(CCU Student) Any group of individuals that has faced a difficult task quickly comes to realize that a successful completion of their endeavors is impossible without solid leadership. Without effective leadership, any significant task will be torn asunder either from external pressures or internal strife.
No one understood this more than our Founding Fathers. The task of uniting thirteen stubborn and independent colonies against the most powerful economic and militaristic empire on the planet is a challenge that rivals the impossible. And yet it was through the guidance of leaders like George Washington that the greatest manifestation of freedom and natural law survived the violent throws of birth. With similar leadership, even the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing our nation today can be overcome.
The leaders needed in the coming struggle to regain our freedom and restore our Constitution must display the type of leadership and integrity embodied by George Washington. His tenants of propriety, fearlessness, selfless service, integrity, and humility make for an exceptional human being that stood as a bulwark against the storms of war and political turbulence.
Propriety: From an early age, George Washington lived in service to his country. At the age of fifteen, Washington set out to explore the frontier and survey territories belonging to the (at the time) colony of Virginia. In his early twenties, a young George Washington was given a commission as a colonel in the Virginia militia. Washington was forced to learn a critical facet of leadership the hard way: resilience. Even in the face of defeat by his French enemies, Washington handled himself in a manner that won him high esteem throughout Virginia and the other colonies. This air of propriety and dignity that Washington radiated not only earned him respect on the battlefield, but in his private life as well. Even as a young man Washington lived his life in a respectful and dignified manner. Through a copy of The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation (an enticing title, I know), Washington learned and began to build a foundation of civility and respectable behavior that further added to his ability to lead and turn heads in a room. Not only was Washington a physically imposing individual, he was a stoic and deliberate leader. Unlike many of his political counterparts, Washington preferred private conversation and behind the scenes deliberation to eloquent speeches and extensive writings. Even during his terms in the House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, Washington rarely participated in open debate, but rather listened and processed a situation. This is a far cry from many of our political leaders who constantly seek the lime light and sign million-dollar-book deals. Washington simply sought to serve his constituents and make effective decisions rather than seek to get his opinion heard.
Fearlessness: Washington also operated on the battlefield with a fearlessness that only comes from a firm reliance and belief in God and His will. During the French and Indian War, Washington served as an aide to General Braddock; a by-the-book European style general that was completely unsuited to fight a war in the American frontier. During the British push to retake the Ohio Valley, Braddock marched his redcoats in rank and file straight into an ambush consisting of French soldiers and their Indian allies. Within minutes, almost a thousand of the fifteen hundred men under Braddock lay dead or dying. Included in these, were all of the officers (Braddock would succumb to his wounds a few days later) except for Washington. During the engagement Washington had two horses shot from under him and multiple bullets passed through his clothes. But Washington was never wounded and succeeded in leading the survivors back to defensible positions. During the Revolution, Washington was almost always in the fray and could be found close to the enemy. A one point during the Battle of Monmouth, Washington almost personally charged the British lines out of sheer rage. Such behavior on the part of a general was unheard of at the time. But in order to instill confidence in his men, Washington himself had to demonstrate fearlessness. If only political and military leaders of today displayed such raw courage and audacity. Instead, most modern politicians will pander to whoever they need to in order to advance their personal agenda or advance their party’s platform. And in spite of blatant acts of violence and war, political and military leadership seek to extend a handshake to our enemies to the very people who seek to wipe out our way of life.
Selfless Service: Ultimately it was Washington’s selfless service that sets him apart from the leaders of today. In today’s political climate, men and women campaign for office because they want to be a politician. And once they’re in office, the position is treated as a job rather than a position of servitude. At no point did Washington seek the military appointment granted to him by the Continental Congress. In fact, it is said that Washington darted from the room when it was motioned that he be given the position of commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. After the war, some of his officers sought to install him as a monarch over the United States by force if it need be. Washington flat out refused the offer and instead rode to Philadelphia to resign his command and return his power to the Congress. After that he simply sought to retire to his plantation and live as a gentleman farmer. But again down the road, Washington was called upon again to hold together the debates on what to do about the Articles of Confederation. By this time, it was obvious that the system put into place by the Articles of Confederation was falling apart. The Federal Government had little or no power at all over the states and the entire country was on the verge of being ripped apart because of internal disunity. When asked to attend what would become the Constitutional Convention, Washington lamented and asked “have I not yet done enough for my country”. Even at the Constitutional Convention, Washington said little but rather presided over the proceedings and played a significant role in holding together the delegates from the states that all had their own interest and agenda to advance. Through his leadership, Washington took an unwieldy confederation and guided the delegates to form what can only be described as a miracle. And in his presidency, Washington walked away after two terms despite the opportunity to keep the office for life. In fact, Washington was more than thrilled to walk away from public office in spite of the massive potential for supreme power.
