Happy 234th Anniversary: On Virtue
In just a few days, we will be celebrating the 234th anniversary of our republic. To mark the occasion, I thought it would be fun to go back to one of the great acceptance speeches of the past 50 years – Ronald Reagan’s speech at the 1980 Republican convention – and pull out eight important themes for 2010:
You know, the first Republican President once said, “While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.” If Mr. Lincoln could see what’s happened in these last three and a half years, he might hedge a little on that statement. But with the virtues that are our legacy as a free people and with the vigilance that sustains liberty, we still have time to use our renewed compact to overcome the injuries that have been done to America these past three and a half years.
He believed deeply in American values—freedom through a republican form of government moored in the US Constitution, and also recognition of the importance of the Bill of Rights as a series of protections which were mainly statements of freedom from government. In that same acceptance speech, he noted:
We need a rebirth of the American tradition of leadership at every level of government and in private life as well. The United States of America is unique in world history because it has a genius for leaders – many leaders – on many levels. But back in 1976, Mr. Carter said, “Trust me.” And a lot of people did. And now, many of those people are out of work. Many have seen their savings eaten away by inflation. Many others on fixed incomes, especially the elderly, have watched helplessly as the cruel tax of inflation wasted away their purchasing power. And, today, a great many who trusted Mr. Carter wonder if we can survive the Carter policies of national defense.
“Trust me” government asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. But my view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties. The trust is where it belongs—in the people. The responsibility to live up to that trust is where it belongs, in their elected leaders. That kind of relationship, between the people and their elected leaders, is a special kind of compact.