Guest Speaker: Alan Keyes

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Date: October 31, 2004
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Place: UNC Law School Rotunda

Born in New York City, Alan Keyes grew up in a military family and spent his childhood at Army bases in Italy and the United States. Keyes initially attended Cornell University where he became a disciple of Allan Bloom, author of "The Closing of the American Mind." But after speaking out against a campus protest by a black student group, he began receiving threats and soon transferred to Harvard. Keyes went on to earn a PhD in government policy and joined the U.S. State Department in 1978.

A fiery orator, Keyes delivers his message of "moral populism" in the style of a revivalist preacher. Richard Kennedy, a New Hampshire State Representative, once remarked that Keyes "makes Jesse Jackson sound like he stutters." It was his rhetorical prowess that caught the attention of former U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick who referred to Keyes as "one of the most dramatically articulate people I've ever known in my life." Kirkpatrick became a mentor to Keyes and his career within the State Department soon took off.

Serving under President Ronald Reagan, Keyes defended the administration's policy against imposing economic sanctions on South Africa, a position that brought frequent criticism from black leaders. After a dispute over the allocation of U.N. funding, he abruptly resigned from the State Department in 1987.

The following year, Keyes turned his attention to national politics and ran for the U.S. Senate in his home state of Maryland against Democrat incumbent Paul Sarbanes. He lost the election, receiving only 38 percent of the vote. Keyes made another run for the seat in 1992, this time against Democrat incumbent Barbara Mikulski. He lost again, receiving only 29 percent of the vote.

Falling back on his oratorical skills, Keyes launched a conservative radio talk show program, "America's Wake-Up Call: The Alan Keyes Show" on WCBM Radio in Baltimore. In the vein of Rush Limbaugh, Keyes used the show to air his views on every topic from unwed mothers and gun control to U.S. foreign policy in the Balkans.

A devout Catholic, Keyes decries the separation of church and state, calling it a "misinterpretation of the Constitution." In particular, he rails against abortion and blames many of the ills plaguing American society on the prevalence of the procedure. "As long as courts sanction murder in the womb, they will be filled with the consequences of violence in our streets, schools, workplaces, and homes," said Keyes.

In 1995, Keyes became the first black Republican presidential candidate in the 20th century. Using his radio show to drum up grassroots support, he captured the nationwide attention of the Christian right. Running on a staunchly anti-abortion platform, his campaign focused on the corruption of moral leadership in the United States.

Keyes was especially critical of Republican leadership during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He argued that the GOP had abandoned its moral principles and "utterly failed to inform the opinion of the American people in this time of crisis."

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