Integrity: From beginning to end, George Washington placed integrity at the forefront of his mind. There is a reason that the reputation of Washington as an honest man has weathered hundreds of years and the tragedy of historical revisionism. Washington never succumbed to personal ambition or the temptations of power that followed his victory in the Revolutionary War; but such integrity is scarce in the American political landscape. Instead governors are selling senate seats. Politicians are no longer concerned with what is right but rather what is popular. This is a pervasive attitude that transcends party politics. One has only to look at the Republican Party from 2000-2006. How can a group of politicians claim to be conservative and continue to pile on public debt in record numbers? In contrast, Washington stood as a pillar and stuck to his bearing.
Humility: Above all, Washington’s humility made him a learned man that was able to lead. Until the Continental Congress, Washington had seen little of the Thirteen Colonies. So rather than act as if he was an expert on the combined interest of all colonies, Washington diverted his efforts to listening and learning about his fellow colonists. This knowledge he gained in Philadelphia was later priceless in creating unity between the different troops in the Continental Army. Washington had the humility to take time to learn from his mistakes and act in a manner that was genuine and effectively achieved a victory over the British. But too many politicians seek to build up a world of power and affluence rather than serve. Over the course of their time in office, too many political leaders have made millions from special interest and from political maneuvering.
A Call to Action: The time for leaders like Washington is now. The time for apathy and mindless opinions is long gone. Names such as Adams, Jefferson, and Washington have not stuck in our history because they were men who backed down in the face of adversity and peril. Instead they entrusted their lives, fortunes, and honor to the hands of God and the judgment of history. The need for such leaders to step up has never been greater.
This is not something to be feared. We can learn from the words of Patrick Henry, “If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come… Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
For hope, we can look again to Washington’s words: “The ways of Providence being inscrutable, and the justice of it not to be scanned by the shallow eye of humanity, not to be counteracted by the utmost efforts of human power and wisdom, resignation, and, as far as the strength of our reason and religion can carry us, a cheerful acquiescence to the Divine Will is what we are to aim.”
(CCU Student) "Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not a drill," went the frantic radio message from Patrol Wing Two HQ on this day 69 years ago. Early on December 7th 1941, Japanese aircraft wreaked havoc on the majority of the United States Navy. The ships in the harbor of Oahu, Hawaii were close together and completely unprepared for an attack of the magnitude that startled the country out of its stupor. The Japanese knew the attack had to be swift and deadly; otherwise, the attempt to cripple the US would have been utterly useless. The attempt did leave the United States reeling, but it truly just served to awaken a slumbering resolve to win. The attack lasted for approximately two hours and killed or wounded about 3,500 Americans. The U.S. Pacific fleet was decimated in the two waves of attack by the Japanese. The USS Arizona was sunk by an 800 kilogram bomb that struck the forward magazine in the front starboard side of the ship. The resulting explosion and fires killed most of the marines and seaman on board. There were only 334 survivors documented from this battleship. The USS Oklahoma is yet another ship that shared the terrible fate of that day. She was moored alongside the USS Maryland and took three torpedo hits almost immediately after the attack began. She began to capsize into the Harbor while most of her crew was forced to abandon ship. She continued to be under attack from the Japanese. Two more torpedoes slammed into her already damaged frame, and the men trying to flee the danger were continuously being harassed by the strafing from Japanese pilots. Over four hundred of her crew died or were classified as MIA. Many of the others continued to fight on by swimming to the USS Maryland and taking on battle stations there. I will bet you never saw that in the movie. The Nevada tried to leave the harbor after being struck, but was beached instead to avoid blocking the harbor entrance after being targeted by the Japanese bombers with 113kg bombs. The California was sunk after taking hits from two bombs and two torpedoes. The West Virginia was incapacitated by seven torpedoes, and the Maryland was hit by two converted 40 cm shells (she didn’t take on any major damage). The USS Tennessee was hit by a bomb in the first wave, but most of the battleships were taken out during the second wave of the attack. The USS Whitney, much further away from Battleship Row, was one of the first ships to ready for the attack. The crew spotted one of the first Japanese aircraft as it flew right over the G-nest strafing the ship. The men were immediately called to their battle stations, and it only took five minutes to unlimber her .50 caliber machine guns. By 0810 she was unleashing her heavy antiaircraft guns. She also issued ammunition and ordinances to nearby ships as well during the battle. She did not receive any major damage and had no wounded aboard from the attack. These battleships were the main target, but that does not mean the Japanese force ignored the other ships in the harbor. They also did not ignore the land targets on Ford Island: the surrounding air fields and American bunkers. About half of the United States aircraft on the island had been destroyed or damaged. Some of the destroyers in the harbor were quick in launching a counter attack, including the USS Whitney, with antiaircraft rounds. There were relatively few vessels that day that escaped some sort of action, whether it was to be attacked or to counter the attack. Even fewer were able to do both as most were hit critically by bombs and torpedoes. That day around 2,402 personnel (American) were killed, another 1,282 were injured, and we had lost most of our battleships and aircraft in the Pacific. Among the Japanese it was another story. They only lost 64 men and 29 aircraft (less than 7% of their operating force). The remaining ships and crew that were relatively uninjured began to assay the aftermath and began the mission to recover the trapped, the wounded, and the dead. The USS Whitney sent out five lengths of hose and two submersible pumps to help the nearby Raleigh (CI-7) and her Doctors went to the Solace (AH-1) to assist with the wounded as there had been none on the Whitney herself. This attack sent the United States into the midst of world war. It launched the campaign that would, eventually, help put an end to the atrocities occurring in Europe and in the Pacific. The many men who died that day will be forever remembered by those who care. The men who survived that attack should be honored for their courage to remain in the fight and live from that moment on. The saddest part is that the day will pass by quietly without a blink or a nod of appreciation. The world moves on and forgets, but I pray that this year more will take just a moment to remember the fallen and the survivors of that day and the subsequent war. Please do not let them fade into obscurity.
