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All-American Presidential Forums on PBS" Moderated by Tavis Smiley

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Occupation: Author, Talk Show Host
Age: 57
Birth date: August 7, 1950
Family: Married to Jocelyn; children Francis, Maya and Andrew
Education: Ph.D., government, Harvard University
Professional Experience: Host, syndicated radio show, America's Wake-Up Call; MSNBC commentary show, Alan Keyes is Making Sense
Political Experience: National Security Council staff; Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations; Ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council
Religious Affiliation: Roman Catholic


Keyes wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on constitutional theory

He served as interim president of Alabama A&M University in 1991

He speaks French and has studied Spanish, Russian and ancient Greek

He enjoys singing and playing the guitar

He's the author of Masters of the Dream: The Strength and Betrayal of Black America and Our Character, Our Future: Reclaiming America's Moral Destiny



Former Ambassador



Following his 11 years in the State Department, during which he was Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations and Ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, Alan Keyes went on to helm Citizens Against Government Waste. He also hosted his own syndicated radio show and an MSNBC commentary show.

Keyes grew up as an "army brat" and lived in several stares and in Italy. An excellent debater, he won a national speech contest during his junior year in high school and, at age 16, became the first African American national president of the American Legion Boys Nation.

After receiving death threats at Cornell University—for criticizing a Black student campus demonstration—he transferred to Harvard, ultimately earning his Ph.D.

Keyes has run for president twice before and was a two-time Senate candidate in Maryland. He also ran for a Senate seat against another potential presidential nominee, Illinois' Barack Obama. According to the site of RenewAmerica, a conservative grassroots organization that he chairs, Keyes threw his hat into the ring because he felt the call to raise the standard.

What do you think?


Candidate Participation

Tavis Smiley asks why each candidate chose to participate and what they say to the Republican candidates who did not attend.

Now, I wouldn't want to seem to be the fellow who's going to speak up in defense of our absent colleagues here.

But I think it is a little unfair to assume that they didn't show up tonight because they were sending a message of some negative kind to the Black community, for the very obvious reason that they didn't show up at the Values Voters Debate, either – which, of course, sent a very negative message to the people who are interested in the issues that were discussed there.

Do you know what these two debates do have in common though? The Values Voters Debate was the first debate I was included in. And this is the second debate I'm included in.

I've been barred from the debate in Michigan, for reasons best known to the party there. And what do you want to make of that? The other guys will show up there.

Now, that suggests that they may or may not be afraid of all Black people, but there seems to be at least one Black person they're afraid of.

And I think the reason – the reason that they have this fear is pretty evident. They don't believe that it's possible to address a significant portion of the Black community... on the basis of solid Republican principles, and I do.

Your Legacy on Race

Lucille Victoria Rowels from Chicago starts the debate by asking the candidates what legacy they will leave for Black Americans.

I would hope that the most important legacy of my administration would be to remind people that in spite of all the talk, I don't believe there is this deep divide between Blacks and whites in America.

I believe that we are, in fact, part of one nation and one community, and that we stand together right now in danger of our rights, because the core of that community is not race; the core of that community is not money. The core of that community is the moral consensus that we are all created equal and endowed by our creator, God, with our unalienable rights that we have the right in our policies and in our laws to honor and respect the creator, God.

And as a practical matter, I would want to see that unity, that moral understanding restored where it is most important – in the education of our young by adopting an approach to education that empowers every parent in this country to send their children to schools that reflect their faith and values... so that the Black community can re-instill moral, community-based schools that reflect their Christian beliefs.

Employment Disparity

The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Cynthia Tucker asks about employment inequity among Black high school graduates and white high school drop outs.

I have to say I think the most important factor in all of this does have something to do with policies that had an impact on race, but it was the disproportionately destructive impact that a lot of government programs had on the moral foundations and family structure in the Black community.

You talk about folks finding job opportunities. You know where a lot of Black men find job opportunities these days? In prison.

And that is something that reflects the reality that when you allow the family to break down, when you have government regulations that drive the father from the home, you have established the conditions for the upbringing of children to be nonproductive, to be violent, to be turned in directions that will be destructive of their economic future.

And when you add to that the promotion of a culture of promiscuity, a culture of selfish hedonism, that leads people not to understand that that marriage partnership is the most important foundation of any real economic life, then you have especially destroyed the Black community.

And I believe the disproportionate impact of these negative things... has accounted for a lot of these bad results.

Immigration: Path to Citizenship

Ray Suarez of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer asks the candidates if it is practical to send illegal immigrants back to their country of origin.

Well, I think, especially in this context, it's important to remember a number of things. The border is a matter of security, first of all. And we have to make sure that we control it, or no laws we pass have any significance. People will still cross on their own terms.

So the very first priority has to be to get back control. But we also have to remember why we lost control, because these elites who have been under the thumb of certain corporate interests have an interest in cheapening the price of labor in America.

Do you want to know who's first hurt by that cheapened price of labor?

Black folks are first hurt, as they've been hurt in the rebuilding of New Orleans, in the rebuilding of other parts of the United States that were affected by those hurricanes. It's time we stopped fooling around with this issue.

I think people, including a lot of the Black liberals, are more worried about what we do with illegal immigrants than they've ever been about the impact of illegal immigration on Black Americans who have been in this country all along. I'm sick of seeing it.

