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Interview with Peg Luksik
By John Mallon

©1998 by John Mallon

Raised in the Norristown area of Pennsylvania, Mrs. Luksik is married to Jim Luksik. They have six children, from pre-schooler to teenager. The family lives in Johnstown, PA. She is a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania in Special Education and Elementary Education. She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree by Stonehill College in Massachusetts in 1997.

Mrs. Luksik is the founder and Chairman of Mom's House, an alternative to abortion project which provides single parents and their children with the combination of child care and support services necessary to allow them to complete their education and escape the welfare cycle. Currently, 11 programs are open in four states, and over 300 single parents have successfully completed post-secondary educational programs using Mom's House services. Mom's house was named as a National Point of Light by President George Bush.

She is also the Chairman of the National Parents Commission, an organization dedicated to giving parents a voice in the public policy arena. National Parents is recognized as an expert in the areas of education and family issues.

Mrs. Luksik is the author, with Pamela Hobbs Hoffecker, of Outcome-Based Education: The State's Assault on our Children's Values. She has also written a book about being a parent, called, Love, Mom.

Peg Luksik is often referred to as the "Housewife from Johnstown". Although she has also been a classroom teacher, small business owner, published author, television talk show host, nationally recognized education expert, founder and chairman of a service organization with programs in four states, and chairman of a national parents organization, she is most proud of her role as wife and mother. More information on Mrs. Luksik and her campaign can be found at http://www.luksik.org, or by calling 1-800-801-2027.

Mallon: Mrs. Luksik, why are you running for Governor of Pennsylvania?

Peg Luksik: For a couple of reasons. First, because I think that being involved as a candidate in the political process gives you the chance to say the things that you believe, in a public forum, that people actually listen to. Activist groups have a really hard time getting in the paper, getting their point of view across, whereas if you're a candidate, particularly in a race as large as the governor's race, you get media attention. And so, your words and your ideas become part of the public debate, and that affects how other people respond, and so you actually get to change the debate, and change the terms of the debate. I think if you accomplish nothing but that, that it would be a good thing to do.

Our experience has been that I tend to get good coverage, and ample coverage in the press, I think because I'm sort of an anomaly, and so we've been able to turn the debate in Pennsylvania in many ways, just because I'm there, people have to answer me, they have to respond to me. So you hold pro-abortion politicians like our incumbent governor accountable for his record. He was actually forced to explain why he had waived the laws in Pennsylvania to allow an abortion clinic in State College to open. He didn't really want to talk about that, but since I made the charge, he had to answer it. And that's worth doing.

Why governor as opposed to some other office? Because the governor actually controls public policy. If you run for a state rep or a state senator and you win, you are one of many, many, many voices from small areas, and what we're finding is the public policy often bypasses the state legislatures today, particularly because Washington is directing so much. The way the money flows, it goes right past State Senates and State Houses of Representatives, so you really don't have the chance to affect public policy. If you run for Congress, you're one of 435, and while we have some wonderful Congressmen, like Ron Paul, who's here at this [Human Life International] conference, he doesn't win his votes. And he often doesn't even get his things introduced on the floor. And so, that's an exercise in frustration unless you can win enough of the 435 to make a difference.

If you run for U.S. Senate, you're one of a hundred, so unless you're the committee chair, and unless you sit on the conference committee, again you can be easily circumvented. And at the federal level, I've been involved at the federal level, as a lobbyist and getting legislation written, and sometimes passed. And then it goes into the bureaucracies, and the departments totally rewrite the regulations to gut your laws. And I thought, "Wow, I spent two years working on this law and it was meaningless within six months of the time we passed it."

But a governor is one of one. In Pennsylvania, the governor controls all of the bureaucracy. They're not separately elected, they're not separately accountable. So, the governor in Pennsylvania could, in many cases, undo much of the nonsense that gets handed to us from Washington by just not accepting some of the federal dollars. And you could do that almost single-handedly.

Can you imagine what would happen if a state the size of Pennsylvania said we're not going to take Title X (Ten) funding? Planned Parenthood would be dead in our state. That would free how many children, and how many teenagers from being abused and exploited by the death-mongers? What a difference it would make! Well, then you could actually be a lighthouse, and allow other states to see that it's possible, and that there's another way to do this. It's a way to actually have an affect on public policy. We've been given the gift in this country of the availability of electoral politics. We need to use it. We have more activist groups than we've ever had, and we're losing faster than we've ever lost. Running for public office, and God willing, winning public office, gives us a chance to have a position of authority from which to fight back. And that's worth doing.