Note:I feel strongly about this because my great-uncle,Herbert Wynn, Fireman First Class USN, was there that day on the USS Whitney. He died less than a year later on the USS Indiana while testing the engines in Norfolk, VA. Others in my family enlisted shortly after; some lying about their age. I am proud of each one of them.)
('76 Contributor) When Mamoru Shigemitsu, the Japanese foreign affairs minister, signed the surrender papers on board the USS Missouri in 1945, the drama of World War II drew to a close. The end of the war set the stage for another great play – one in Berlin where America would take center stage.
Unlike the European continent, the United States emerged from the war physically strong, economically robust --- and in a position of global leadership. As the sole owner of nuclear weapons, it would have been possible to dominate the defeated nations of Germany, Italy and Japan and destroy the malevolent Soviet Union. Instead, America harkened back to the spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. With “malice towards none” our nation helped rebuild a post-war industrial world and launch it into an era of unparalleled prosperity. This decision to act for the good of all – even our enemies – was perhaps the most significant act of benevolence by a victor that the world has ever seen. It demonstrated how exceptional America truly was. Still, it would be the smoldering Cold War that would force us to seize the stage in Berlin for a command performance.
It was not as if we were unprepared. We were, after all, the nation that proclaimed its Manifest Destiny and the one which de Tocqueville in his 1831 Democracy in America saw as uniquely placed to lead the world in “benevolent enterprises.”
What was lacking however was our failure to recognize that few other nations ever look beyond their own short-sighted, self-interests. This would cost Europe dearly at the end of the World War II when the United States worked hard to be a team player with even the Soviet Union, often to its disadvantage. In fact, much of the turmoil that became the Cold War was the result of our failure to understand Joseph Stalin and the insatiable communist appetite for territory.
From Yalta on, Stalin had fast-talked the allies into post-war concessions as trade-offs for his entry into the war against Japan. The Battle for Berlin had been grueling and in April of 1945, similarly shortsighted U.S. diplomatic accommodations on the battlefield kept U.S. forces out of the city as Soviet forces razed what little remained after allied bombing. House-to-house street-fighting by the Nazis gave communists all the excuses necessary to further dehumanize the war by raping Berlin’s women and girls, and pillaging its remaining booty. These war crimes were not just premeditated but actually promised to the soldiers as rewards for the bitter campaigns that had preceded Berlin’s “Stunde Null” (Zero Hour).
At the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, Harry Truman arrived with more realistic insights on Soviet eastern European expansionism than his predecessor, FDR. The Russians sought at first to retain all of Berlin but Allied Forces used physical leverage over the Soviets in the German states of Thuringia and Saxony to ensure that Berlin would be an open city, governed by four powers in a ruling body known as the Kommandatura. It was with more than some suspicion that agreements regarding the four country occupation zones were crafted and under these conditions that American forces were actually “admitted” to the city.
In the three years following the war’s end, the Russians were obsessed with reparations and followed a two-pronged exploitation of their spoils. On the one hand, their commissars exacted money from current German production activities while on the other, they stripped prime industrial machinery in their zones and shipped it by railcar back to the motherland.
In Berlin, it went well beyond economics. It became crystal clear to the Allies that Russia had every intention of transforming the city by stealth into a socialist enclave by using trained agitators, labor thugs, and former Nazi hacks. Resistance by the Allies to the Soviet master plan came slowly at first, but it went from warm to a boil almost overnight through friction within the governing combine. By late spring 1948 the fissure was beyond repair. A secretly orchestrated tri-party currency reform replaced inflated occupation Reichsmarks with new Allied Deutschemarks. The Russians were furious and they responded predictably by instituting a blockade of all traffic to and from the non-Soviet sectors. They were sure that the allies would have to submit to Soviet demands or surrender control of Berlin.
