By Jonathan Sorg | Federalism In Action
PRESIDENTS DAY 2016
In his seminal 1964 A Time for Choosing speech, Ronald Reagan said, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.” 2016, like 1964, is a time of great consequence as we find ourselves in a precarious age of American atrophy where our values, virtues, and liberties find themselves under siege. Those faithful to the Constitution face a pincer movement by the progressive movement. Foes of freedom dominate our cultural institutions within mainstream media, music, education and Hollywood. All that being said, we find ourselves not on the mat, but squarely in the ring with the fight of our lives. Their arsenal is well known and formidable, it is time we remember to rekindle our superior weapons of wisdom, reason, and virtue personified in our great leaders of the past.
Our first and arguably greatest president for whom today is most celebrated, George Washington warned against foreign entanglements, party politics, and infidelity to the federal Constitution. His character and intellect, the so called poles of our capacity, led a nascent nation triumphantly against the most powerful empire in the world. He gave us hope amidst despair at Valley Forge, cunning at the Battle of Trenton, and unprecedented humility in establishing peaceful succession of power in 1797. Aside from his stunning biography, we find a truly clairvoyant statesman who was wary of central power and the fragility of republican society. Washington, in his farewell address, commissioned us with the responsibility of keeping government within its proscribed confines and spheres. He said, “It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.”
Washington predicted federal usurpation if the people lost their vigilance and concern for the actions of its elected officials. Thus, the federal government owns more than half the land west of the Mississippi. The federal government regulates our food, medicine, marriage, education, housing, and our income via the 16th Amendment. It collects our emails and can listen to our phone calls. The federal government and its diminutive bureaucrats influence, if not rule, virtually every aspect of our lives. How can this happen? Under the auspices of good intentions and citizen deference as Washington warned, “But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”
Only through virtue, knowledge, and unrelenting determination will we ever overcome the federal grip on our society. Freedom and liberty is in our blood and we would do well to look to our revolutionary leaders of the past. We, as those faithful to the Constitution, have to win hearts and minds. As it stands today, I wonder if enough of us truly desire freedom and the subsequent responsibility it allows and requires. Are we now a population in a brave new world content as techno-peasants and unconscious slaves so long as we are fed and housed? In other words, are we fighting for something that most people want. I think this is why we have failed in the contest of ideas. We market a product people don’t want.
However, as government fails and more people begin to see the malevolent trade off dependency necessitates our cause grows and emboldens. There is a growing sense that government is not working and thus a renewed interest in our founding principles finds new swaths of citizens. To win, we must be happy warriors, broadcasting cheer and gumption in equilibrium. In this balance of gravity and optimism, let us look to the ideas and proclamations of leaders past who created or preserved our way of life. Maybe, just maybe, with a dedicated coalition of freedom loving people everywhere, we can one day again listen to a president’s farewell address just like that of 1989 when Ronald Reagan said, “My friends, we did it. We weren’t just marking time, we made a difference. We made the city stronger – we made the city freer – and we left her in good hands.”
About the author: Jonathan Sorg is a millennial and recent graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Political Science. During his time at Indiana, he participated on the Debates and Lectures committee while also serving in the YAL campus chapter. Following graduation Jonathan worked in the financial services industry before joining Federalism In Action. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys the outdoors, physical activity, occasional idleness and reading books of historical non-fiction, economics, or political thrillers.
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