My first thought was an overwhelming one of “where do we even start this?”
Although I will try to provide a more concrete answer to this question over the next few weeks, I want to give a more general answer to this question as we head into the July 4th weekend. You see, I believe the answer is to be found (as it always has in America) by each of us looking in the mirror and asking that person we see in the reflection: “what will you do?”
I firmly believe that one person, or one group of people, committed to positive ideas, can change the world for the better. Such positive change rarely comes through revolution, which destroys more than it changes. Instead, such positive change usually results from sustained effort to change one person, one family, and one neighborhood at a time. Soon momentum shifts, and the change spreads like a wildfire. Our civilization, at its best, is built on this notion.
Each of us is capable of being one of those people who ignites the wildfire–we have done that type of work all our lives with our family, our friends, our work, and our church or community activities. Remember that the founding generation of this nation, as remarkable a group as ever existed on the planet, came to the struggle of the late 18th Century with no more special background (except, maybe for Franklin) than any of us. They included farmers, surveyors, bankers, lawyers, doctors, ministers, silversmiths, printers, shopkeepers, and innkeepers, most of whom had never traveled beyond the hamlets of their birth, let alone seen the world. Their ranks were joined by ordinary men and women people who made extraordinary journeys across an ocean in wooden sailing ships to start a new life. Eventually, they each became committed to a cause greater than themselves, and that commitment created new opportunities and experiences for each of them individually, which they then used to their advantage to change the world together.
Indeed, it wasn’t that long ago that we still had leaders who understood the unique and exceptional challenge that lies at the heart of our civilization’s experience—and they led a victory over a world-wide tyranny. By way of example, I am going to quote at length from two speeches: Ronald Reagan’s speech at the end of the 1976 Republican Convention, given after a close and demoralizing loss of the Republican presidential nomination, and before he knew he would ever run for President again, in which he presented the challenge; and Pope John Paul II’s speech to the UN in 1995, reflecting on how the challenge had been met and victory had been achieved.
…I had an assignment the other day. Someone asked me to write a letter for a time capsule that is going to be opened in Los Angeles a hundred years from now, on our Tricentenial….Then I tried to write—let your own minds turn to that task. You are going to write for people a hundred years from now, who know all about us. We know nothing of them. We don’t know what kind of a world they will be living in…And suddenly it dawned on me, those who would read this letter a hundred years from now will know whether those missiles fired. They will know whether we met our challenge. Whether they have the freedoms that we have known up until now will depend on what we do here. Will they look back with appreciation and say, ‘Thank God for those people in 1976 who headed off that loss of freedom, who kept us now 100 years later free, who kept our world from nuclear destruction’[.] And, if we failed, they probably won’t get to read the letter at all because it spoke of individual freedom, and they won’t be allowed to talk of that or read of it. This is our challenge; and this is why here in this hall tonight, better than we have ever done before, we have got to quit talking to each other about each other and go out and communicate to the world that we may be fewer in numbers than we have ever been, but we carry a message they are waiting for….There is no substitute for victory, Mr. President.
Pope John Paul II:
The revolutions of 1989 were made possible by the commitment of brave men and women inspired by a different, and ultimately more profound and powerful vision: the vision of man as a creature of intelligence and free will, immersed in a mystery which transcends his own being and endowed with the ability to reflect and the ability to choose—and thus capable of wisdom and virtue. A decisive factor in the success of those non-violent revolutions was the experience of social solidarity: In the face of regimes backed by the power of propaganda and terror, that solidarity was the moral code of the—power of the powerless, a beacon of hope and an enduring reminder that it is possible for man’s historical journey to follow a path which is true to the finest aspirations of the human spirit.
We all are “immersed in a mystery which transcends” our lives, just as were Reagan and the revolutionaries of 1989–we all want to do more than just exist, we want to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we need to stop always looking for that “something larger” somewhere else, and realize that we must start to make a better world by making better families, better neighborhoods, and better schools.
Over the past 18 months, I have been blessed to know many people who have responded to this challenge by forming Tea Party groups, forming organizations to spread conservatism in new neighborhoods and mobilize neighbors to stand and fight for our principles. Each of these people, every day, is showing us how to meet the challenge to re-establish the sense of Neighborhood we need to unravel Obamaism and preserve the nation we love and the inalienable rights we have been blessed with—whether or not they fully appreciate the consequences of what they have started.
This moment in history has given us both a challenge and an opportunity. We must remember that “we may be fewer in numbers than we have ever been, but we carry a message they are waiting for…” If we succeed, we will have met our generation’s obligation to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
“There is no substitute for victory”.
Have a happy and safe July 4th.