It would have been understandable if Washington had done nothing to stop the Russian land grab. Confronting the Soviet military was not a viable option as our remaining occupation forces were pitifully small -- and the potential for another major war was quite real. So it was in June of 1948 that America’s muscular exceptionalism came of age as President Truman announced the Berlin Airlift as the counter-punch to the Russian siege. The decision did not come easily. Many urged “Give-Em-Hell-Harry” to sacrifice Berlin in the name of peace. Fortunately for the citizens of Berlin, the president and his post-war generals were insightful of their enemy and Truman had taken his own full measure of the Russian beast.
The airlift itself was an impossible task. Feeding and providing fuel to a city of some 2 million people with the technology and smaller cargo aircraft of the day was beyond imagining. But there was the American “x factor” -- brilliant doses of ingenuity that revolutionized air freight management, ground approach radar and air operations.
The enormous success of the 11-month air bridge was seen in its numbers: 2.33 million tons of cargo, 277,569 flights, only 101 fatalities and the lifting of the blockade in May of 1949. But this was no solo task. America led the free world air flotilla but the Royal Air Forces of England, New Zealand, and Australia contributed mightily to these monumental numbers. The book Daring Young Men by Richard Reeves (released earlier this year) is a compelling account of this epic success and a must-read for anyone who wants to understand American courage and leadership in the post-war world.
If American exceptionalism was not obvious enough in the Berlin Airlift, it was demonstrated clearly to the whole world in the Marshall Economic Recovery Plan. Through the Marshall Plan, the United States poured upwards of $100 billion in today’s dollars to rebuild Germany and also Europe’s economy. Never in the course of history had one country taken on the responsibility of rebuilding an entire continent, including both its former enemies and exhausted allies.
The plan itself was at its core, foreign policy. It recognized that freedom in the old world would be doomed if the new world could not breathe economic life and hope into the ashes of war. Russia was also in dire straits but when offered participation in the plan, Stalin could not countenance it. The Marshall Plan was more than just a “most noble adventure” as Greg Behrman has detailed in his book of the same name; it was the signature foreign policy achievement of its time. When reinforced militarily with the NATO Treaty executed in 1949, the military-economic umbrella it represented became the catalyst of development and then the emergence of a modern-day Europe.
Thirteen years later, in 1961, Europe was back on its feet and surging. In contrast, the Soviet Zone of Germany was in shambles. It is estimated that some 2.5-3.0 million East Germans had found a way to escape Soviet domination – either by going to West Berlin or transiting through on the way to another free country. Coupled with the ongoing economic counter blockade initiated in response to the airlift, the Democratic Republic of Germany was losing its best minds to freedom and was no more than a third world nation. Reacting again to the failure of its political system, the Berlin Wall was hastily thrown up on the night of August 13, 1961.
For 28 years, an isle of freedom endured in a squalid communist sea because the United States, as the free world’s leader, refused to be bullied by ever-changing masters of the failing Soviet communist state. During that time President Kennedy joined the city with his famous line, “Ich bin ein Berliner” and decades later Ronald Reagan called on Mr. Gorbachev to tear down his wall. On November 9, 1989 the Berlin wall finally collapsed under the weariness of a dysfunctional political system unable to sustain its own economic promises.
If the story of Berlin is the story of the collapse of communism, it is even more the story of America coming of age. The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall serve as benchmarks of the Cold War – a costly economic, military and political struggle which had the highest of nuclear stakes and was won by a free world with the unswerving, courageous leadership of the United States.
Today, it is fashionable in some circles to denigrate our nation’s glorious past. We have entered into a time in which the intellectual and political leadership of this country has lost sight of our greatness. There is a clattering gong from the growing ranks of apologists who feel the need to expunge the demons of American greatness past. Many of the liberal, political elite fail to see the blessings they are still enjoying from America’s leadership and instead seek to paint our great benevolence in hues of domination and intimidation.
In 2008, Andrew Bacevich in his book, The Limits of Power, called U.S. exceptionalism into question. He concluded that our exceptionalism had become an unsustainable desire for material wealth. He saw the Cold War having given rise to the “Long Peace”, followed by an unbridled decade of interventionism, with the beginning of the “Long War” on 9/11. In essence, Bacevich sees his country with a military industrial complex, picking convenient wars with those who threaten its way of life and the oil pipelines that sustain it. It is a nation that has reached the limits of its power.
The opinions of those like Bacevich threaten to destroy the fabric of our nation and can become self-fulfilling prophecies. By attacking our nation’s very ideals, these detractors keep our nation from success and then point to our struggles as proof of their beliefs. How many of our school textbooks weave national guilt into their historical accounts making for a youthful self-loathing that is cancerous to our culture?
Granted, there are no great leaders and no great nations that have been perfect. And surely, everyone needs humility to recognize faults and correct them. But there is grave danger in being so fault-focused that we begin to believe our detractors. When we believe what our foes are saying, we lose our ability to lead. And right now, strong leadership is what the free world needs most. As a result, this attempted destruction of American exceptionalism is not a purely domestic issue. It has consequences for the entire world.