Now, you've run before, is that right?

I have, twice. I ran in 1990 in the Republican primary; they called me the housewife from Johnstown. We didn't have a campaign office, we didn't have a staff, we spent less than $50,000, we didn't even do a fund-raiser. And we got forty-six percent of the vote, which really shook people up. I thought with that kind of a response for the pro-life, pro-family position, that the Republican party would embrace it with open arms. Instead, the response was to actively try to purge the party ranks of anybody who thought that pro-life was more important than supporting the endorsed Republican candidate. And I thought, wow, I didn't realize that this was what the party was all about. I thought they actually believed the platform. They didn't. They believed in the label of Republican, and they wanted people who would be loyal Republicans, defined as do whatever the leadership tells you, no matter whether the leadership agrees with the platform, or not.

We went the route of trying to change the party, saying, can't you stay inside the party, and reform it? But we were always at the bottom. You can't reform an organization unless you control it. We were never in control. We were always the peons. At the county committee and maybe the state committee level, the pro-lifers and all the pro-family folks were at the very bottom levels, always fighting even for the ability to stay at that bottom level, having to prove our loyalty fifty times over, with the party leadership controlling how the dollars went, how the influence went, how the endorsements went, and we never got anywhere. All that time and effort, the only thing I saw happen, was wonderful, fine, good people, who got involved in the party because they believed in the pro-life position, who became more Republican than they became pro-life. Who came back to us, saying, "We have to support the Republican candidate, even though I know they're not really very good, but they're better than the Democrat, and so it's really better just to have a Republican just because they're a Republican."

I didn't get involved in politics because I cared about the party. I got involved in politics because I cared about the babies. I wasn't interested in furthering a party, if that party wasn't going to protect the babies. In '94, I ran as an independent. It was a short campaign. We got involved in August, we spent a little over $300,000 and got almost half a million votes, which was a record. It was the most votes any Independent in Pennsylvania got in over a hundred years. It translated to about fourteen percent. This made people look twice. If fourteen percent of the people in Pennsylvania were willing to vote, in a general election, for the highest office in the state, outside of Democrat and Republican circles, perhaps something was afoot. So, now it's '98, we've started early, we're actually building an organization and raising money, and, God-willing, we'll see what happens.

Now, your background is running a home for unwed mothers, is that correct?

Well, my college background is in education. I'm a certified teacher. I have degrees in special education and elementary education, and in 1983 I founded a program called Mom's House, which is an alternative to abortion project, every Mom's House -- there are now eleven of them in four states, and every one is a licensed day-care center for single moms who go back to high school and college. We've given away at this point over $36,000 in college scholarships. We have over 300 mothers who have finished college through our program. Many of them were high-school drop-outs, they've left welfare permanently, and our repeat pregnancy rate among unmarried graduates is less than two percent. But we only teach chastity, and we don't take any government money.

How has your identity as a devout Catholic, pro-life, and pro-family been received in the state?

I think very well. I never give a speech where I don't say, somehow, that I'm a Catholic, because I think that's part of who I am, and it's part of what shapes how I think. So, I'm very up-front about that. I think people have a right to know how you shape your conscience, and how will you be loyal to the things that you think are right and wrong in making decisions. The press has responded to that openly, and very favorably, I think, because I'm open about it, and because I'm faithful to it, they don't see a dichotomy between what I say and what I do. So they're open to that. When I say I'm a devout Catholic who is pro-life, they come to my house and see six children, and say, "Oh. You meant it." Right, I meant it. They see that my husband and I have housed some of these mothers and we've housed homeless people. The press knows that, because they've been there and seen it. So, there's the walk and the talk. God has provided those opportunities for us, and we've always done what we thought we were asked to do.

My husband and I have been blessed with a wonderful, wonderful, marriage of nineteen years, and, you know it's a boring marriage -- same marriage, same kids, the whole thing. So the press, have described it as a breath of fresh air. Somebody who is what they appear to be. I really think at bottom everybody really wants Catholicism to be true. Whether they personally believe it today or not, they really want to know it's there, and they want to know it's true, and so they've responded very favorably to someone who says, "I believe it, and I act it." They like that. So we've gotten a wonderful and very positive hearing from the press. Everybody gets their knocks, but in the world of politics, sometimes you get praised, and sometimes you get smacked. If you can't take it, don't enter that world.

