Ever come across a text you know, but forgot?
I did recently. This gem of a paragraph leapt off the page and into my mind:
I believe this nation hungers for a spiritual revival; hungers to once again see honor placed above political expediency; to see government once again the protector of our liberties, not the distributor of gifts and privilege. Government should uphold and not undermine those institutions which are custodians of the very values upon which civilization is founded — religion, education and, above all, family. Government cannot be clergyman, teacher and patriot. It is our servant, beholden to us.
Ronald Reagan spoke those words on November 13, 1979, as he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Yes, that’s November–two months before Iowa and New Hampshire–not 12 months before.
The funny thing about great truths: they have staying power.
Who Will Serve That Drink?
But I wonder how many candidates for high office today hold such firm, self-evident, and transcendent beliefs. How many candidates hold a theory of government at all?
Let’s look at what Reagan believed America thirsted for in 1979:
- Spiritual revival
- Honor before political expediency
- Government as protector of our liberties, not as grantor of gifts and privilege
- Government upholding, not undermining, religion, education, and family
- Government as our servant, beholden to us
I believe our nation still thirsts for those five sips of freedom.
We need a spiritual revival, and not just a religious revival. Our national spirits are low–as low as they were in 1979. Reagan’s announcement speech reminded me of the spirit of that age when he said:
Much of this talk has come from leaders who claim that our problems are too difficult to handle. We are supposed to meekly accept their failures as the most which humanly can be done. They tell us we must learn to live with less, and teach our children that their lives will be less full and prosperous than ours have been; that the America of the coming years will be a place where — because of our past excesses — it will be impossible to dream and make those dreams come true.
Doesn’t that sound like the defeatist nonsense we hear from Barack Obama every day? Our best days are behind us. We need to live like Bangladeshi squatters. We don’t deserve the marvels we invented and built.
Oh, Lord, give us a spiritual revival and shake us from our cowardly nap!
How about honor before political expediency? Couldn’t we use a little of that? In Jefferson City, some good Republicans (and I mean good ones) are prepared to accept the politically expedient Prescription Drug Monitoring bill over the honor (and loneliness) of remaining the last state to grant her citizens privacy in healthcare.
Political expediency rules the day in Washington, too, where Republicans have become champions of the Export-Import Bank. And a lot of Democrats who used to know better, too.
Protector of Liberty
And that leads us to our next great thirst, for a government that protects our liberties instead of passing out gifts and privilege. The Export-Import Bank is a grantor of gifts and privilege, I don’t care if Ronald Reagan anointed the building with sacred oils from Russell Kirk’s tobacco pipe.
The labor force is smaller than it has been since before Reagan announce his candidacy in 1979. People are not working, and this time, the government doesn’t want them to. How long can 92 million workers continue to support 230 million recipients?
Paying people to live like trinkets on a shelf is not compassion: it’s spiritual murder.
No wonder our spirits are low. And I’m not talking about the spirits of the workers; I’m talking about the low spirits of the idle. Meaningful work gives meaning to our lives. Every generation, when it’s young, feels angst and hopelessness. That’s because they’re not doing meaningful work yet.
Those young men and women in uniform all around the world and all around the states, they don’t have so much angst. They know they have a mission and a purpose. They know others benefit from their labor, and that’s exactly how they want it.
We need to help people feel a similar sense of mission and purpose in their lives. Every human being deserves to know the feeling of having done hard work well, but America is putting that fundamental, vital experience at risk in millions of lives.
In Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life, Eric Greitens describes the destructive nature of idleness beautifully:
I believe it’s also true that without some sense of meaningful struggle in our lives, something inside us begins to break down, a part of us begins to die. Yet it’s amazing how adaptable human beings can be. When we are kept from doing hard and meaningful work (perhaps by living in a prison of idle comfort , by drinking to excess, or by spending endless hours in front of video games or the Internet), people still find ways to eke out an existence. In the long run , though, deprivation of purpose is as destructive as deprivation of sleep. Without purpose, we can survive— but we cannot flourish.
We need leaders of vision and purpose to fix that and fast.
Faith, Education, Family
And by fixing that government-coerced purposelessness, government will take a big step away from its evil (yes, I said “evil”) destruction of religion, education, and family.
The federal government is openly and wantonly hostile to every religion (with possibly one exception). It tells people of every major faith–every one–that their views are mere superstitions that deserve the scorn of the “enlightened” and the regulation of government.
The federal government seeks to regulate families and dictate what parents may teach their children.
And the federal government is working to destroy community and family schools, replacing them with a Common Core education developed largely by a billionaire whose previous adventures in education ended in unmitigated failure. (The man doesn’t know basic statistics. And then some.)
A Beholden Government
And all of these government-created problems and their natural, American solutions, can be summed up in Reagan’s last quest. When a government is our servant, it does our bidding. When we are government’s servant, government brings us down.
If your spirits are low–lower now than when you began reading–buck up. The belief Reagan shared after that litany of problems inspires today as it did the week after the Iranian Hostage Crisis began:
A troubled and afflicted mankind looks to us, pleading for us to keep our rendezvous with destiny; that we will uphold the principles of self-reliance, self-discipline, morality, and — above all — responsible liberty for every individual that we will become that shining city on a hill.
I believe that you and I together can keep this rendezvous with destiny.
Let 2016 be the election year we renew our spirit with a sip of life-giving water from the river Liberty and keep our rendezvous with destiny.