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Ben Stein: "Lack of Community" Threatens Nation

By CHRISTOPHER SOTARDI - WCNC
E-mail Christopher: CSotardi@WCNC.com

"A shared love of basic values will hold this country together," said Ben Stein, the Learning Society's guest speaker Thursday night at Queens University of Charlotte.

Speaking before a sold-out crowd, the economist, actor, writer and game show host said that, while modern times are the best mankind has ever lived in, American society faces several problems -- both economically and morally.

Managing the baby boomer generation, Medicare, massive trade debts, income inequality, and education are all looming challenges that Stein said would have to be closely monitored in the United States.

The greatest challenge American society faces, according to Stein, is an overall lack of community -- which can be seen as the root of many of the nation's problems.

"We don't know much about our neighbors," said Stein, "and Americans now see each other as looting opportunities rather than as friends and neighbors."

According to Stein, the solution to the problem is a "spiritual solution:" going back to the value of serving one another.

A crucial aspect of beginning to serve one another is a respect towards the military, along with police, fire workers, and teachers, whom Stein considers the true "stars" of American society.

Stein, a conservative Republican, called upon the wealthiest Americans to receive tax increases solely for a raise in military pay and benefits. Once a vocal supporter of the war in Iraq, Stein now hopes to see troops returned home as soon as possible.

Stein concluded his speech by speaking about his father-in-law, a decorated soldier who served in WWII and Vietnam, as the type of person others should look up to for living a life of service. When a younger Stein once asked his father-in-law why he served in the military, he responded, "so you and my daughter won't have to."

Stein devoted the remainder of his speaking time to answering questions from the audience, responding to an array of inquiries about economics, global affairs, and even Hillary Clinton.

"I think it's very likely to happen, although it won't make me jump for joy," said Stein of a possible Clinton presidential victory in 2008. "She's obviously a capable and hard-working woman... (but) she does have anger management issues." Stein also said that Clinton is probably the best of the Democratic candidates for president.

Answering a question regarding China's rise in the global economy, Stein reminded the audience of the origin of modern China's work ethic. "(The Chinese) did it out of hard work, industriousness and ingenuity...and they learned from what America was in the 1940s and 1950s to become what they are today."

Earlier in the day, Stein also gave a similar speech to faculty and students of the school. Despite a series of warnings about the United States' future, Stein remained optimistic.

"It's a great, great, great thing to wake up everyday in America," said Stein, "the opportunities people have in America to make a great life for themselves and their families are incredibly wonderful."

Story re-printed by permission of WCNC.com.

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