Overheard -- and Overlooked -- at the Sorbonne

On April 23, 1910, recent ex-President Theodore Roosevelt spoke to a massive audience at the University of Paris (the Sorbonne). The crowd included academicians, "ministers in court dress, army and navy officers in full uniform, nine hundred students," and another 2,000 "ticket holders."

The address Roosevelt delivered -- titled "Citizenship in a Republic" -- is best remembered for a paragraph about "the man in the arena." But hiding in the rhetorical shadows of TR's remarks is a long-forgotten warning that has great relevance to all citizens of all true republics in our day and age:

Finally, even more important than ability to work, even more important than ability to fight at need, is it to remember that chief of blessings for any nations is that it shall leave its seed to inherit the land. ... The greatest of all curses is the curse of sterility, and the severest of all condemnations should be that visited upon willful sterility.

That's right -- Theodore Roosevelt told the French that they needed to keep having babies.
If only they had listened.

At the time of Roosevelt's speech, France was a major world power. Today -- not so much. There is enough blame for the decline to go around, but the increased secularism of Europe, with its penchant for socialized everything, has certainly played a role. The nation was decaying from within long before Paris was declared an open city as the Nazis approached in 1940.

Now, seventy years later, there is an even greater threat to the French's cherished way of life. If only they would rediscover Teddy's advice and reverse the birthrate trend -- they might have a fighting chance. But such is the mindset of secularism: it is all about self and "fulfillment." Issues of family, not to mention progeny, are secondary, if thought about at all. Marriage is deferred -- even eschewed. Children are planned -- or better, planned around. And over time, the birth rate in Europe has fallen far short of what is needed to meet the various demands of the future. In other words, European nations are aging. There are fewer children, yet more grandparents -- a trend that will continue and accelerate.

It takes a fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman to keep a nation's population stable. The United States is right about there, give or take. Canada has a rate of 1.48, and Europe as a whole weighs in at 1.38. What this means is that there is a Bernie Madoff moment coming for these nations (we're seeing some of it now with the riots, etc.). The money will run out, with not enough wage-earners at the bottom to support an older generation's "entitlements."

But even beyond that, the situation in France also reminds us of the threat of opportunistic Islamism. It's just a matter of time and math before critical mass is reached and former bastions of democratic republicanism morph into caliphates. The Times of London reported a year and a half ago that its nation's Muslim population had grown from 500,000 to 2.4 million in just four years, "rising 10 times faster" than the rest of society. It's the same in France, though raw numbers are harder to come by.

A while back, it came out that France's fertility rate had risen slightly. Analysts called it a "robust reproduction rate" -- one that is "bucking the trend" -- and variously attributed it to things like government programs for maternity leave and pre-school, stipends for in-home nannies, and similar government largesse.

But another factor, hiding in plain sight, has to do with the fertility rate of resident Muslims, many of whom are, in fact, French citizens. If French Muslims reach a majority, will the concepts of freedom and citizenship as they are now known and practiced there remain? Doubtful. Liberal democracy, often the naïve and ironic protector of Islamism, will eventually cease to be.

All across Western Europe, it's much the same. In fact, the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam are on track to have Muslim majority populations within this decade. Bruce Bawer has written in his book, While Europe Slept -- How Radical Islam Is Destroying The West From Within, "A T-shirt popular among young Muslims in Stockholm reads: '2030 -- then we take over.'"

Britain's chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, last year decried Europe's falling birthrate, blaming it on "a culture of consumerism and instant gratification." "Europe is dying," he said, "we are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no-one is talking about it."

The Rabbi was right. So was Teddy.

David R. Stokes is a minister, author, broadcaster, and columnist. His new book, The Shooting Salvationist, will be released July 12, 2011 by Steerforth Press.

On April 23, 1910, recent ex-President Theodore Roosevelt spoke to a massive audience at the University of Paris (the Sorbonne). The crowd included academicians, "ministers in court dress, army and navy officers in full uniform, nine hundred students," and another 2,000 "ticket holders."

The address Roosevelt delivered -- titled "Citizenship in a Republic" -- is best remembered for a paragraph about "the man in the arena." But hiding in the rhetorical shadows of TR's remarks is a long-forgotten warning that has great relevance to all citizens of all true republics in our day and age:

Finally, even more important than ability to work, even more important than ability to fight at need, is it to remember that chief of blessings for any nations is that it shall leave its seed to inherit the land. ... The greatest of all curses is the curse of sterility, and the severest of all condemnations should be that visited upon willful sterility.

That's right -- Theodore Roosevelt told the French that they needed to keep having babies.
If only they had listened.

At the time of Roosevelt's speech, France was a major world power. Today -- not so much. There is enough blame for the decline to go around, but the increased secularism of Europe, with its penchant for socialized everything, has certainly played a role. The nation was decaying from within long before Paris was declared an open city as the Nazis approached in 1940.

Now, seventy years later, there is an even greater threat to the French's cherished way of life. If only they would rediscover Teddy's advice and reverse the birthrate trend -- they might have a fighting chance. But such is the mindset of secularism: it is all about self and "fulfillment." Issues of family, not to mention progeny, are secondary, if thought about at all. Marriage is deferred -- even eschewed. Children are planned -- or better, planned around. And over time, the birth rate in Europe has fallen far short of what is needed to meet the various demands of the future. In other words, European nations are aging. There are fewer children, yet more grandparents -- a trend that will continue and accelerate.

It takes a fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman to keep a nation's population stable. The United States is right about there, give or take. Canada has a rate of 1.48, and Europe as a whole weighs in at 1.38. What this means is that there is a Bernie Madoff moment coming for these nations (we're seeing some of it now with the riots, etc.). The money will run out, with not enough wage-earners at the bottom to support an older generation's "entitlements."

But even beyond that, the situation in France also reminds us of the threat of opportunistic Islamism. It's just a matter of time and math before critical mass is reached and former bastions of democratic republicanism morph into caliphates. The Times of London reported a year and a half ago that its nation's Muslim population had grown from 500,000 to 2.4 million in just four years, "rising 10 times faster" than the rest of society. It's the same in France, though raw numbers are harder to come by.

A while back, it came out that France's fertility rate had risen slightly. Analysts called it a "robust reproduction rate" -- one that is "bucking the trend" -- and variously attributed it to things like government programs for maternity leave and pre-school, stipends for in-home nannies, and similar government largesse.

But another factor, hiding in plain sight, has to do with the fertility rate of resident Muslims, many of whom are, in fact, French citizens. If French Muslims reach a majority, will the concepts of freedom and citizenship as they are now known and practiced there remain? Doubtful. Liberal democracy, often the naïve and ironic protector of Islamism, will eventually cease to be.

All across Western Europe, it's much the same. In fact, the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam are on track to have Muslim majority populations within this decade. Bruce Bawer has written in his book, While Europe Slept -- How Radical Islam Is Destroying The West From Within, "A T-shirt popular among young Muslims in Stockholm reads: '2030 -- then we take over.'"

Britain's chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, last year decried Europe's falling birthrate, blaming it on "a culture of consumerism and instant gratification." "Europe is dying," he said, "we are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no-one is talking about it."

The Rabbi was right. So was Teddy.

David R. Stokes is a minister, author, broadcaster, and columnist. His new book, The Shooting Salvationist, will be released July 12, 2011 by Steerforth Press.