Sunday, February 6, 2011

An homage to our 40th President: Ronald Wilson Reagan


Today we celebrate the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s life and legacy. What a marvelous coincidence that Reagan’s 100th birthday would fall on a Sunday: the one day of the week set aside for Christians to congregate with family and friends to worship the Lord…and something Reagan expressed that he longed for once returning to private life (he was hampered from participating in church services after his assassination attempt). Throughout one of America’s greatest presidents, The Bible had a profound influence in his faith and over the decisions and directions that he chose to lead our Nation.

At his first inauguration, Reagan chose to use his mother’s Bible when taking the oath of office. He placed his hand on one of her favorite verses, II Chronicles 7:14: “If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Reagan said that though America was a nation of many religions, “...most Americans derive their religious beliefs from the Bible of Moses, who delivered a people from slavery; the Bible of Jesus Christ, who told us to love thy neighbor as thyself, to do unto your neighbor as you would have him do unto you.”

He believed that the Bible held “all the answers to all the problems that face us,” and that God was the source of all wisdom and moral guidance: “When we open ourselves to Him, we gain not only moral courage but also intellectual strength.” It was through this providence that sound laws derived. Americans must “seek Divine guidance in the policies of their government and the promulgation of their laws” and “make our laws and government not only a model to mankind, but a testament to the wisdom and mercy of God.”

Reagan professed that God had a special plan for America. Often quoting John Winthrop’s famous 1630 sermon, America should be ‘a shining city on a hill’, a godly example to all nations. This image taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was Reagan’s favorite image and mission of his country: to shine the light of freedom, liberty, and dignity under God.

Matthew 5:14-17
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

Even preceding his presidency, Reagan’s faith was an important factor, among many of his personal characteristics, that gave him the wisdom and moral clarity necessary to surpass the mere role of a politician and lead as a true statesman, a leader among men, a leader who could talk to the American people with honesty, profoundness, and a great reverence for America’s original plight. And it was this clear vision that guided Reagan to speak out when he saw those forces that would attempt to derail America’s success, stifle its freedoms, and subvert it’s exceptional existence.

Today, we share in these similar experiences when comparing our own fight against socialized medicine:

     "One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project, most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it. Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it."

     "... you demand the continuation of our free enterprise system. You and I can do this. The only way we can do it is by writing to our congressmen even if we believe that he is on our side to begin with. Write to strengthen his hand. Give him the ability to stand before his colleagues in Congress and say that he has heard from his constituents and this is what they want. Write those letters now and call your friends and ask them to write. If you don’t, this program I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow and behind it will come other government programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day as Normal Thomas said we will wake to find that we have socialism, and if you don’t do this and I don’t do this, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free."

…as well as the ideals ingrained in those we chose to help ‘turn the ship around’ in the 2010 midterms, and the journey that lay ahead towards the 2012 presidential election:

     “And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. 

     This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves. 

     You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I'd like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There's only an up or down—[up] man's old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.”

     “…Winston Churchill said, "The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we're spirits—not animals." And he said, "There's something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty." 

     You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. 

     We'll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness. 

     …you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.”

Once Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, Americans knew we were in pursuit of a better tomorrow for not only the generations to come, but to correct our course and sustain an exceptional future for our Nation. Now, we find that this same future would mean recognizing and rectifying what Reagan addressed in his first inaugural speech:

     “…For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.
     You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we're not bound by that same limitation? We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding: We are going to begin to act, beginning today.
     The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we've had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.
     In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.”

     “So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.
     It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.
     Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work -- work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.
     If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.
     It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We're not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.”

With these messages, it’s as if he’s speaking to us today…and perhaps he is, for these words and our struggle are immortal in the pursuit of Freedom. Today, Reagan reminds us through his faith and patriotism that as Wendell Phillips once said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” and as Edmund Burke reminds us, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Reagan certainly did something; his profound influence on the American spirit reclaimed that eternal vigilance and desire for Liberty.

" is not free unless government is limited."

God Bless Ronald Reagan, his life, his legacy, and God Bless America!

Sources: The Bible in America Museum Newsletter, The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library, Youtube

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