Do you get any reaction from the bishops of Pennsylvania?

Yes, (laughs) negative. The bishops are supporting Tom Ridge, because he's promised them school choice, and so the bishops have actually, the Cardinal, his people have written a letter saying, well, Tom Ridge is giving us school choice, and he's improving on the pro-life position. They've allowed him to speak in schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. The bureaucratic Church is a bureaucracy, and it's tied to the bureaucracy. I've had several people say, "Look, we don't know if you can win, and we know that if you do win, you'll do the right thing because it's the right thing. Whereas, if we keep backing him, maybe we can hold his feet to the fire. So we win either way, so go right ahead."

I think that's almost scandalous, because I think people look to the clerical leadership of the Church for leadership, and when they don't see it, I think that often gives laity who are perhaps a little bit confused or a little bit lost, an excuse to not do the right thing when the right thing is hard, and I think that's unfortunate. On the other hand, when you move to the level of the parish priest, and the Catholic laity, the response has been overwhelmingly wonderful, because I think people are seeking for truth, and I think that they respond when they find it.

Now, I've heard some people say that school choice is a mixed blessing, if at all. Some strongly Catholic people have reservations about it, because of a sense of government involvement. How do you see school choice?

Unfortunately, in some circles school choice is defined as vouchers, and those who fear vouchers have good reason to fear them. The history of vouchers has been that when government gives a shekel, it gives a shackle. And I think we're seeing that played out across the country. Just to give you an example, in the state of Virginia, at the college level they have what are called tuition-assistance grants, which are like vouchers. For a number of years everything was wonderful and after everyone got hooked on the program, the government came in and told, for example, Liberty University, which is Jerry Falwell's very evangelical college, you have to change your chapel attendance policies, you have to change your faculty hiring practices, to keep the money. The school complied, because they could no longer afford to do without the money long enough to fight the ruling. So it was a devil in the deep blue sea argument.

There are other ways to do school choice. For example with tuition tax credits. A universal tax credit. Actually what we've put together is a universal tax credit approach, allowing parents to take credit against their local school taxes, property wage, whatever, and allowing businesses to take a dollar for dollar credit against their property tax, to contribute to the school that they want to contribute to.

It could be a benefit they offer to their employees' children. You keep your money in your pocket, never enters government's grasp, it doesn't get caught in the government's grip, and it's a way to do it that maintains government and maintains the autonomy of both the family and the non-public school, but solves the school-choice program. So, we have to help people understand that school choice doesn't have do be done through vouchers. There are other more appropriate, more safe, and frankly more fiscally sound ways to do it, that can solve the problem, and accomplish the objective without opening the doors to government intervention.

You're also well known for your outspoken opposition to Outcome Based Education (OBE). Could you comment on that?

Well, it's a total restructuring of education, and when they first brought it in, the proponents of it were very blunt in saying that they were not just talking about changing academic delivery, but actually talking about restructuring the society. I think we're beginning to see that play out. As it moves into the schools, we're seeing all of the federal programs, the Goals 2000 School-to-Work, actually redefine education as work force development, redefine things that were traditionally taught. Home-economics is now defined in terms of what are appropriate life-styles.

For instance, children are being tested on their religious values, and those tests are being scored, and stored in computer files. So I think we're seeing a number of government invasions and intrusions that need to be stopped. Parents trust schools. They tend to be an institution that we've all trusted, and I think that in many cases, we've seen the government betray that trust. We need to return to schools their appropriate function as an academic delivery system. Unfortunately, since they're not doing that, not only do we have kids who are losing values, we have kids who can't read. So, the kids lose twice, and I think that that's most unfortunate.

Why would the government, or whomever, be interested in that information being kept on file? It sounds like The X-Files.

It does sound like The X-Files, doesn't it? What we're seeing, what the documents have told us, and again, if you really want to know what's happening, you can actually access government documents. You know, sometimes when I do talks people say, Oh, is this a conspiracy? No, conspiracies are hidden, like on The X-Files. This is not. It's plainly written down in documents that are relatively easily accessible. There's nothing hidden about it, the government's very blunt about it: this is what we're doing and how we're doing it. So it's a plan. There's nothing conspiratorial or hidden here. It's not a big secret, it's just a different direction, and I think you need to make a distinction there. If you look at what the government is saying, they're saying that we want to have what they call "a predictable supply of workers," to meet what they call "the labor market needs of regions," and that the purpose of the schools is to produce that "predictable supply of workers," and therefore, we the government will fund programs that will lead to that predictable supply, and only programs that will lead to that supply, so everything is planned for you.

