Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss has walked away from his lucrative career in Hollywood to focus his time and energy on civics. He has started the Dreyfuss Initiative. It is a mission to educate both students and educators about the importance of teaching the role of citizenship and understanding our democracy and the Constitution that our nation was founded on. The goal is to “put Civics back into the hands of all Americans” by starting with our youngest citizens- the students. It’s a bottom-up approach at getting this nation back on track. But can an outspoken liberal-leaning, Hollywood actor really understand the role of our Constitution and how far we as a nation have strayed from its foundation?
On a recent interview on Anderson Cooper 360, Dreyfuss expressed a real concern for this country. He was a researcher at Oxford and realized the great damage being done to this country in the absence of teaching our youth the importance of civics. Anderson asked him, “So you mean kids aren’t learning American History or the Constitution?” Dreyfuss replied, “Right, neither are the office holders, the President, corporate people, industry or the military.” He later went on adding, “You have to have the youngest of our kids develop affection, pride and love of country and then you teach them reasoning with logic, clarity of thought and expression and critical analysis.” This is a very common sense statement from a Hollywood actor who seems to be a little disconnected with the growing population that have already taken a stand to promote this very idea. It might shock Richard Dreyfuss to know the Tea Party (Gasp!!) holds this exact same philosophy, as well as the growing number of parents pulling their children out of public schools.
The Dreyfuss Initiative states on its website that it was created, “To teach our kids how to run our country, before they are called upon to run our country… if we don’t someone else will run the country.” Many Americans would respond to that statement as too little, too late. Our government has so trampled our Constitution and the rule of law that perhaps Dreyfuss’ Initiative is a little too late to the game. Right now, for many Americans, this current administration and leaders on both sides of the political aisle are unrecognizable in what was intended in the history of civics and the role of leadership under our democracy. In 2006, Dreyfuss called for the impeachment of then-President George W. Bush for his abuses of power. However, under President Obama (who has far surpassed President Bush on Constitutional abuses of power) mums the word about impeachment. Can a Hollywood elite really see an unbiased view of the current state of our government?
The title of this article is a rhetorical question. There are plenty of Hollywood actors/actresses who can see beyond the Hollywood (uber-liberal) political mindset. In fact, I am sure there are many we don’t even know about who live in the shadows for fear of their careers. However, whenever a Hollywood elite starts speaking out about the restoring of love of country and our role as citizens, it’s a breath of fresh air (although embraced with skepticism). It’s needed in a country that is so polarized in our beliefs. The Dreyfuss Initiative is a great start and a conversation we need to have but the missing piece is that people have already started this conversation and they are not necessarily defined by any political party, they are defined by conservatism. A love of country, pride in our heritage and believers in restoring our Constitution back to its founding where freedom and individual rights trump over-reaching government powers.
Richard Dreyfuss loves this country, there is no doubt. His Initiative can possibly start a conversation that is needed both in the media and in liberal Hollywood circles. Starting this conversation in our public schools with our children is vital to restoring this great nation. In fact, fiction meets reality when it comes to Richard Dreyfuss. For wasn’t it the wonderful Mr. Holland in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” who stood before the school board and tried to fight for restoring Arts education to his school. In the words of Mr. Holland, “The big problem here is that you people are willing to create a generation of children who will not have the ability to think or create or listen.” Exactly, Mr. Holland! Exactly, Mr. Dreyfuss!