Sunday, March 28, 2010


Yeah, I know, the title is a oxymoron to be sure. But Liberal hasn't always been a bad word. The evil doers have always tried to put on airs of respectability and in the process many of our words have become perverted and their meaning has been distorted.

Dean Alfange was born to Greek parents in Istanbul, Turkey, which was then called Constantinople. His family immigrated to the United States while he was an infant and he was raised in upstate New York. After serving in the Army in World War I, he went to Hamilton College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After receiving a law degree from Columbia University, he opened a practice in Manhattan.

Mr. Alfange was active in ethnic organizations and civic groups. In 1940, after several years as leader of the American Labor Party, he was made chairman of the Democratic foreign-language speakers' bureau in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third election campaign. Dean Alfange, ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York in 1942 as a candidate of the Labor Party and then two years later was a leader in the forming of the Liberal Party.

During his life he changed his affiliations among the state's parties, holding nominations or appointments through the Democrats and Republicans, as well as the Liberals and the American Labor Party. A casual glance at Mr. Alfange's biography might suggest that he was a Liberal in the contemporary sense but read his "American Creed" and judge for yourself.

An American Creed

I do not choose to be a common man.
It is my right to be uncommon ….
If I can. I seek opportunity … Not security.

I do not wish to be a kept citizen,
Humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build,
To fail and succeed.

I refuse to barter incentive for a dole.
I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.

I will not trade freedom for beneficence,
Nor my dignity for a handout.
I will never cower before any master nor bend
to any threat.

It is my heritage to stand erect,
proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself,
Enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say: “This I have done.
All this is what it means to be an American”.

Dean Alfange

Mr. Alfange died at 91, in 1989. His creed is as timely today as it was when he wrote it. It was originally published in This Week Magazine. Later reprinted in The Reader’s Digest, October 1952, and January 1954.

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