Weicker Queries Gardner: An Exchange at a Hearing
Following are excerpts from an exchange April 17 between Senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr. and Eileen M. Gardner, in which she was questioned on the beliefs she had expressed in education-policy documents written for the Heritage Foundation, the Washington public-policy research group.
Weicker: You say in here that 'the order of the universe is composed of different degrees of development. There is a higher (more advanced) and lower (less advanced).' Maybe you can assist me here, being the chairman of this committee, as to how I make the determination as to who belongs to the higher and who belongs to the lower.
Gardner: Well, again, I think we'll have to get into the religious issue. I know I can't discuss this without discussing that.
Weicker: You know of course--as best we can as human beings--and that certainly implies a lot of imperfections--we do not run the government of the United States based on religious convictions.
Weicker: And yet you're being put in a policy position vis-a-vis education. You obviously hold very strong views with which I have no dispute whatsoever and you're entitled to them. ... I don't want to get into religious beliefs, I don't want to hear religious beliefs. ... But they very definitely relate to education and to the education of our children. Would you say that's fair?
Gardner: I feel I do have to say here that it is part of my deeply held religious personal convictions that all men are equal in the eyes of God but, however, not all men are manifestly equal and that--well, that's where I should stop. Certainly my religious views have not negatively impacted on any of the jobs I've held before. I don't think it's possible to separate one's religious views, which impart meaning to one's life--and I'm sure you have religious views that impart meaning to your life--from your daily activities. No, I will not be talking about religion or writing from a theological perspective. ...
Weicker: ... You make statements: "As unfair as it may seem, a person's external circumstances do fit his level of inner spiritual development."
Gardner: Yes. Yes.
Weicker: I received a call just before I came down here from Sarah Brady, indicating her indignation over what she'd read in the newspaper this morning. Do you think that Jim Brady's external circumstances fit his level of inner spiritual development. [Mr. Brady, the White House press secretary, suffered severe brain damage in the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1982.]
Gardner: That is in no way to assume that a person is inferior or bad. I am saying that what happens to a person in life, the circumstances a person is born into--race, the handicapping condition, sex, whatever ...
Weicker: The circumstances fit the level of inner spiritual development?
Gardner: Those conditions are there to help the individual grow toward inner spiritual perfection, which is what I am saying. Of course, it is the job of every caring human being to do whatever he can to improve the circumstances of anyone in need. But it has been my concern that the underlying philosophy of those in the handicapped constituency rests on the belief that there is no universal order--that what has happened to them is chance, fate, some cruel fate. The reason I wrote the article was to try to point out that it's not a cruel fate, that it could be an opportunity to delve deeply into one's self and to grow spiritually, to develop love and compassion and caring. That in no way means that you are not a worthy individual and in no way means that you are in better or worse shape than anyone else. A person's external circumstances do not reflect on their inner worth.
Weicker: But you said that a person's external circumstances fit his level of inner spritual development.
Gardner: They do provide the opportunity for him to grow. I'm not saying spiritual development is high or low. Many amazing people in the world have had a serious handicap of one type or another.