U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about the dangers of critical race theory and its misrepresentation of American history. Thune also paid tribute to his former colleague, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who passed away last night as a result of injuries he suffered in a recent bike accident.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I want to express my sorrow at the news we received this morning that our former colleague Senator Mike Enzi has passed away.
“Mike was a cherished colleague and one of the finest human beings you will ever meet.
“A former Budget Committee chairman, he was in many ways the conscience of the Senate on spending issues, always reminding members that federal dollars are not unlimited and that every dollar we add to the debt is a burden we are placing on our children and grandchildren.
“One of my favorite memories of Mike happened a few years ago.
“I was experiencing heel pain, and I happened to mention it to Mike, who was a shoe salesman and shoe store owner.
“Well, a few days later, he comes up to me and he has some heel inserts for my shoes – which turned out to be just what I needed.
“As I said on the floor when Mike retired, it was typical Mike – thoughtful and practical.
“Mr. President, Mike Enzi will be deeply missed.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Diana – his wife of more than 50 years – and with his children and the rest of his family.
“Mr. President, on a different topic, last week the Department of Education officially backed away from prioritizing radical and divisive propaganda in applications for a federal program for civics and American history education.
“Score one for sanity – and American history.
“The department’s original proposed priorities for program applications had focused on aspects of so-called critical race theory and cited such dubious items as the 1619 Project.
“The notice the Department of Education released last week dropped this discussion and indicated that the department would not give a competitive advantage to applications that reflect critical race theory.
“Mr. President, the bipartisan program in question was established to strengthen American history and civics education – which is in a bad way.
“Just 15 percent of 8th graders demonstrate proficiency in American history, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress results.
“A 2019 survey found that just four in 10 American adults were capable of passing a U.S. citizenship test.
“And yet the Biden administration was apparently ready to compound this problem by pushing ideas rooted in critical race theory – a radical, leftist ideology.
“As it’s currently being pushed, critical race theory advances the idea that America is not merely flawed, but inherently and systemically evil – and that fixing this problem requires tearing down our institutions.
“Mr. President, I don’t need to tell anyone that the United States has an imperfect history.
“And any genuine approach to American history has to examine those times where we’ve failed to live up to our ideals as well as those times we’ve succeeded.
“But while there are sins in our past that we cannot ignore – like the great sins of slavery and segregation – there is also greatness.
“Our founders did something unprecedented in the history of the world – they sat down and built a country based not on who conquered whom, but on a set of principles.
“On a shared belief in liberty and unalienable human rights.
“And while we haven’t always lived up to those beliefs, we’ve never stopped trying.
“And we continue to hold out the promise of liberty not only to our country, but to the whole world.
“There’s a reason individuals around the globe have fled to these shores for the promise of freedom – and have found in the United States the refuge they were searching for.
“Mr. President, critical race theory distorts the reality of American history.
“It sees our failures but none of our successes.
“More than that, it actively misrepresents our history.
“The 1619 Project, for example, advances the totally fabricated claim that a primary motivation for the American Revolution was a desire to preserve slavery.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It’s no surprise that leading historians have criticized the 1619 Project for its historical distortions and factual inaccuracies.
“On top of that, by demonizing the United States, critical race theory also invites students to despise our country – and ignore the tremendous freedoms it grants and the tremendous blessings we enjoy.
“We are incredibly fortunate to live in the United States of America.
“And we let our students down when we fail to give them the perspective to see the blessings our country provides.
“By dividing the world into oppressors and oppressed, critical race theory promotes resentment and victimization.
“It encourages individuals to look at the world through one lens and one lens only, and tends to reduce individuals to little more than their racial background.
“Mr. President, I’m glad that the Department of Education chose not to give preference to applicants with a focus on the radical ideas of critical race theory.
“This was good news for America’s students, who deserve a balanced accounting of our nation’s history – which critical race theory does not provide.
“But there’s still a lot of reason to be concerned.
“The department’s reversal was cloaked in bureaucratic language, leaving room for a future flip-flop by the administration
“And too many schools around the country are already considering or adopting outlandish proposals informed by critical race theory – from a math course that suggests that focusing on the right answer in math is grounded in racism, to materials implying that the nuclear family is somehow inherently racist.
“This is a grave disservice to students of all races.
“And we need to work to make sure that federal education dollars are going to genuine history and civics education – not leftist propaganda.
“We owe American students better than historically inaccurate history lessons.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”