What we do in life echoes in eternity," the Roman general Maximus (Russell Crowe) tells his troops in the opening scene of the movie "Gladiator."
That sentiment resonates with conservatives, who think a person should be judged by what he or she accomplishes, not by who his or her parents or grandparents were.
Not so with liberals today. Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, is celebrated among them mostly for her claim to be part Native American.
Ms. Warren claims that O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford, a great-great-grandmother, was Cherokee. If that were true, Ms. Warren would be just 1/32 Native American.
It isn't true. Sarah Smith Crawford was listed as "white" in the 1860 census, genealogists found. There was no mention of her in the Cherokee registry. Genealogists did find that an ancestor of Ms. Warren's guarded Cherokees on the "Trail of Tears" from Tennessee to Oklahoma. She's as white as her blond hair and blue eyes suggest.
Ms. Warren is a graduate of Rutgers, which is ranked 82nd by top-law-schools.com. To describe the quality of her academic research as "shoddy" might be kind:
• A peer review at Northwestern University in 2005 of a paper she wrote about the role medical bills play in personal bankruptcies said her "methods were so poor they gave cover to those who want to dismiss the problems of the uninsured -- they can say the only paper out there uses a suspect method."
• In 2010, when President Barack Obama was thinking of selecting Ms. Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an Atlantic magazine editor reviewed her academic work and concluded it was "deeply, deeply flawed. ... This isn't Harvard [Law] caliber material -- not even Harvard undergraduate."
• In a 1991 review of a book Ms. Warren co-authored, Rutgers law professor Philip Shuchman charged "the authors have engaged in repeated instances of scientific misconduct."
Shortly after she began claiming Native American heritage, Ms. Warren obtained prestigious appointments to the faculties of law schools at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard that she could not have gotten on the strength of her resume.
Affirmative action is supposed help minorities who have suffered from discrimination. But neither Ms. Warren nor her ancestors were discriminated against.
We don't know for sure that Ms. Warren deliberately deceived Penn and Harvard. She may have believed "family lore" about a great-grandfather's "high cheekbones." But we know she lied when she denied describing herself as Native American, which is suggestive of her character.
Neither Ms. Warren's fraudulent claim nor her subsequent lies about it have diminished admiration for her among liberals. After both were revealed, she was selected for a prominent speaking role at the Democratic National Convention.
The qualities liberals admire have changed since my youth.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," said the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger," said John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address. "So, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."
For liberals today, character is irrelevant; patriotism passe. They judge people by the groups to which they claim membership. For them, the purpose of government is to satisfy their every want, no matter how frivolous.
This isn't an improvement.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. firstname.lastname@example.org, 412 263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/