Barney Frank, former Massachusetts representative and the first member of the U.S. Congress to marry someone of the same sex while in office, spoke at the annual Weil Lecture on American Citizenship Thursday in Carroll Hall.
The lecture is hosted by The Institute for the Arts and Humanities every other year and brings prominent speakers to talk about issues facing the country.
Frank's speech focused on how the American government could be more effective and how American citizens could be more empowered to trust the government.
“We are in a situation now in America where public belief in the value of citizenship is at an all time low,” he said.
The lecture began with an introduction by Mark Katz, director of The Institute for the Arts and Humanities, who praised the series as an important opportunity for the UNC students to interact with notable public figures.
“If part of UNC’s mission as a public institution is to shape well-informed citizens, then the Weil Lecture certainly plays a role in accomplishing that goal,” Katz said.
The Weil lecture is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, with various well-known figures having spoken throughout the century — including Jimmy Carter, Eleanor Roosevelt and John Kerry.
The lecture was attended by both UNC students and community members, who listened to the former Congress member encourage cuts in defense spending and decriminalization of various illegal substances. He said both could boost public support for the government.
“The fundamental problem is that people hate the government and so they vote people into office who also don't like the government," Frank said. "And those people end up making the government worse, so voters end up hating it more."