Note: A version of the following was delivered as the keynote address at the Jefferson County Lincoln Day Dinner, May 11, 2013 in Lakewood, Colorado.
Historically, Americans have taken freedom and individual liberty very seriously.
When King George III crossed the line, our forefathers pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. They declared and won our freedom.
To finally resolve the evil of slavery and achieve freedom for all Americans, 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War.
To defeat Nazi Tyranny, 420,000 Americans and more than 60 million globally sacrificed their lives to preserve freedom.
Ronald Reagan called the enemies of freedom what they are – evil – and he preserved freedom by winning the Cold War without firing a shot, as Margaret Thatcher noted.
Polite politicians don't often use that word – "evil" – but, Reagan was right.
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
We're living in a time when freedom is again being assaulted.
Not just by foreign threats, but by an increasingly tyrannical central government.
Jefferson warned about this kind of assault on our freedom.
"The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and ... breaks up the foundations of society."
"Guilty of a crime" – that's pretty strong stuff, especially considering the source!
In 2009 I published my book – A Return to Values. I suggested that politicians should use a simple test before deciding to vote Yea or Nay on any particular piece of legislation: "Does this preserve freedom, or compromise, erode, infringe on freedom?"
Pretty obviously, the majority party of late either isn't using that test – or, has a different agenda.
- Freedom in compromised when legislation like Dodd-Frank takes a giant step toward nationalizing the financial industry with oppressive regulation.
- Freedom is compromised when ObamaCare seizes control of 17% of our economy and the most personal part of every family's life.
- Freedom is infringed when the President seizes private companies, fires and replaces management, tosses secured creditors aside and gifts ownership to Big Labor – and, gets away with it!
- Freedom erodes when the Constitution and Rule of Law is treated like a Cafeteria Buffet; take some of what you like, and leave the rest behind. Like the President did with our immigration laws and the Defense of Marriage Act.
- Freedom is trampled when citizens, business owners, faith based institutions, even entire religious denominations are forced to put aside doctrines of their faith for the dictates of the state.
- Freedom is infringed when government denies our right to defend ourselves and our family. Yet, that same government "walks" across the border into the hands of the Mexican drug cartel the same weapons they would deny American citizens.
- Freedom is infringed by Regulation Central Planners who aim to control everything we do or say, produce or purchase. By the White House's own admission, regulation increased 57% last year alone.
- Freedom is stifled by a tax code that forces us to make decisions based on minimizing taxes rather than maximizing income. Some economists say the punitive tax code depresses GDP by $2.5 trillion.
- Freedom is trampled when more of what we make goes to government at the federal, state, and local level than is left to care for our own families.
- Freedom – that has always be intrinsic to American youth – is compromised when our kids graduate buried in debt, can't find jobs, are forced to move home with mom and dad, and then ObamaCare doubles their insurance premium. America's Youth will have a stone of federal debt tied around their neck that will forever hamper their pursuit of happiness.
- Freedom is compromised when our government lies to us. See: Fast & Furious, Benghazi, the IRS, and AP scandals, to name just a few examples.
- Freedom is endangered when evil is tolerated. For example: when Iran gets a nuclear weapon, North Korea develops long range ballistic missile capability, Syria uses chemical weapons with impunity, Al Qaeda has active cells in 30 nations, including the U.S., and warnings from Saudi Arabia and Russia are ignored and radicalized Chechens terrorize Boston.
In 2004 I spoke in Jerusalem at an International Conference on Terrorism and Anti-Semitism. I said, "History teaches us that when evil is tolerated for too long, good people die."
The current Administration not only tolerates evil, they make excuses for it.
Freedom – our uniquely American Brand of Freedom – is dependent on a robust, job and wealth creating, expanding economy.
Yet, what we have is by far the worst recovery of after a recession in the last 60 years. After 15 quarters of supposed recovery, the economy has grown just 8.3%. The average growth after 15 quarters of recovery for the last 10 economic recessions is 16.5%; nearly double the Obama record.
So, what can we do about it?
We missed a critical opportunity last November, and elections have consequences. Much that needs to be done won't because of partisan gridlock and the paralysis created recently by the multiple scandals.
Barack Obama's political machine is going to be engaged in every effort to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker again in 2014. We must be ready, and not allow another election failure.
One of our problems is that the GOP has an obsession with letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
In 2012, analysts tell us three million Republicans stayed home. They failed to vote at all!
I'm not suggesting that standing on principle is anything but the right thing to do. That's what my book is all about, returning to those core principles that have guided both our country and our party to greatness. But, we also have to win elections before we can govern.
As we climb out of this hole, getting "good" government while we purse "perfect" government would be quite an improvement.
The good news is that what needs to be done to restore confidence, trust, economic vitality – freedom – isn't all that complicated. It's obvious!
Months ago when Washington was in Fiscal Cliff Avoidance Mode, I suggested six principles to guide them toward resorting economic vitality and getting our fiscal house in order:
- Don't raise taxes
- Reform entitlements
- Adopt strict spending limits
- Systemic reform of the tax code
- Put the brakes on over regulation
- Preserve our national security
Rep. Dave Camp and Sen. Max Baucus (Chairmen of the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees, respectively) are at least talking about reforming the tax code. We'll see how that goes. But, we're not doing so well on the other five Principles. In fact, the problem is only worsening.
Back in 2009, when we also thought the Republican Party and nation were in serious trouble, I drafted an Agenda for America as the core of my book, A Return to Values.
- Win the War against Radical Islam
- Secure our Borders and Modernize Legal Immigration
- Champion Fiscal Discipline
Preserve and Protect U.S. Economic Dominance
- Educational Excellence
- Rein in Law Suit Abuse
- Complete Reform of the Tax Code
- Common-Sense Regulation Reform
- Support Free-Trade
- Transition to Patient-Centered Health Care
- Energy for U.S. Security
- Let Science Guide Environmental Policy
- Build a New Democracy Alliance
- Stand Up for American Culture
All of those agenda items made sense in 2009. But, the need is far more urgent today after 4 years of Barack Obama.
I will leave you with this final thought, since we're talking about how to restore Freedom and Liberty, and get out of this mess we're in.
It is one thing to have guiding principles and an agenda of what needs to be done.
But, it still requires leaders to make it happen.
I mentioned above that in 2004 I represented the U.S. at a conference on terrorism in Jerusalem.
I concluded my remarks by suggesting that given the threats we faced in 2004 the world needed leaders with Clarity, Conviction, Courage, and Compassion. Reagan and Lincoln were that kind of leaders.
Here's what I said in Jerusalem:
One leads with Clarity who can tell right from wrong, good from evil.
- When faced with that choice, it is not tolerant to avoid making the decision, it is cowardice.
One leads with Conviction who is morally principled and firm in his beliefs.
- This age of Relativism has given us too many who accept anything in the name of tolerance and diversity.
One leads with Courage who is willing to take necessary action.
- We are surrounded by leaders who endlessly rationalize their inaction, their indecision, and their vacillation. Many are quick to criticize; few are willing to be bold.
One leads with Compassion who relieves the suffering of the oppressed.
- Talking about the injustice in the world resolves little. Deliberation without action perpetuates suffering. If we truly believe that all people deserve God's gift of freedom, then we must be willing to act to make it so.
Clarity, Conviction, Courage, and Compassion.
That's how America's greatest leaders have led. And, that's what made America great.
And, for sure we need great leaders. But, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, the greatness of America lies in the goodness of all her people, not just a few leaders.
Restoring freedom and saving this great American Republic is not just for someone else to do. We all have a part in this, be our role public or relatively anonymous, great or small. Let's make America great again!