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Thank you for the honor you have bestowed on me tonight. No compliment could have more meaning for me than the award of a medal for services to the cause of ethics in public life—a medal graced by the name of Earl Warren, and conferred by a pioneering and distinguished university in the tradition of Judaism. It has been said that praise does no harm if you don't inhale. I promise not to inhale. But I treasure this precious gift, and shall always do so.
I was brought up and have lived most of my life in New England, spending many years at Yale, a university founded by Congregational ministers to cherish learning and preserve the faith of the fathers. Despite their limited number, the Congregationalists and other Puritans have been critically important in shaping American civilization. That impact also is manifest in a unique bond between Judaism and the culture of the United States, a linkage quite different from the relationship between Judaism and the culture of other Christian countries where Jews live, except perhaps for Scotland. Both Jews and the Yankee Puritans are nurtured on the Bible, worship without benefit of Bishops and live in the yoke of a compact with the Almighty. Both are stiff-necked people, extreme individualists in the mold of the prophet Jeremiah, who thought it was perfectly proper for a free man to challenge the Lord to explain wherefore the wicked flourish. And above all, both the Yankees and Jews are people of the law, who understand the centrality of law in the life of civilized societies, and are forever trying to regulate their lives with covenants, compacts, constitutions and rules.
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