We can preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we can sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness," stated Ronald Reagan. "If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."
This week is the 45th anniversary of "The Speech," delivered via nationwide television in support of then-Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. It was funded by Brothers for Goldwater, whose chairman was John Wayne, and marked the nation's introduction to the man who would spend the rest of his life promoting American values and conservatism.
Reagan's values, core beliefs and visionary thinking would lead to massive tax cuts, which energized the economy, and his declaration that the Soviet Union was an "Evil Empire," which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.
Think of his accomplishments as heating up the national economy while cooling down a potential world war.
How times have changed.
Currently, our economy is cold and unresponsive. The unemployment rate in September was 9.8 percent. That translates into more than 15 million people out of work. A recent Bloomberg News survey of economists estimated that the U.S. "economy grew at a 3.2 percent pace from July through September after shrinking the previous four quarters."
While talk of a recovery may sound good, real improvement would mean more people having jobs. "Economists are the only people saying the recession is over," according to Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C. A real recovery means real jobs.
A slight recovery in economic activity is not so hard to accomplish after a steep fall. This uptick in activity occurs after the passage of a $787 billion stimulus plan under which the government is spending tax dollars it has not yet collected.
If we had known then what we know now, we might have laughed out loud at the January projection of unemployment peaking at 8 percent with the passage of the stimulus plan. To the almost 3 million additional people now unemployed, it is no laughing matter.
Who creates jobs -- the government or individuals? The only way government can create a job is to use our tax money. We want government to work -- to get out of our way so we, individuals, can make steady progress. We want to be able to create businesses, hire employees and make profits that drive the economy. Some 6.6 million entrepreneurs generate more than half of their income by working at home. Their small businesses employ one in 10 private-sector workers.
As Reagan said 45 years ago: "You can't control the economy without controlling the people. ... We either take responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual belief in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves."
Which path will we take today?
While the domestic economic news is chilling, the news on the Afghan front is no better. On Monday, 14 U.S. troops and agents died in helicopter crashes. On Tuesday, eight U.S. soldiers died in bombings.
Last month, their commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, asked for more troops. So far, President Obama has not answered. He defended his indecisiveness on Monday at a Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., telling our troops, "I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way."
There are currently 68,000 U.S. troops risking their lives in Afghanistan. They are already in harm's way. Should he not be rushing to provide them support?
"Never again should young Americans be asked to fight and die for their country," said President Reagan, "unless the cause is one we intend to win."
Americans are fighting in Afghanistan. Our commander in chief has not yet made a decision regarding McChrystal's recommendation for increased troop strength.
The question for Obama: Is this a cause we intend to win? If so, how?
Once again, the American people are called to action. "The average citizen cannot afford to leave politics to the politicians," said Lemuel Boulware, the vice president of General Electric who hired Reagan to serve as the company spokesman in the 1950s.
Decades later, this statement applies to us.
We cannot leave politics to the politicians -- but must determine if we are ready for our rendezvous with destiny.