Short Answers to Key Questions
Introducing the Institute for American Values
1. What are ``American values"?
Me first. Instant gratification. Entertainment. Consumerism. Family fragmentation. The notion of freedom as no rules. The notion of the individual as utterly sovereign, owing little to
others or to society. And other similar values that are … part of the problem.
All people are created equal. Certain unalienable rights. Liberty and justice for all. The moral law. Democracy. In God we trust. Freedom of
conscience and religion. Civil society. From differences, union. And other similar values that are … the best hope of humankind.
2. Why an institute for American values?
Because culture — beliefs, values,
philosophy — is the ultimate source of law and policy. Because there is a crisis of values in the United States. Because American values, for good and ill, are increasingly the world's values. Because for any reformer, the most
important thing to change is minds. Because no other such institute exists.
3. What's your mission?
To contribute intellectually to the renewal of families and civil society in the U.S. and the world.
4. Are you liberal or conservative?
We reject those labels and never use them. Fundamentally, our focus is ethical, not political. Moreover, in all that we do, we seek out diverse points of view and bring
people together from across the political spectrum. We are more interested in first-rate scholarship than in the ``correct" conclusions, since we are confident that good scholarship leads to good conclusions. We encourage
lively debate and at times experience disagreement in our ranks — we are an ensemble, not a chorus.
5. What is your history and what have you done?
The idea emerged in 1984. After some slow
going and several false starts, we were incorporated in 1987, and had our founding conference in New York in 1988. Our first academic conference (What Do Families Do?) was held at Stanford University in 1989. Our focus on
fatherhood began in 1991. Our Council on Families, focusing on marriage, was convened in 1992. Our Council on Civil Society was convened in 1996. Our Mothers' Council was convened in 2001. Our focus on international civil
society began in September of 2001. To date, by the numbers: nine books, six research reports, eight annual symposiums, ten jointly authored public appeals. Through these efforts, we have sought to change the views of U.S.
opinion leaders and policy makers on the importance to children of the two-parent home, the benefits of marriage, the costs of divorce and unwed child bearing, the irreplaceability of fathers, and the importance of a moral
basis of civil society.
Whether magazine articles, such as Barbara Dafoe Whitehead's ``Dan Quayle Was Right" (The Atlantic, 1993) … or books, such as David Blankenhorn's Fatherless America (1995) and Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher's The Case for Marriage (2000) … or research reports, such as The
Age of Unwed Mothers (1999), Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today (2001) and Does Divorce Make People Happy? (2002) … or public appeals from groups of prominent scholars and leaders, such as A Call to Civil Society (1998), Turning the Corner on Father Absence in Black America (1999), The
Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles (2000), Watch Out for Children: A Mothers Statement to Adverstisers (2001), What We're Fighting For: A Letter from America (2002), and A Call to a Motherhood
Movement (2002) … our main goal, and main achievement, has been to influence the influential on the most urgent issues facing families and civil society.
6. How are you organized?
Institute's president is David Blankenhorn. Our 15-member Board of Directors is chaired by one of the nation's leading public intellectuals, Professor Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago. A team of about six
people staffs our New York office.
We also employ, at any one time, three to five affiliate scholars — people working for the Institute on a per-project basis, either full or part time,
usually in collaboration with other Institute colleagues. Affilate scholars often reside outside of New York, working either from their university offices or from their homes.
Our most important source of talent is the
approximately 100 scholars who regularly volunteer their time to formulate and lead Institute projects. We bring together the best thinkers in the country for a sustained, public focus on families and civil society.
7. What are your current goals?
To offer proposals for strengthening marriage and to help lead a marriage renewal movement. Through a new journal, Family Scholars, to critique and improve scholarly research and writing
on the family. To examine the social and moral-spiritual foundations of child well being. To examine the economic and moral-spiritual consequences of divorce. To put the status and future of motherhood on the public agenda. To
offer leadership for a movement for responsible fatherhood. To develop, with Muslim and other scholars, an international public appeal on the human person and civil society.
8. What are your main weaknesses and main strengths?
One main weakness is our small staff and budget — because our ``tank" is weaker than our ``think," we can't take on as many new projects as we would like to and our
admnistrative staff is chronically overworked. Second, we have suffered some serious fundraising and financial setbacks in 2002. And third, our name, Institute for American Values, may be more trouble than it's worth, since to
some people it suggests (wrongly) that we are politically partisan.
One main strength is our small staff and budget — because we are organizationally lean and close to the ground, we can be flexible and respond
quickly to new opportunities, and we can always insist that program drive fundraising, not the other way around. Another strength is our success in drawing public attention to our work. By far our main strength is the many
distinguished scholars who participate in our work.
9. Where does your money come from?
Of our annual budget of about $1.1 million, about 65 percent comes from foundations, 25 percent from individuals,
and ten percent from fees and sales of publications.
10. Who are your leaders?
Enola G. Aird, Motherhood Project, Institute for American Values
David Blankenhorn, President, Institute for American Values
Judith Anne Lund Biggs, Member of the Board, Foreign Policy Association
Don S. Browning, Alexander Campbelll Professor of Religious Ethics and the Social
Sciences, University of Chicago Divinity School
Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Founder and Chair, National Parenting Association
Paul J. Klaassen, Founder, President, & CEO, Sunrise Assisted Living
JoAnn Luehring, Esq., Partner, Roberts & Holland
Arthur E. Rasmussen, Life Trustee, University of Chicago
Ivan A. Sacks, Esq., Cadwalader, Wickersham, and Taft
Emily D. Smucker, Delp-Ellis Enterprises, Inc.
Donald M. Sykes, Jr., Educational Consultant
William K. Tell, Jr., The William and Karen Tell Foundation
Kenneth Von Kohorn, Founder and President, Von Kohorn Research and Advisory