Robert  Charles

Vox clamantis in deserto. A voice in the wilderness. That phrase is from the Bible (Isaiah 40:3), but also happens to be the motto of my alma mater, Dartmouth College. Although both the Bible and Dartmouth – the latter founded before the American Revolution by a man who arrived, literally, in "the wilderness" with 500 bibles – use the Latin (originally Greek) to mean slightly different things, the spirit of the phrase however is clear: Even one voice, speaking truth on its own, can make a difference. Today, that one voice is the average American. It is you. It is me. And the time has come to speak.

Why do I say this? In the grand scheme of things, what difference does one voice make? I say this because, not so long ago, that one voice was issuing from a little place called Jamestown, Virginia. It was the voice of John Smith. Common name, uncommon man. And then the little voice was heard in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was the voice of William Bradford. And then the voice seemed to come from a clutch of men in Virginia again, people like Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and yes a man who chose his words carefully, George Washington.

To the North again, the voice rose in the mouths of men like Paul Revere, Henry Knox and Nathaniel Greene. To the South again, the wilderness heard Robert Howe and Horatio Gates, two of Washington’s other distinguished generals. And before long, that voice - the voice of individual freedom, transcendent hope and the call to restoring both, was no longer one voice. It was a small chorus.

Standing up for simple, God-given rights – that is for natural law rights – has a way of uniting people, calling forth “the better angels of our nature” (the last words President Lincoln’s first inaugural address, later cited by Reagan), waking them up, infusing them with common purpose. The sheer common sense of a call to speak up for timeless rights – at a town meeting, school gathering, in a hearing on some new regulation, on a street corner or in a local paper, these days on a blog or on Facebook – can be both liberating and compelling. Once that person speaks, however, others chime in. Where submissive silence ruled, there is a choral call. Often it is for a course correction, a return of rights taken, a rebalancing in the direction of individualism, progress through merit, effort, attitude and faith – a call to stop government intrusion and largess. This is not just true in our time, but of all recorded history.


Robert Charles

Robert B. Charles is a former US Court of Appeals clerk, litigator and adjunct professor at the Harvard Extension School. He served as Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, and presently heads a consulting firm in Washington DC.