I think if you go into Washington, what you often hear attitudes like, "We really know better how to run your life than you do." It's a very paternalistic attitude, in a bad sense of the word. As if to say, "You really don't get it quite right, and we're going to have to help you with this, and really there's a lot of uncertainty in your life, and wouldn't it be nice if you could just move smoothly, and everything was planned out for you, and all taken care of?" So, from one sense it's kind of like, government's going to be everybody's Big Daddy and take care of everybody. Government isn't a very loving Daddy, and so therefore it's not a very good Daddy. And I think we need to change that whole mind-set.

It sounds like it's producing drones. It sounds like it's dehumanizing the children, as opposed to, say, a well-rounded liberal arts education. They are just producing them to do certain jobs, is that what you're saying? Is that what it's doing? It seems to take away the freedom of the child to be educated in such a way as to be really able to choose a career freely, and do what they want to do.

That's not what I'm saying, that's what they're saying, and they're saying it in those words, so there's no interpretation here, this isn't what I think of what they're saying. They are clearly specifying that the regional council should be set up, that the labor market needs of that region be identified, and that the schools will be there to supply the workers. For example, in West Virginia's contract, it says that if we want students to have a job, then we have to help them choose careers for which a job has been identified. That's a very clear statement. In Pennsylvania, the words "predictable supply of workers" are in the contracts. They're in the government documents. The contracts say we're not going to fund programs for which there's not a perceived labor market need. At the federal level, which is where the money comes from, the federal legislation proposed at this session of Congress says, well then, adult workers will get funneled in. If you lose your job, if you get laid off, adult workers will be tested, and be funneled into the program. What are the labor market needs? We match you up and you're trained for what we've decided. All the careers will be governed by a certificate and then you will only be allowed to get certificates.

That seems awfully confining and short-sighted dehumanizing. Suppose they did that in the early '70s saying, "We don't need people studying computers." And then the personal computer revolution comes along in the 80s and bang, there's a whole new market.

That's right.

So, it short-circuits the future.

It certainly does. Who could have predicted Bill Gates? On the other hand, who could have predicted Hitler? Hitler was bad, yes, but still someone who had a tremendous effect on the history, industrial and otherwise, of this nation and many others. So, the future isn't a predictable thing. And if you look, many of the American documents say we're basing this on the German model. If you look at what is happening in Germany, they have tremendously high unemployment, particularly in the young adult age range, who are the people who went through this system. They're trained for career A, which is no longer a good career, but they don't know how to do anything else, because they were limited from the time they were very young. The American documents say we're doing the German system. So, we can already see that it's not a working model. Why are we doing it here? You'd have to ask the people who are proposing it. Sometimes I think people get in a rut and think, well, we just have to!

Certain industries can disappear overnight. Things move so fast today.

Yes, but not anymore! What's interesting, if you look at what are the identified careers for Pennsylvania, we have things like "material moving technology." That's a truck driver. "Consumer technology," that's a shop clerk. But we put the word "technology" behind it, and all of the sudden, we're supposed to think this is wonderful. So these are not high-tech, high-level jobs. These are low-level, manual labor kinds of jobs, that people are funneled into.

Basically, your career is short-sighted before you've even begun, and instead of high school being the door opening, high school is the door closing. Children are required to start choosing their careers, in most states, somewhere between eighth and ninth grade. Well, I've had children who were ninth graders. They had no idea what they wanted to be. They didn't even know what careers really existed. And even if you told them, they wouldn't really have an appreciation of it, because they didn't have the background to come to that understanding. They didn't have the educational background, they didn't have the experiential background. So, it's really a short-circuiting, before we start. It's redefining the purpose of education. Now, if in fact that's what the American population would like to do, let's have an open debate and decide, but don't force it down everybody's throat in a surreptitious way. Unfortunately that's what's happening.

In my state, it's happening as well, even when the legislature votes against it, our governor Tom Ridge implements things by executive order, to try to do it behind the back of the legislature.

It sounds like the people really don't know what it is, and they're not exposed to the debate.

