Has the cause of family values been diminished in this country? Matt
Daniels, executive director of the Alliance for Marriage, thinks so –
and is determined to do something about it.
Daniels, whose father left him and his mother to fend for themselves
in Spanish Harlem when Daniels was just 2 years old, is an unlikely
advocate for two-parent families. After all, he is living proof that
kids from single-parent families can excel in our society.
He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1985 Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum
laude, and obtained a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law
School in 1996. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American politics
at Brandeis University.
So, what is Daniels so exercised about? As a student of government
and law, he understands that America’s system of ordered liberty is
dependent on an underlying infrastructure of moral values. Despite the
genius of our Constitution, our freedoms will eventually collapse if the
moral pillars undergirding them disintegrate.
This idea that the Constitution alone is not sufficient to sustain
our liberties is no insult to the framers. They clearly understood this
That’s what John Adams meant when he said: “Our Constitution was made
only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the
government of any other.” Similarly, Washington wrote, “Of all the
dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and
morality are indispensable supports.”
Daniels understands that these are more than lofty words. Family
values are at the root of America’s greatness. Yet they are under
assault from powerful forces today.
Both major political parties acknowledge the fundamental importance
of morality and family values in our society. Democratic vice
presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, who used the Adams and
Washington quotes in a recent speech, has made such issues a central
part of his campaign message.
Republicans have been promoting these themes for years, long before
Dan Quayle’s “Murphy Brown” speech.
Daniels, however, is concerned that the parties have sometimes
allowed “family values” to become a surrogate for their partisan
agendas. Politicians have so overused “children” and “family” that their
meanings have been lost in a semantic jungle. To Daniels, “family
values” has a specific meaning whose importance transcends politics.
A new Wirthin poll confirms that a great majority of Americans are
convinced that marriage and families should be among our highest
political priorities, more important than a clean environment (say 77
percent); a greater priority than increasing job opportunities (64
percent). Indeed, 92 percent say we cannot move forward as a nation
without strengthening our families.
The Alliance for Marriage intends to put meaning back into the phrase
“family values,” to communicate that marriage and two-parent families
are at its core. Two-parent families are not just important to their
children, they are crucial to a healthy society. AFM points out that “a
large and growing body of social science research indicates that the
union of a man and woman in marriage is the single most beneficial
social institution in the world.”
Married men and women live longer, experience less depression,
alcoholism and substance abuse, and have higher income and savings
levels. Children of married parents experience less poverty, fewer
emotional and psychological problems, lower rates of criminal behavior
and substance abuse, and higher levels of educational achievement.
While too many politicians have been reluctant to boldly defend
marriage, AFM has formulated an ambitious, non-partisan agenda to
restore the sanctity of the institution.
“The goal here is not to blame single parents,” Daniels says,
emphasizing the often heroic efforts single mothers and fathers make to
rear their children alone. “It’s simply to get the word out about an
important social truth.”
In furtherance of refurbishing marriage and restoring a culture of
married fatherhood in American society, AFM will work to reduce the tax
burden on married families with children, attain increased tax
incentives for adoption by married couples, require marital
reconciliation counseling as a precondition to divorce, eliminate all
welfare policies that penalize married welfare recipients, fund
public-education programs emphasizing the importance of marriage and
support community efforts encouraging fathers to commit to marriage.
It is refreshing that another powerful voice has emerged to challenge
the nostrums of political correctness. Godspeed to Matt Daniels and the
Alliance for Marriage.