Exceptionalism recognizes the lonely challenges of leadership, the fundamental rightness and unarguable progress of the western, Judeo-Christian way of life. Moral relativism and post-modern accommodations don’t work when the enemy wages war on a way of life, innocents and children, and against all reason. Since 1776 and the Revolution that followed, our manifest destiny has been to do what is right. Steeled in the high drama of Cold War crisis and the streets of Berlin, we have proven ourselves worthy of the task. While there may be limits to our national power and its projection, our capacity and resolve to lead the free world cannot be in doubt.
Can the free world afford a U.S. retreat from exceptionalism? Consider the alternative: a stew of leadership including socialist bullies and third-rate actors like Iran, North Korea, Yemen, and Venezuela, all stirred in a pot by a hapless United Nations. None of these nations will seek to benefit anyone but themselves even though the only real hope for peace is a world leadership that is characterized by a genuine pursuit of the common good. In this way, American exceptionalism is the last and best bulwark in the fight against terrorism. As in Berlin, the world cannot do without U.S. leadership. The scream for our continuing exceptionalism is primal and strong, but never louder than from those who would be free. May God continue to drive and bless American Exceptionalism!
As professor of European History at Colorado Christian University, I regularly teach courses on Communism. Last week my students turned in their book reports on History of the Russian Revolution by Harvard professor Richard Pipes. While grading their papers, I noticed that my students drew many comparisons between Lenin and Obama.
The Bolshevik government:
1) was run by intellectuals who didn’t understand economics, despised capitalism, never knew how to run a business, never had any money, and had never earned money.
2) stirred up the masses promising hope and change; specifically “Peace, Land, and Bread”, but all the people got was violence, confiscation of their land for collective farms, and starvation.
3) took over private enterprises by the state, especially “the commanding heights”, the major industries like banking and heavy industry, and those most influential like media and education.
4) massively expanded the money supply to inflate the currency and destroy personal wealth; in the process they destroyed the economy, caused massive unemployment, shortages, and poverty.
5) redistributed wealth in the name of social justice, actually it was confiscated from the productive (forcibly taking grain from peasants, who then starved), resulting in less productivity the next year.
6) in the name of the working class took away the secret ballot from union members, forced labor on the entire populace, paid them in worthless paper money with nothing in the stores to buy. A common saying in Soviet controlled areas was “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.”
7) Government failures were blamed on the previous administration, the war, and political enemies, but never on their bankrupt political philosophy, economic stupidity, or inept administration.
As I read my students; papers, I was reminded of the old maxim, that “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Watson worked with Army Intel in Cold War Berlin specializing in Eastern Europe, has graduate degrees in European history from the University of California, and recently taught Free Markets and the values of Western Civilization in a former Soviet republic as a Fulbright scholar. He is now a professor at CCU and a fellow of the Centennial Institute.
(From Investor's Business Daily 9/17) Constitution Day — Sept. 17, the day 39 delegates to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention signed and submitted to Congress (under the Articles of Confederation) a new constitution for consideration — used to be familiar to many Americans. But as the Constitution's authority has faded in our public life, its birthday has faded too.
Don't think the authority of the Constitution is ignored? Consider the irony of today, Constitution Day:
In a 2004 spending bill, Sen. Robert Byrd attached a mandate that every educational institution accepting federal funds must sponsor a Constitution Day program. But the Constitution nowhere authorizes Congress to tell schools what they must teach. Nor does it authorize Congress to fund educational institutions — that's supposed to be the job of state and local governments, or the private sector.
Constitution Day, as now enshrined in federal law and celebrated by colleges and universities under threat of that law, is arguably unconstitutional.
So what happened? The Constitution has suffered two blistering critiques, both of which undermine its integrity: First, the Constitution is outdated, no longer relevant for modern America. Second, it is racist and immoral because it offered protection for Negro slavery.
Progressives leveled the first charge more than a century ago; the second became the battle cry of the modern civil-rights movement. Well-educated, well-intentioned, public-spirited men and women who wanted to advance justice, as they understood it, progressives and civil rights activists took aim at the Constitution.
From their point of view, the greatest political good is "social justice," meaning an egalitarian redistribution of wealth coupled with an inegalitarian distribution of civil rights, all supervised by bureaucratic experts whose interest is, allegedly, the public good rather than their own. The Constitution, by this measure, is an impediment to justice and therefore bad.
This is why Woodrow Wilson, among the most impressive of the progressives and the first president to hold a Ph.D., criticized the Constitution as "political witchcraft." He argued that the Constitution should be understood as a "living" document whose meaning evolves with time. In its original form, the Constitution was an instrument of evil, designed to keep America frozen in the icy environs of 18th-century racism and favoritism for the rich. For progressives, originalism is regressivism.
Persuaded that the Constitution is fundamentally defective, all three branches of government today violate it, routinely, usually by exercising powers nowhere found in the Constitution. And what does government say about this? The executive and legislative branches typically don't say much about the Constitution, because they don't need to (unless a liberal president risks impeachment, then even the most progressive politicians fret over the original intent of "high crimes and misdemeanors").