Jena 6 & Racial Justice

Juan Williams of NPR and the FOX News Channel asks what reform the candidates would endorse to assure that young people of color have equal justice in America's courts.

Well, I've always favored, and if you look at a book I wrote some years back called Masters of the Dream, there was a proposal in it that was part of a package of what we need to do to restore real local self-government, which in our case would be neighborhood self-government in a lot of our urban areas.

One of the features of that neighborhood government would be the reinstitution of what were called in the old days things like justices of the peace.

They were people who lived in the community, came out of the community, were empowered to judge offenses committed by folks who were in and lived in that community so that there would be sensitivity to the truth that you're not just dealing with crooks.

Sometimes you're dealing with young people who, if you treat them in the right way, can be put on a path that will be constructive instead of destructive.

But only the people who live in the community would understand that. So they need to have justices of the peace. They need to have judges who come from amongst them.

The other thing I would do is I would make sure when people were in prison and they were being paroled, that you had to consult the community and make a deal. The community would agree to receive that person back, but they would also promise to help that person to establish a decent life.

So, that community partnership would be restored.

Voting Rights

Cynthia Tucker asks the candidates what they think of voter representation in the District of Columbia and rigid voter ID laws.

I think the most important thing to remember about Washington, D.C., is that it was established to be a unique representation of the whole people of the United States.

That's a city that's supposed to belong to the nation, not to any one group and not to any one region. That's why it was put together in the first place.

I think it's terribly important to maintain that symbol of the unity of our country. We're a free people. If folks don't want to live in the conditions that prevail in Washington because of its unique status, they can go to Maryland. A whole bunch of folks have done so.

They can go to Virginia. A whole bunch of folks have done so. Some of the biggest churches and everything else now exist in Prince George's County, because people left the District.

They have that right, and I think that they can exercise it. But I think that the country is entitled to have this possession that symbolizes our whole united people, standing together as one community. I think it's terribly important that we sustain it.

Access to Healthcare

Ray Suarez asks how the candidate's health care plans address disparities in access to quality health care.

I think two things are important, very briefly.

First, before I would think about bringing back the family doctor, particularly where the Black community is concerned, it might be helpful to bring back the family.

And that would mean that you are going to do what is necessary to support married couples, to encourage marriage, to encourage the rearing of children in the context of a two-parent household.

Not because one is disparaging one-parent households, but because the statistics show that people are more likely to sustain their education, to be in better health, both mentally and physically, if they are raised in that environment.

That's step number one, and I think it's vitally important.

The second step is we all know that in America these days, your ability to have access to health care depends on – what? – primarily: your job and whether or not you're able to get that insurance at your job.

So the first thing we need to take care of is to make sure that in areas where Black folks and Hispanics and others are living, you are encouraging the kind of entrepreneurship that will create jobs in those areas... to give people that foundation of health care access.

Iraq: Bearing the Burden

Juan Williams asks the candidates what they say to Americans that are opposed to the continuation of the Iraq war.

I think the most important thing to remember is that our efforts in Iraq and elsewhere right now that followed in the wake of September 11 aren't an effort to defend Black people, white people, Jewish people, Christian people, et cetera.

They're an effort to defend the United States of America from a deep and terrible threat that came against us in disregard of the fundamental – the fundamental moral principle that is supposed to govern all international affairs, all wars that are conducted by countries, and that is that you do not consciously target innocent human life.

My father was a soldier – fought in Korea and Vietnam and World War II, did not stand in defense of this race or that, but stood in defense of the common principles of moral decency and justice that are derived from that premise that I talked about, that our rights come from God.

I don't think it's hard to ask anybody in this country to stand in defense of those principles.

My one criticism? I think unfortunately, President G.W. Bush put a lot of emphasis on democracy for people in Iraq, when our real goal is security for people in America.

Crisis in Darfur

Cynthia Tucker asks what role the U.S. should play in ending the genocide in Darfur.

I have to say I'm appalled by the suggestion that we retreat into some kind of fortress America and forget who we are. We are a nation of nations, a people of many peoples. We are in touch with every people on the face of the Earth. If somebody is being hurt somewhere in the world, somebody in America grieves for them.

And I don't believe we can turn our backs on that universal significance, that universal mission.

I think a lot of suggestions made here in terms of how we get involved are good ones. We don't have to send troops, but we need to support and reinforce the sense of local, regional responsibility... for both humanitarian and military order in that region.

Capital Punishment

Ray Suarez asks the candidates if they think the death penalty is carried out justly in the United States.

I support the death penalty. I think it has a basis in universal justice that isn't just about deterrence and all that, it's about respect for life. It's about making sure that we don't send the signal, especially where Black killers are concerned, because we do understand, don't we, that they mostly kill Black folks.

And I wouldn't want to send the message that when you kill another Black human being, we somehow don't take that seriously. We'll cheapen the significance of that by not applying the understanding that when you cold-bloodedly and calculatively take another human life, more has (inaudible) you than more than all can take.

We can only dispatch you to the ruler of us all so that he may ultimately judge you for your misdeeds.


  • Source
  • Candidate Bio: Official presidential campaign website; edited by staff
  • Forum Comments: Transcript


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