Carl Gershman’s welcoming remarks at the 2009 Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World

2009 Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World

Canadian Embassy – Washington, D.C.

I want to thank Guy Saint-Jacques and the Canadian Embassy for hosting this Sixth Annual Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World.  The Lecture, and the NED’s successful partnership with the Embassy and the Munk Centre at the University of Toronto, continue to be a fitting tribute to Marty Lipset, who had a lifelong fascination with Canada and how its very different history led to lasting differences with the United States.

I also want to thank the other sponsors of tonight’s lecture — the American Federation of Teachers, the Albert Shanker Institute, and the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, whose President, Alan Merten, is with us tonight.

As in past years, we are grateful to Sydnee Lipset for preparing and making available to all of our guests a pamphlet containing an essay from Marty’s writings that has a special relevance to the theme of tonight’s lecture.  In this case it’s the chapter on ethnicity from Continental Divide, Marty’s comparative study of the US and Canada.   “Mosaic and Melting Pot” is Marty at his best and most illuminating, choosing two contrasting metaphors to explain a fundamental difference between Canada and the United States: The mosaic of Canadian particularism, rooted in a decision of the Francophone clerical elite to seek protection against the Puritanism and democratic populism of Canada’s southern neighbor; and the melting pot of American universalism, with its powerful drive to assimilate diverse groups into “a culturally unified whole.”

I remember having many conversations with Marty about how the NED might engage with Canada toward the end of developing a stronger partnership in supporting democracy internationally.  We’re now nearing the achievement of that goal, with the government of Canada likely to move forward soon with legislation creating a multi-party democracy institute.   But more to the point of tonight’s lecture, in one of those discussions Marty gave me an essay he greatly admired, entitled “Some Obstacles to Democracy in Quebec,” that was written more than half a century ago by Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  The essay explained the French-Canadian unhappiness with democracy and their attraction to nationalism, growing out of their experience as an ethnic minority in a divided society.  I’m sure Nathan Glazer will have more to say about this issue.

Before turning the floor over to Marc Plattner to introduce Professor Glazer, I just want to say how much we at the NED admire Nat for the profound contribution he has made over many decades to the understanding of our own society’s difficult experience with race and ethnicity; and how pleased we were when he and Lochi, whom we also welcome tonight, took part in the conference we held in 1997 celebrating fifty years of democracy in India, another country facing very formidable challenges of diversity.

I’m now very happy to introduce Marc Plattner, the co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, of which the NED is very proud.