Charles Frankel
Charles Frankel was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


Born in to a Jewish family in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, he was the son of Abraham Philip and Estelle Edith (Cohen) Frankel. He married Helen Beatrice Lehman on August 17, 1941. Together they had two children, Susan and Carl.

Frankel was educated at Columbia
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, (A.B. with honors, 1937, Ph.D., 1946) and Cornell Universities
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 (graduate study, 1937-38). He served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-46, becoming a lieutenant. He was a member of the American Philosophical Association
American Philosophical Association
The American Philosophical Association is the main professional organization for philosophers in the United States. Founded in 1900, its mission is to promote the exchange of ideas among philosophers, to encourage creative and scholarly activity in philosophy, to facilitate the professional work...

, the American Association of University Professors
American Association of University Professors
The American Association of University Professors is an organization of professors and other academics in the United States. AAUP membership is about 47,000, with over 500 local campus chapters and 39 state organizations...

 (chair of committee on professional ethics), the Institut International de Philosophie Politique, the Authors Guild, the Century Association
Century Association
__notoc__The Century Association is a private club in New York City. It evolved out of an earlier organization – the Sketch Club, founded in 1829 by editor and poet William Cullen Bryant and his friends – and was established in 1847 by Bryant and others as a club to promote interest in...

, and the Phi Beta Kappa society.

He wrote on value theory
Value theory
Value theory encompasses a range of approaches to understanding how, why and to what degree people should value things; whether the thing is a person, idea, object, or anything else. This investigation began in ancient philosophy, where it is called axiology or ethics. Early philosophical...

, social philosophy
Social philosophy
Social philosophy is the philosophical study of questions about social behavior . Social philosophy addresses a wide range of subjects, from individual meanings to legitimacy of laws, from the social contract to criteria for revolution, from the functions of everyday actions to the effects of...

, and philosophy of history
Philosophy of history
The term philosophy of history refers to the theoretical aspect of history, in two senses. It is customary to distinguish critical philosophy of history from speculative philosophy of history...

. Frankel was the Assistant Secretary of State
Secretary of State (U.S. state government)
Secretary of State is an official in the state governments of 47 of the 50 states of the United States, as well as Puerto Rico and other U.S. possessions. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, this official is called the Secretary of the Commonwealth...

, in charge of education and culture, from 1965 to 1967. He resigned this post in protest of the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...


Charles Frankel was concerned with American government, mainly the democracy. He lived most of his life during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 when the two great powers in the world were the U.S and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. He made a case for democracy when comparing it to totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

. Democracy, if a bad decision in the government is made, can be changed because democracy is a never-ending and constantly reforming process which causes the government to become better and better through debate of different ideas and perspectives. A Totalitarian government, on the other hand, cannot retrace its steps. Once a choice has been made in the government, there is no way to go back and change it- the people do not have a say and the dictator rules all. In order for democracy to work, it needs certain qualities: courts, judicial systems; bills, a written law; and the press to keep the public informed and also to keep the power of the people in the government in check by revealing their every step and move they make to the public. In democracy, we also need something called a "loyal opposition" although there is a losing party, that party is able to disagree with the winning and ruling party but it must remain loyal to the country and whichever party has won the election. The winning party is also not allowed to harm the losing party and the losing party may always run again in a later election.

In 1978-79 Frankel was one of the founders (along with the first president and director) of the National Humanities Center
National Humanities Center
The National Humanities Center is an independent institute for advanced study in the humanities. It is the only major independent institute for advanced study in all fields of the humanities in the United States. The NHC operates as a privately incorporated nonprofit and is not part of any...

 in North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...


On May 10, 1979, both he and his wife were shot and killed by a robber in Bedford Hills, New York
Bedford Hills, New York
Bedford Hills is an unincorporated hamlet in the Town of Bedford, New York.-History:When the railroad was built in 1847, Bedford Hills was known as Bedford Station. Bedford Hills extends from a business center at the railroad station to farms and estates, eastward along Harris, Babbitt and Bedford...


From 1989 to 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities
National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency of the United States established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. The NEH is located at...

 (NEH) awarded the Charles Frankel Prize "to recognize persons for outstanding contributions to the public's understanding of the humanities." A list of Frankel Prize winners is available at the NEH website. In 1997 the prize was renamed The National Humanities Medal.
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