‘Culture matters,’ Lamm says
VAIL ” Minority “underperformance” starts with culture, former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm said.
“I believe that there’s elements of the Hispanic culture both here and in Mexico and Central America and South America that are simply not success-producing of the kind that other immigrant groups have had,” Lamm said at a speech hosted by the Vail Symposium at Donovan Park Monday night.
Lamm said he wants to solve the “underperformance” problem, starting in schools. He pointed to low college graduations rates and low academic performance by blacks and Hispanics.
An essay he wrote on the subject was so controversial that his employer, the University of Denver, refused print it. Lamm said his goal was to provoke discussion to help solve the problem.
“I would only make my argument tonight on the fact that I believe these are subjects that need more discussion, more debate, more community input,” he said.
Lamm, the Democratic governor of Colorado from, 1975 to 1987, is a critic of illegal immigration and a leader of Defend Colorado Now, a group that pushed for a ballot initiative that would limit publicly funded services for illegal residents.
Lamm, who ran for president in 1996 as a Reform Party candidate, is now co-director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver.
Lamm’s new essay-length book is called “Two Wands, One Nation.” The title comes from the premise of the essay, in which Lamm imagines that he has two wands.
One wand could eliminate racism and discrimination from white America. The other wand “you could wave across the ghettoes and barrios of America and infuse the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning and ambition,” he writes in his book.
Lamm says, if he had to choose one, he would wave the second wand.
The column, which responded to a Hispanic activist’s column in a University of Denver in-house publication, was turned down by the university because it was too controversial, Lamm said.
“At the same time Ward Churchill was doing his thing, the University of Denver was censoring me,” Lamm said. “I’m very resentful.”
Lamm said he would like to see a culture of learning instilled in blacks and Hispanics. Asian and Jewish cultures have that value of learning, he said.
“When you see the appreciation for learning, the drive for education ” ‘my son the doctor’ ” seems to me that’s a wonderful explanation, thus it has to held up as something where culture matters,” he said.
Lamm also considered groups like Italians, who, 100 years ago, had similar problems of low graduation rates, high crime rates and fewer professionals than other whites. But now, Italian-Americans on average have high family incomes and high professional status. Perhaps Hispanics will follow that model, too, Lamm said.
Lamm also said he fears the nation will become diversified without being unified. He stressed the need for a “social glue,” including a common language.
“I know no place where a bilingual, bicultural society lives at peace with itself,” he said. “I think the history of bilingual, bicultural societies is a history of tension, Balkanization, antagonism. Look at Quebec, look at Malaysia, look at all kind of other places.”
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.