“Ask not what your country can do for you – Ask what you can do for your country.”
I took those words to heart. Those words, to my parents' surprise and dismay, formed the original core of a conservative belief. Imagine that, the words of a liberal Democrat senator inspiring the political journey of a conservative. Yet, I understood those words as a simple directive: “Be self-reliant.”
Today, another young, handsome, charismatic, liberal Democrat senator prepares to become the President of the United States. This has many conservatives searching for the next conservative leader – another Reagan – someone to deliver their message. Others fret about what that message should be.
I offer no suggestions about who should carry the conservative message. However, the message is ready, and has been for a very long time. There was another orator from that same past era who already delivered the core message:
“Now, my fellow Americans, the tide has been running against freedom. Our people have followed false prophets. We must, and we shall, return to proven ways-- not because they are old, but because they are true.“We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom.
“Freedom made orderly for this nation by our constitutional government. Freedom under a government limited by laws of nature and of nature's God. Freedom balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the slavery of the prison cell; balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the license of the mob and of the jungle.“Now, we Americans understand freedom; we have earned it, we have lived for it, and we have died for it. This nation and its people are freedom's models in a searching world. We can be freedom's missionaries in a doubting world.”
That past dilemma described may seem eerily familiar in light of today's political developments. Many have forgotten those words, still more have never heard them. Most would be hard pressed to identify the speaker. Yet, there is one enduring phrase from that same speech nearly everyone will recognize. The pointed admonition that still applies:
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
There you have it. The message and marching orders. Stand ready for a long, hard battle to reclaim our country.
Dennis P. O'Neil