By Will BowenAcademy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss made a powerful, impassioned and provocative plea for a return to accountability and personal involvement in government at the Friday morning meeting of the Golden Triangle Rotary Club at the La Jolla Marriott Hotel on Oct. 14.
Dreyfuss, who now lives in Olivenhain, a part of rural Encinitas, proposed that we re-establish civics, the study of the rights and duties of citizenship, in the curriculum of our schools, so that our children will learn the skills and tools needed to be more politically involved in society, and thus become better citizens.
Dreyfuss said he has retired from the acting profession to devote himself wholeheartedly to historical scholarship and this cause. To further his aim, he has founded the nonprofit www.DreyfussInitiative.org.
Dreyfus was introduced by T. J. O’Hara, a political commentator, author and columnist, known as the “Common Sense Czar.” O’Hara hailed Dreyfus as “one of the finest Americans we have, whose knowledge of American history is profound.”
Dreyfuss said he became interested in civics during the George W. Bush administration. At that time, he sensed there was an eroding of individual rights, due to such legislation as the Patriot Act. But the straw that broke the camels back for Dreyfuss and propelled him into action was the lack of an appropriate government response to Hurricane Katrina. He said this was the first time in U.S. history that the government had let the people down during a crisis.
Dreyfuss said he is motivated by “a love of my country and a love for my children.” He feels that America has gone off course and has abandoned its founding values.
Dreyfuss further warned that we are not preparing adequately for the future by educating our children properly in democratic government. He stressed that we must do this if we want our democracy to survive and because, “Our progeny are more important than our ancestry.”
Dreyfuss noted that the American public is actually the fourth branch of government. The public, as a whole, must be included in the checks and balances that govern the relationship of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. He said each individual must stand up and become more engaged through a return to “reason, logic, dialogue, dissent, and critical analysis.”
Dreyfuss wants to see an American history play competition throughout the country and has already received commitments from some 31 theaters. He is also is hoping to generate enough funds to buy a parcel of George Washington’s ancestral land from his descendents in order to start a research institute to further his cause.
Dreyfuss said he decided to speak to the Rotary Club, which is the largest service organization in the world, with over a million members and 55 service projects locally, because he needed its “thoughts, brains, and money-generating skills.”
Kathleen Roche-Tansey, wife of the founder of UTC Rotary and state coordinator of Sister Cities International, said t Dreyfuss was welcomed to speak because he exemplified the message and concerns of Rotary and was an embodiment of the Rotary motto “Service Above Self.”
Dory Beatrice-Griffin, immediate past president of UTC Rotary agreed. “In Rotary, we have a deep concern about civics and ethics and changing the world for the better. Our goals overlap with those of Mr. Dreyfuss,” Griffin said.
Brett Morey, President Elect-Elect of the Club, who works as director of sales for Total Power, Inc., said Dreyfuss was a model of what Rotarians are all about — “being a better person who is involved and engaged in bettering society, making connections between the generations, and putting others above oneself.”
Dreyfuss ended his presentation with a warning: “America is the finest form of government that mankind has ever created. Don’t blow it!”
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