Congress doesn't need any progressive theory of a "living" constitution to do its work. It needs only a majority vote. The president doesn't even need that. He needs only a pen to sign a bill into law, regardless of its constitutionality. Exhibit A: ObamaCare.
The judiciary is different. Often it cannot avoid confronting the Constitution because of its peculiar job, judging constitutional disputes and explaining those judgments in written opinions. This has led to a new industry in our law schools, where progressive scholars invent fantastic interpretations of the Constitution used by progressive judges to extract progressive results from the very unprogressive language of the Constitution.
But those who pervert or ignore the Constitution all of a sudden find themselves seeking cover from political attacks. Circumstances have combined — political, economic and military — providing a window of opportunity to highlight the Constitution and its conspicuous absence in public policy and law.
Waiving Constitution banners at "tea parties," however, isn't enough. The Constitution is in need of a moral and intellectual defense. It needs teachers of constitutionalism.
To be effective, that defense must persuade the public mind and the public's representatives that the progressive and civil rights critiques have been answered and fully refuted, a tall task yet to be done. The critiques of the Constitution run deep, informed by sophisticated evolutionary theories of human nature and backed by intelligentsia who populate our universities and influence public opinion.
Constitutional apologists, therefore, are in need of study and learning. Only then can we teach. But if we can teach Americans why critics are wrong and why the Constitution is good and deserves to be defended — with our lives, fortunes and sacred honor, if necessary — we celebrate Constitution Day in a fitting way, by helping "we the people" deserve the Constitution bequeathed to us by the Fathers of 1787.
Thomas Krannawitter teaches politics at Colorado Christian University and is a Centennial Institute Fellow. The author of Vindicating Lincoln: Defending the Politics of Our Greatest President, he joined the CCU faculty this fall after teaching for five years at Hillsdale College. This article appeared first in Investors Business Daily.
(Denver Post, July 4) Hecklers, on guard. On this Independence Day, in a stormy election year when Americans are out of sorts, I’m fool enough to mount a soapbox and orate upon the proposition that “politics” should be an honored word, not a dirty word, in our vocabulary.
Politics deserves its bad name, you scoff. It’s a hustle wherein we are lied to and led on, defrauded and dumped on. H. L. Mencken nailed it, you say, when he groused that an election is but an advance auction of stolen goods. Will Rogers was right that just as “con” is the opposite of “pro,” so Congress is the opposite of progress. Fie upon the politicians, the parties, and all their tribe.
I concede your indictment up to a point. But before you let fly with the rotten vegetables, remember that the Greek derivation of POLITICS, 2500 years and counting, simply denotes those things concerning the community, or CITY, and its individual members, or CITIZENS. Can we write off those things? Not unless we’re prepared to live in solitude as hermits or in servitude as slaves. I’ll take my chances with politics, messy as it is.
Like any human endeavor, politics can be done in a noble way or a base way. July 4 commemorates the noblest political moment of all – our nation’s birth in genius, blood, and fire. But the Fourth also looks forward, reminding us how timeless our political challenges are across the centuries, powdered wigs and parchments aside.
Prove it to yourself today by reading quickly through the Declaration of Independence. The Framers, after a lofty opening argument on “laws of nature” and “self-evident truths,” enumerate specific grievances like hammer-blows to pound home the case for change. They deliver (speaking of indictments) a 27-count rap sheet convicting king and parliament of intolerable misrule.
It’s as gritty as a police blotter and, at many points, as current as this hour’s 9News crawl. You’ll notice amazing relevance of these issues from 234 summers ago, into a 2010 campaign over whether Betsy Markey and the Democrats or Cory Gardner and the Republicans control Congress; whether Colorado’s legislature stays with the Dems under Sen. Brandon Shaffer or shifts to the GOP under Sen. Mike Kopp.
Jot a number by each itemized act of tyranny, and follow along with my examples. Taxation without consent, top of the Cliff Notes but only Item 17 for the revolutionaries, remains a flashpoint for TABOR defenders today. Immigration and ill-defended borders, Items 7 and 27, fester still as the Arizona model beckons many Coloradans.
Bureaucratic bloat with “swarms of officers to harass our people,” Item 10, will be a target as McInnis or Maes battles Hickenlooper for governor. Judicial impartiality and accountability, Items 8 and 9, will animate this year’s Clear the Bench campaign. Redistricting, Item 3, will polarize next year’s legislature.
Correlating the colonists’ complaints to issues in present-day Washington is equally easy. Civil-military jealousies, Item 12; federalism, Item 2; trade, Item 16; and counter-terrorism laxity allowing “merciless savages” to plot “undistinguished destruction,” Item 27, all have their 2010 counterparts.
