Leadership for 2011

Happy New Year. I hope you will forgive my lack of enthusiasm in rendering this traditional greeting (the omission of the exclamation point was deliberate). The times are serious, and false hope must give way to genuine reflection about our present condition. Only then will we regain the clarity of thought and resolution required to achieve our destiny.

What is our destiny? Well, if we take our cue from the political class and its echo chamber, we might be inclined to believe that our destiny has something to do with group rights, universal equality of condition, tyranny posing as empathy, one world order, the elimination of suffocating moral standards, or vengeance disguised as social justice. We might even suppose that our destiny is to become insular, resigning our defenses in the naïve hope that the enemies of freedom will leave us – and their own – alone.

But our destiny is something nobler than a laundry list of rights and interests to be conferred by the federal government (would that it was even possible). Ronald Reagan believed that America’s destiny was to be as a shining city on a hill, an example for all mankind to see. A beacon of freedom. The last, best hope on earth, where the uproar of liberty is preferred to the silence of the soul so often accompanying the Utopian’s cowardly dream. And Ronald Reagan avoided the temptation to decorate these phrases with trite exclamation points. He gave his ideas context.

In a speech before the annual Conservative Political Action Committee on March 17, 1978, at the mid-way point of Jimmy Carter’s term in office, Ronald Reagan re-established the framework for America’s purpose in the world. This week, as we enter the second-half of a Presidential term arguably more destructive to American leadership and principle than any in our history, I thought it appropriate to revisit Reagan’s admonition:

Leadership is a great burden. We grow weary of it at times. But if we are not to shoulder the burdens of leadership in the free world, then who will? The alternatives are neither pleasant nor acceptable. Great nations which fail to meet their responsibilities are consigned to the dust-bin of history. We grew from that small, weak Republic, which had as its assets: spirit, optimism, faith in God, and the unshakeable belief that free men and women could govern themselves wisely. We became the leader of the free world, an example for all those who cherish freedom. If we are to continue to be that example, if we are to preserve our own freedom, we must understand those who would dominate us, and deal with them with determination. We must shoulder our burden with our eyes fixed on the future, but recognizing the realities of today, not counting on mere hope and wishes. We must be willing to carry out our responsibility as the custodian of individual freedom. Then we will achieve our destiny, to be as a shining city on a hill, for all mankind to see.

Now that is worth an exclamation point!