A Valuable Civics Lesson from Richard Dreyfuss

Who says Hollywood actors should just stick to acting?

In our hyper-networked world, everyone with a wifi connection is capable of reaching a global audience with attitudes and opinions that may or may not be informed, responsible, or productive. Those who have acquired substantial followings through their celebrity wield significant influence, and there has been considerable backlash to actors, musicians and artists who promote political agendas in spite of limited knowledge and expertise.

While it is natural for celebrities to passionately promote their values, and while it is perfectly reasonable for them to exploit the reach that their fame has garnered them, this type of influence bears profound responsibility as public opinion is easily swayed in our age of celebrity worship and media saturation.

In such an environment, the work of Richard Dreyfuss and his “Dreyfuss Civics Initiative” is a tremendous breath of fresh air. The Oscar winning actor and star of such film classics as “Jaws,” “American Graffiti,” “The Goodbye Girl,” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Dreyfuss recently stunned Tucker Carlson in an interview with an eloquent and unexpected lesson on the lost value of Civics education and the necessity for non-partisan dialogue in these divisive times.

“I have withdrawn from partisan politics,” Dreyfuss said. “I am a constitutionalist who believes that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be central and the parties must be peripheral. What’s most important for me is … Civics has not been taught in the American public school system since 1970. And that means everyone in Congress never studied the constitution and the bill of rights as you and I might have. And that is a critical flaw because it’s why we were admired and respected for so long, it gives us our national identity, it tells the world who we are and why we are who we are, and without a frame that gives us values that stand behind the bill of rights, we’re just floating in the air and our sectors of society are not connected. What’s really important is that the assumptions of the left and the right are all skewed wrong. We have t find areas of agreement and areas that we share. And we do share the notion that education accomplishes certain things. One, it turns students into citizens. And, two, it teaches students how to run the country before it’s their turn to run the country. And, three, it teaches the values of this nation.”

Expecting a liberal diatribe from the Hollywood star, Carlson admitted by the end of the interview “Typically I interrupt our guests and I expected to debate you, but I agree with every single word of that and I just want to say thank you very much.”

The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative is a non-partisan organization with the mission of restoring the teaching of civics in American grade schools and high schools. The initiative asserts that “future generations must be taught how to understand all sides of an issue, thoughtfully develop an opinion, and discuss that opinion with civility and reason.”

Kudos to Mr. Dreyfuss and his organization for utilizing his notoriety, as well as his expertise in Constitutional studies, for such a noble and necessary cause. While some celebrities simply lend their face and their following to an issue for which they are only marginally involved, Mr. Dreyfuss provides an inspiring example of long-term, passionate devotion to a positive cause that seeks the benefit of all members of our society.

Watch the Carlson/Dreyfuss interview here, or by clicking the image above.

Learn more about out the Dreyfuss Civics Initiative here.

Marc Erlbaum, Contributor

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