Alan Keyes
The 'natural born' need not apply
By Alan Keyes
January 21, 2013

In an article just posted on my blog, I discuss the doubts that are quite properly being raised about whether Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is eligible, according to the U.S. Constitution, for the office of president of the United States. Like Obama, Rubio finds his eligibility being questioned because of the facts and circumstances of his birth. Though they were permanent residents of the United States, neither of his parents were U.S. citizens when he was born. So, reasoning by analogy with physical nature (as the words of the U.S. Constitution require us to do), since neither of his parents possessed the trait of U.S. citizenship, neither could pass it on to him.

But where human beings are concerned, there's more to nature than physical traits. So when we see someone engaged in an action or activity that contradicts their character as we know it, we might say that "That's not his nature" or "That's against her nature." Used in this way, the word nature refers to the perceived results of long experience, which shape a personality the way a particular type of work or way of living may form or deform the human body. As the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle long ago observed, this effect of habitual activity informs the disposition of mind and will, as well as it sometimes affects the outward appearance of the body.

Unlike insects, people are not so bound by their instinctive and material nature that they appear to have no individual character. Nor are they like large snowflakes, so uniquely uniformed that no one is like another. Behind the façade of similarities that allow us to perceive humanity, each person reveals a potential for surprising differences, unexpected capacities that make it hard to accept the notion that there are boundary markers durable enough to hold true for any given individual, much less a nation, or the species as a whole.

Every time we think no one could do worse, or better, someone comes along to prove us wrong. This has led less persevering minds to give up on the whole idea of human nature (though their reason for surrendering ought to warn them against doing so; after all, just when you think no one will ever understand human nature, someone may come along....) In this respect, recognizing a natural born citizen may be somewhat like recognizing a "natural born" athlete or musician. Particular individuals sometimes display proclivities that nothing in their obvious personal or biological heritage leads you to expect. In that event, there's no way to ascertain their nature except to let nature take its course.

That may be particularly true when it comes to recognizing a natural born citizen of the United States. America was never intended to be a nation unto and for itself alone. From the first it was meant to reflect and belong to all God-endowed humanity; to hold up an example, a beacon as it were, lighting the way toward the common place that as humans we all in some way remember but which (also on account of our humanity) we can only express, as individuals or communities, in our own way.

I have often thought that the great genius of America's political regime is its implementation of ideas that recognize and accept America's exceptional vocation as a nation. Like humanity itself, America has its own individual way of being, particular traits that justify particular expectations. But also like humanity itself, an essential aspect of that way of being is to be open to the ways and traits of others, with whom we are connected in and through individual bonds that pervade the whole fabric of our existence. There's no part of the world where the plight of the inhabitants is simply a matter of indifference to Americans, because we have come from every part of the world. Somewhere amongst us there are people who in mind and heart will feel the joy and sorrow, the anger, pride or misery, of people elsewhere because they are still somehow their people, even though they dwell in some distant place apart. We feel this way not just because of some abstract or general compassion, but because our ancestors were also theirs, our roots run back to their soil, our hearts have places that remember the places their hearts still dwell upon.

Americans came from all the regions of the earth, including the place we now call home. Even after we have been here long enough for new generations to be born to Americans who once were new, we are all of us people whose nature as a people is influenced not just by the parents who made us, but by the exceptional calling of the country that made them. It is the call of humanity, the call of a place where people become a nation, but where nations remember that we are all "of one blood," as the Apostle said, bound and determined not so much by ourselves alone, as by the will of God who made us all.

In the American context, therefore, the meaning of natural born citizen may be something no mere formula of words defines. Yet there is a sense in which the language of biological inheritance reminds us of the deeper touchstone of meaning by which we are to ascertain what the phrase is meant to convey. In this respect, the U.S. Constitution is, as it were, the instrument such citizens play, as a master pianist plays a piano made especially for him. Obama reminds me of the (thankfully short-lived) popularity of musicians who smashed their instruments to pieces as part of their performance. In his case, this serves the elitist faction forces presently using their control of the leadership in both the Democratic and Republican parties to destroy the constitutional self-government of the American people.

Like anyone else still playing along with the present twin-party sham, Marco Rubio is subject to the suspicion that he ultimately serves these elitist forces. They have scoffed at the Constitution's reference to the constraints nature imposes on government. For they acknowledge no constraint upon power but power. This is why they hate the very idea of God-endowed right from which liberty derives.

To those of us determined to preserve that idea, nature matters. It matters because it reflects the benevolent rule endowed by the Creator God. People whose hearts take to this rule are natural born Americans, by an inheritance of the spirit no one can strip away. People who reject it are not and can never be true Americans, no matter the prestigious stack of Bibles on which they falsely swear to uphold the way of life they are out to destroy. Thanks to the fatal corruption of the present sham party system, the natural born citizens of the United States must these days do without representation, under leaders imposed by specious ethnic birthright in a scheme that takes account of every claim of birth except the one the Constitution preserves. In this respect it is, as Michael Savage rightly feels, long past time for something new. But given the exceptional nature of the American nation, the party required would likely be more Federalist than Nationalist, respecting each as it drew all together to preserve the God-endowed liberty that is their common good.

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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