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Why the Golden Mean Matters

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This week while listening to a recent debate about Critical Race Theory which centers on how to achieve equality and justice for all, I was reminded of a quote by Dr. Viktor Frankl, a man who suffered perhaps the greatest of injustices including  losing a wife and parents to the Holocaust concentration camps because he was of Jewish descent. 

I remember how one day a foreman secretly gave me a piece of bread which I knew he must have saved from his breakfast ration. It was far more than the small piece of bread which moved me to tears at that time. It was the human ‘something’ which this man also gave me—the word and look which accompanied the gift.

—Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Frankl would later say in a 1988 speech in Vienna memorializing the events of World War II:  

National Socialism nurtured racism. In reality there are only two races, namely the “race” of decent people and the “race” of people who are not decent. And “segregation” runs straight through all nations and within every single nation straight through all parties. Even in the concentration camps one came across halfway decent fellows here and there among the SS men—just as one came across the odd scoundrel or two among the prisoners….

That decent people are in the minority, that they have always been a minority and are likely to remain so is something we must come to terms with. Danger only threatens when a political system sends those not-decent people, i.e., the negative element of a nation, to the top.

And no nation is immune from doing this, and in this respect every nation is in principle capable of a Holocaust! In support of this we have the sensational results of scientific experiments in the field of social psychology, for which we owe thanks to an American; they are known as the Milgram Experiment.

If we want to extract the political consequences from all this, we should assume that there are basically only two styles of politics, or perhaps better said, only two types of politicians: the first are those who believe that the end justifies the means, and that could be any means . . . While the other type of politician knows very well that there are means that could desecrate the holiest end.

And it is this type of politician whom I trust, despite the clamor around the year 1988, and the demands of the day, not to mention of the anniversary, trust to hear the voice of reason and to ensure that all who are of goodwill, stretch out their hands to each other, across all the graves and across all divisions.

—Viktor Frankl, MEMORIAL SPEECH TO MARK THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF HITLER’S INVASION MARCH 10, 1988, RATHAUSPLATZ, VIENNA

Discussion Questions:

What virtues are you pursuing? 

How do you seek after the Golden Mean in your own life? 

What virtues do you look for in your political leaders? 

How should we define public virtue and the Golden Mean in our political leaders?

Published by Dean Forman

I am co-founder and CEO of the John Adams Academies, an institution that is perhaps the most unique charter school system in America today. The Academies’ curriculum is designed to give its students an American Classical Leadership Education. This is an education that pursues truth, beauty and goodness and turns its scholars outward in search of those whom they can serve in becoming servant leaders. This website is dedicated to sharing the concepts of an American Classical Leadership Education with its readers so that more citizens can benefit from the truth, virtue and wisdom of the past. The thoughts and opinions I share on this page are my personal views.

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