As the Bible observes, there’s nothing new under the sun. Ever since Samuel warned the Israelites in 1100 BC that they would regret forsaking decentralized rule under the judges for a centralized monarchy – because taxes might hit 10 percent! – the struggle between limited and unlimited government has raged.
Peruse the magnificent Declaration for five minutes before you sleep tonight, and you’ll know what the men and women of 1776 knew: Politics matters inescapably. Unchecked, political power will “eat out our substance” and “reduce us under absolute despotism.” But harnessed to “the consent of the governed,” it can uphold both liberty and community. The choice is ours.
On February 11, 1861, Abraham Lincoln began his trip from Illinois to the nation’s capital for his inauguration as the country’s’ 16th President. When he left Illinois, seven southern states had already seceded from the Union, with four more to follow.
Lincoln took a somewhat circuitous route, first going through Indiana, Ohio and western Pennsylvania, before turning north, going to Buffalo, Albany and New York City. Ten days later, on February 21st, he arrived in Philadelphia, home of Independence Hall—where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were ratified.
The following morning, Lincoln left his hotel very early in the morning and rode by carriage to deliver two speeches. The second speech was to honor the raising of a new flag, with 34 stars, the new star marking the inclusion of Kansas into the Union.
Lincoln’s first speech was made at the request of Theodore L. Cuyler, president of the Select Council of Philadelphia at Independence Hall. In his speech, Lincoln reflected on the Founders of ´76, who courageously declared their independence, and asserted the “self-evident truths” upon which our nation was founded.
Just as with the Gettysburg address, Lincoln’s remarks were brief yet timeless. In an earlier speech, he famously stated that everything had a “central idea” from which all else emanates. For Lincoln, the “central idea” of America was the Declaration of Independence. In his February 22, 1861 speech, he returns to this theme of the centrality of the Declaration, both for the nation and for himself.
It is fitting that we reflect on Lincoln’s words again this Independence Day. The following is a transcript of his speech as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer:
I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing here, in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the country. I can say in return, Sir, that all the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated and were given to the world from this hall.
I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men.
This is a sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.
Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there need be no bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor of such a course, and I may say, in advance, that there will be no bloodshed unless it be forced upon the Government, and then it will be compelled to act in self-defence.
My friends, this is wholly an unexpected speech, and I did not expect to be called upon to say a word when I came here. I supposed it was merely to do something toward raising the flag. I may, therefore, have said something indiscreet. (Cries of "No, no") I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, die by.
In recent years, a growing number of voices including those of Dennis Prager -- who will speak at next week's Western Conservative Summit -- Colorado's own David Kopel have suggested that America is in grave and immediate need of a Fourth of July Seder.
Even secular Jews know what a Seder is. They remember it from childhood as that ridiculously long meal in which at least one person wants to know how long it’ll be ‘til we eat and three more provide a detailed analysis of the consistency of the matzoh balls.
Non-Jews may be less familiar with the custom. But SEDER, as Dennis Prager tells us, merely means “order.” The brilliance of ingesting the ordered story of the Exodus --- FREEDOM, as we are ingesting a meal is what has enabled the Jewish People to pass it down from generation to generation.
Never in our lifetimes has it been more painfully clear that America is losing its way---that America’s story of freedom has not been successfully passed down or even passed around.
America is not a place. It is an idea. Today, we stand at the tipping point of losing the idea of America and the Freedoms on which it was founded. We are in a race against time to educate both young and old about the idea of America.
On Independence day, a few Patriots actually read The Declaration of Independence, but here is the actual story that should be told on our 4th of July Seder:
Independence Day is the national holiday which commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
At the time of the signing the US consisted of 13 colonies under the rule of England's King George III. There was growing unrest in the colonies concerning the taxes that had to be paid to England. This was commonly referred to as "Taxation without Representation" as the colonists did not have any representation in the English Parliament and had no say in what went on. As the unrest grew in the colonies, King George sent extra troops to help control any rebellion. In 1774 the 13 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia Pennsylvania to form the First Continental Congress. The delegates were unhappy with England, but were not yet ready to declare war.
In April 1775 as the King's troops advanced on Concord Massachusetts Paul Revere would sound the alarm that "The British are coming, the British are coming" as he rode his horse through the streets.
The battle of Concord and its "shot heard round the world" would mark the unofficial beginning of the colonies war for Independence. For almost a year the congress tried to work out its differences with England, again without formally declaring war.
By June 1776, a committee was formed to compose a formal declaration of independence. Headed by Thomas Jefferson, the committee included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft which was presented to the congress on June 28. After various changes a vote was taken late in the afternoon of July 4th. Of the 13 colonies, 9 voted in favor of the Declaration, 2 - Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted No, Delaware undecided and New York abstained.
To make it official John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock signed his name "with a great flourish" so "King George can read that without spectacles!"
