What is a liberal?
: Since there has been a lot of flailing and foaming and finger-pointing over the use — my use — of the word “liberal” lately, I’m delighted to go to someone who should know for the meaning of the word:
…if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.” …
This is my political credo:
I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.
I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind….
That was John F. Kennedy speaking to the Liberal Party of New York in 1960, brought to you thanks to Anil’s liberal linking.
And I certainly couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve tried, often and badly; I call this populism today: a trust in the taste, intelligence, and good will of my fellow man and what that trust means in government, politics, business, art, education, religion, and media.
This is a liberal medium because its owners, all of you, bring to it a sense of purpose and invention and hope and hard work.
But now I have to ask you: Do the people who call themselves liberal these days — and who claim the right to forbid others from calling themselves that — fit Kennedy’s definition? You be the judge.