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Reagan's Warning About The Fragility of Freedom Has Always Been Relevant -- But Never More Urgent

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Barry Thumma, FILE

It seems more than apropos to assess the legacy and words of President Ronald Reagan at this juncture in our history; it is an absolute necessity. Reagan not only understood the political reality of the world in front of him, he had a prescience of the political world that might be coming if Americans did not demonstrate the same resolve that won the revolution.

The insouciance of the Biden administration is unrelenting as it watches inflation rise, spends trillions on phony infrastructure bills and blithely observes the southern border evaporate. 

What would Reagan have done? And what would Reagan have said?

Reagan had so much to say that was pertinent not only to his political epoch but to the tumultuous period of approaching anarchy that the United States now faces. We must listen to Reagan’s words in 2021 because we are indeed at risk of losing our freedom and it could be lost a lot sooner than anyone ever anticipated.

We have already noted how the Biden administration is treating Trump supporters like domestic terrorists and using the fiasco of the January 6, Capitol riot to insist that these yahoos somehow represent not only a serious threat to the Republic but of all Republicans in general.  Indeed the Department of Justice is  using the FBI to ferret out alleged right-wing extremists from every bed.

Whereas Ronald Reagan defined freedom in America, Joe Biden and his meandering administration is taking it away. Where Reagan warned that America could lose its freedom in a generation, President Biden is doing his best to take that freedom away in a season.

President Joe Biden has thus far been a thundering failure as a chief executive, a tax and spend liberal who is determined to keep Americans from working; a green energy fanatic who has robbed America of its energy independence; a sputtering, useless commander in chief who gave the Taliban a final victory in Afghanistan.

This record would be bad enough if he were not also working to destroy America’s most precious asset: individual liberty. And Americans are losing their freedom at an alarming rate. Reagan once warned that Americans could lose that freedom within a generation. Now it seems the nation is losing it daily, weekly and every month. 

The Biden administration is populated by non-entities who seem to have been waiting for a safe place to demonstrate their mediocrity. Prior to his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland might have maintained the illusion that he was both cunning and politically intelligent. 

He now appears both detached and way over his head.

On Oct. 4, 2021 Garland addressed the “disturbing trend” of parents daring to challenge school boards over what children are being taught in school.

“Citing an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools, today Attorney General Merrick B. Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend.   

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” wrote Attorney General Garland. “Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety

Actually, what runs counter to the nation’s core values is an attorney general who doesn’t think parents have any business questioning what the education system is doing to their children.

“According to the Attorney General’s memorandum, the Justice Department will launch a series of additional efforts in the coming days designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.

Just what sort of panic are parents promulgating before these embattled school boards? 

A typical exchange occurred on June 24, 2021 when Sue Zoldak challenged Virginia’s Fairfax County School Board to admit that Critical Race Theory had become embedded in the education. “Do you recognize this document? It’s the study guide that comes with the book Stamped, which is the assigned summer professional development for Chantilly High School teachers,” Sue Zoldak, the founder of, asked, citing the  educational guide that went with the book.

Of course we now know that Garland is so hot and bothered about parents who object to Critical Race Theory because his son-in-law is promoting and profiting from that very witch’s brew – something the AG doesn’t see as a conflict of interest.

On October 27, 1964, two years before he would first become the governor of California and decades prior to his election as president, Reagan delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention that would nominate Sen. Barry Goldwater as its presidential nominee. Goldwater would lose the election to President Lyndon Johnson but Reagan’s speech not only inspired the Republican audience before him, it would serve as the philosophical basis for Reagan’s political success as he articulated a principled conservatism that would eventually unfold in the Reagan revolution. 

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it 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.”

People had heard Goldwater talk like that – and they would again, as he famously said in his acceptance speech as the Republican nominee for president  that “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” –  that but not with such precision and certainly not with the warmth and charm that Reagan always exuded – not only in person but in every political statement that in another person’s mouth may have sounded like a saturnine declaration of doom but in Reagan’s parlance always heralded optimism. To watch this speech today is to wish that every elected Republican in Congress had either the courage or the common sense to defend the very freedoms that America is increasingly losing.

After years of Republicans talking like Democrats and Democrats talking like Republicans, here was a man who understood the difference between liberalism and conservatism; between statism and individual rights! 

It is interesting to see just how often Reagan revisited the primary paragraph of his freedom speech. At his inauguration as California governor, Reagan repeated his warning but had also began a deep assessment of what the parameters of government should be and when government – any government – had expanded beyond its parameters. On January 5, 1967, as the nation was increasingly divided over the Vietnam War and the establishment vs. the counterculture, Reagan had this to offer.

“Perhaps you and I have lived too long with this miracle to properly be appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and it's never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.  And those in world history who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.

And what Reagan said in 1964, 1967 and throughout his presidency is just as “true today as it was then.” The only guarantor of freedom is a free people who are prepared to fight to stay free.

Reagan might not have been a Voltaire or John Locke as a political theorist but in terms of understanding the fragility of liberty, he had no equal.  He was  a politician who understood both political theorists and was prepared to put their ideology into action. As President Biden – whether he comprehends the world around him anymore or not – uses the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to force people to get vaccinated and wear masks even when they have been and threatens parents with legal action for exercising their free speech, America has never been closer to becoming a quasi-authoritarian state where the only acceptable position is the one the Biden administration tells you to embrace. And you will embrace it with love and affection – just as George Orwell’s character of Winston Smith in “1984” embraced and ultimately learned to love “Big Brother.”

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