The following day copies of the Declaration were distributed. The first newspaper to print the Declaration was the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6, 1776. On July 8th the Declaration had its first public reading in Philadelphia's Independence Square. Twice that day the Declaration was read to cheering crowds and pealing church bells. Even the bell in Independence Hall was rung. The "Province Bell" would later be renamed "Liberty Bell" after its inscription -
Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof
And although the signing of the Declaration was not completed until August, the 4th of July has been accepted as the official anniversary of United States independence. The first Independence Day celebration took place the following year - July 4 1777.
CEREMONIAL FOOD FOR OUR 4th of July Seder:
Turkey should be served, since Franklin wanted that as our national bird. "The turkey nourished our Pilgrim forebears," he explained. You should wash it down with sassafras tea: that's what Americans drank while boycotting the tea of the British East India Company, which the King subsidized because it was "too big to fail." And the most American of foods, and a July tradition: corn on the cob! For dessert: Dolly Madison ice cream, and perhaps Martha Washington's sponge cake.
So, after our celebration, go home and read the Declaration of Independence but don’t skip over the grievances. What would our Founders have to say about the course of human events today? Share the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the IDEA of America with liberals and children (???) We can’t afford to wait until next 4th of July.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.... And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
(Centennial Fellow) As we observe the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence this Fourth of July, we should consider the unique form of government for which our Founding Fathers chose to risk “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” against the militarily-superior British. The definitive passage in the Declaration reads: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." In these 57 words, the Founders established that: • Our rights -- better understood as "freedoms" -- are given to us by a power higher than government. No matter what you believe about creation or evolution, you must acknowledge that government did not give us life. • Government's legitimate purpose is to protect the rights of the people. Just as government did not give us life, it did not give us our rights. • Government's legitimate powers are limited to only those given to it by the people. "The whole point was to show how government might arise legitimately, not to assume its existence," writes constitutional scholar Roger Pilon in "The Purpose and Limits of Government" published by Cato Institute. Pilon's insights are particularly useful because, as a libertarian, he does not advance a religious conservative agenda. Yet he acknowledges that the Founders' common view of "the laws of Nature and Nature's God" provide the cornerstone for all that follows: We hold these truths to be self-evident.... The signers of the Declaration didn't negotiate and compromise to define truth. They agreed that certain fundamental truths were obvious. For example: ...That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness... In that each of us exists because of the same creative process, the rights to which each of us are entitled are necessarily equal. Such rights are best understood as freedom from interference, whether by government or by other people which, of course, implies that others are entitled to be free from our interference. Freedom encompasses not simply the opportunity to make choices but the responsibility for those choices. Freedom does not mean that, because my choice seems superior, I can bend others to my will through the power of government, nor does it mean that when I make an irresponsible choice I am immune from consequences. ...That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Once the Founders established a broad universe of rights, they discussed government, its sole purpose to protect those rights. Again it is imperative to understand "rights" as freedoms — not as an entitlement taken at the expense of another. When government legitimately protects our freedom, it simply does that which we have a right to do ourselves. By contrast, government does not act legitimately if it secures my rights by taking the life, liberty or property of someone else. When the rights of two people may conflict and neither can fully exercise freedom without adversely affecting the other, the Founders reasoned that in these circumstances, the boundaries between competing rights ought to be drawn by the people whom government serves. However, "consent of the governed" does not empower majority rule to deny freedom to the minority. This concept of a vast ocean freedoms and tiny islands of government power bears little resemblance to our federal government today, which is why it is so vitally important that we understand the foundation of our government before electing someone to lead it. As Ronald Reagan warned, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
Mark Hillman is a Centennial Institute Fellow. He formerly served as Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.
"Best Practices in Teaching Western Civilization" was the topic for an all-day workshop hosted at Colorado Christian University by the Centennial Institute on April 16. Over 30 educators from across the state, representing five colleges and three high schools, took part. President Bill Armstrong summoned the gathering to build on CCU's new curriculum requirement for every freshman to take Western Civ as a cornerstone for subsequent courses in whatever major the student eventually chooses. In keynoting the day, Armstrong challenged participants to work against the "intellectual Alzheimer's" that threatens our heritage of liberty. Someone remarked that the militant multicultural assault on traditional curriculum in the 1980s, led by Jesse Jackson at Stanford and other prestige universities, needs to have its slogan turned around so as to demand, "Ho ho, hey hey, Western Civ has got to stay."
Program materials for the April 16 workshop are here... western civ colloquium 041610.doc (55.50 kb) Some photos are below.
From afar: Centennial's John Andrews welcomes Mohd Rozi Ismail (L), a Malaysian graduate student at Colorado State University, and Florian Hild (R), an American citizen born in Germany who is now headmaster of Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins
"Making It Work in the 21st Century" was the topic for Prof. Timothy Fuller, a political scientist from Colorado College.
Prof. Vincent McGuire of the Center for Western Civilization at CU-Boulder led a discussion on collaboration at the college level and with high schools.
Dr. Philip Mitchell of the CCU History Department chaired a student focus group on experiences in last fall's Western Civ course.