Oh, absolutely not. And when they try to get involved, they're often told, well, of course you're wrong, and that's not happening. We have public statements. that the same Governor Ridge in Pennsylvania, who is implementing school-to-work by executive order, is writing fund-raising letters, saying, "I've killed OBE in Pennsylvania." Well, does he think we can't read his own executive orders? Obviously, he thinks we won't find them, but they are there, so you know, they say A and do B. It's important for people to understand which way it really is.

Now should you win the race, and become the governor, what will you do?

I think one of the biggest powers that a governor has, not just in education but everywhere, is the power of the purse-string. Pennsylvania's governor has line-item veto. There are many things you can do just through the budgeting process, for example, who gets funded, and how much. It can be done to change public policy, in a very simple way, in a way that is immediately effective, and that doesn't require a lot of back-and-forth arguing with legislative bodies. Because in Pennsylvania particularly, much of it is inside the executive branch. So the governor can de-fund things like Title X. The governor can start untying some of the federal contract strings to education. The governor can start to talk back in some of the rather silly environmental policies that are being fostered upon the states. So, there's a number of things that a governor can do, because the governor controls policy. The governor also appoints all the secretaries of all the departments: education, health, welfare. So, through your appointments, if you have a strong governor who appoints strong secretaries, you can begin to pull some things apart. And I think that's a blessing of the office, and something that it would be incumbent upon the governor to do.

If you look at the liberals, they've used that power to great advantage. They've used it aggressively. They haven't been at all timid about exercising the power of their particular offices to accomplish their agendas. On the conservative side, too often, unfortunately, I think we've seen people who are very timid about doing that. Perhaps a shining example of a governor who hasn't been, is Governor James, down in Alabama, who has said you are not taking the Ten Commandments off that courthouse wall, and if I have to call out the National Guard, I'll call out the National Guard. And he made a change. They backed down because he didn't back down.

Well, I'm Irish, you know, and there's no point in being Irish if you can't be more stubborn than everybody else that you meet, and so I have no problem with exercising, shall we say, assertive policy, in using the power of the office to affect change. And I think when politicians come up through the ranks, the Republicans and the Democrats, the conservatives become almost apologetic about being conservative, because they have to pay so many people off to be allowed to rise to the top, and so they have to promise all the "moderates" that, "Well, I really won't be that radical. I really won't be all that bad." So, by the time they get there, they've had bred out of them the ability to legitimately use the power of their office. But I'm not running as a Republican or a Democrat. I'm running as a third-party. And so, my power's coming from the people, themselves. And I think the people are tired of luke-warm. And I think we have a little mandate about that from the good Lord, too, about the luke-warm. So, I don't have to sell my soul to get elected. If it is in God's Will that I be elected, I won't owe anybody but the people who put me there. So, I won't have had to sell my soul to get there, so I'll be able to do the things that need to be done.

I once heard you say that this country is not a democracy, it's a Constitutional Republic, and the people listening were surprised. In a nutshell, can you explain the distinction? Because, I think a lot of people don't know the distinction.

Well, and it's a big distinction. Democracy basically says everything's going to be done by popular vote, so you get what's called the tyranny of the majority. When you have a Constitutional Republic, the voice of the minority is preserved, and is protected. It really is designed to protect the individual, or in a community, the smaller group within the larger group, because you can elect someone to represent you. You know, people can band together and continue to have a voice in government, as opposed to there just being one blanket voice, it actually allows for many voices, and a greater diversity of voices, which I think is funny, because the liberals, when they say diversity, they really don't mean that. They mean lock-step.

But the fellows who founded this country, you know, those wise old dead guys, they meant diversity. They meant that the individual voices needed to be preserved. We've lost the idea of a Constitutional Republic -- we actually have. We don't even have the tyranny of the majority. We just have tyranny. And I think it's time to restore that sense to people. People have lost the sense that their vote is sacred, people have lost the sense that if their vote doesn't mean something to them -- first, it can't mean anything to anybody else, and so they've bought into the attitude of vote for the lesser of two evils, watch the polls. That is the tyranny of the majority. That's democracy. In a Constitutional Republic, your vote really is a sacred trust and you have the right to vote in the minority, as a matter of fact you have the responsibility to do that, if you think it's the right thing to do, because all those voices have to be heard.

©Copyright 1998 by John Mallon, All rights reserved.

Mallon is Contributing Editor to Inside the Vatican magazine

Our thanks to John Mallon for his permission to post this interview


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