater incidence of school dropout, drug abuse, teen-age pregnancy, crime, imprisonment.”

But Nunn is optimistic that the class of 1996 and others within their generation have the compassion to make the difference and restore America domestically.

Hope lies in young adults around the country who volunteer their time to work with underprivileged children or help build a home for someone in need, Nunn said.

“In 1996, America’s real heroes are not highly paid stars of Hollywood or even great athletes but the unpaid volunteers at Wake Forest and throughout our nation.”