Thursday, April 28, 2011

Power: The True Test of Character

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln's statement is simply profound. Today, it has become nearly commonplace to learn  about how certain individuals have overcome adversity - be it broken homes, illness, job losses, poor schools, physical ailments, addictions, and other maladies.  Those people are rightfully applauded for becoming successful by overcoming their challenges.  They are exemplars and should be emulated.

What you don't read about often is about the men and women who wield power and decline to use or abuse it. Of course, too often we learn about abuses and corruptions of power.  Some such "leaders" are across the globe - witness North Korea, Cuba, Libya, and elsewhere; some are too close for comfort - witness Detroit's ex-mayor and the disgraced former governors of New York and Illinois.

What we should keep in mind - and they are indeed a vanishing breed - are the men and women who are given great power, and use it responsibly - or even more rarely - refuse to exercise it - to allow for liberty to flourish. 

America was founded on the premise of limited government - that men and women are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, and that the purpose of government is to protect those rights. We must remember that the power to do good is also the power to do evil. That sometimes the most courageous exercise of power is to refuse to wield it. That sometimes people must be allowed to go their own way; that the spark of freedom is in much having the ability to strive and fail than anything else. As Lincoln said, the true test of character is to see what one does - or does not do - with power.

Don't forget to visit Patriot Week

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jamestown: The Spirit of America Sets Sail

Today marks the 404th anniversary of the departure of the Discovery, Godspeed, and Susan Constant to what eventually became Jamestown.  The 104 colonists that arrived in modern day Virginia eventually founded Jamestown -  the first permanent English settlement in North America.

Dr. Joseph Warren, a leading Patriot in Boston with John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, eloquently explained what motivated the Jamestown and subsequent settlers:

Our fathers having nobly resolved never to wear the yoke of despotism, and seeing the European world, at the time, through indolence and cowardice, failing a prey to tyranny, bravely threw themselves upon the bosom of the ocean, determined to find a place in which they might enjoy their freedom, or perish in the glorious attempt. Approving heaven beheld the favourite ark dancing upon the waves, and graciously preserved it until the chosen families were brought in safety to these western regions.

As we know, the going at Jamestown was miserable, and many lost their lives.  Eventually, however, their persistence in the face of famine, disease, and clashes with Native Americans led to success and a thriving colony.

This spirit of determination for liberty eventually paved the way for the creation of the American republic.  We are now the ark of freedom for the world.  And we owe it to those who came before us to secure the ark for future generations.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Detroit: Important at the Founding and Important Today

"I took the liberty of suggesting the propriety . . . of paying particular attention to the French and other Settlers at Detroit . . . " George Washington (1783).

Washington's particular attention was a prophetic clarion call of the need to pay attention to Detroit.  It has often the harbinger of things to come.  Once a backwater fort, it became the arsenal of democracy and revolutionized the world with mass production. It built a middle class by giving the working class fair wages and working conditions, and established world class cultural institutions, schools, and universities.

Through its trials and tribulations, Detroit has become the symbol of all of what is right - and wrong - about America.  Today, much of it is crumbling. But its spirit is strong, and even a cursory glance at the city reveals that there are many signs of hope and renewal. New developments are springing up across the city, cultural institutions are adapting to new realities, new superior schools are operating, and pockets of urban vibrancy are on the upswing.

To help in these efforts, Patriot Week is launching its kick-off, and 10th anniversary commemoration of 9/11, at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne - a magnificent 1840s era fort on the Detroit river. If in all its adversity Detroit can be the center of a renewal of the American spirit, then surely the rest of the nation can follow. What will save Detroit will save America.  Join Patriot Week and renew America.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Lost Art of Minding One's Own Business

When about to depart the presidency, Calvin Coolidge remarked, "Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business."  

Today such a remark would be so shocking to the political and media class that it would likely be headline news. With a 24 hour news cycle, blogs, webcasts, and press release frenzy, it seems that politicians are encouraged and expected to comment on every bit of news, culture, movies, game shows, sports, scandals, and the ravings of unbalanced celebrities. No wonder there seems to be so little time for the important things - like debts, deficits, and wars.

Coolidge's wisdom was profound - but lost today. Do your part - ignore the likes of Charlie Sheen - and force the political class to focus on what is really important - the enduring and long-term values, principles, and finances of the country. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Keep Swinging!

Keep Swinging (april 8)
Today marks the anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's home run record.  Hammerin' Hank reflected that "My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was to keep swinging."
Aaron's motto could accurately be dubbed America's motto. The American spirit has always included persistence, determination, and optimism in face of daunting odds. When we declared independence, it was against the greatest empire the world had ever seen. With a ragtag army, stationed on the outskirts of civilization, we were able to defeat the great military might of the British Empire.
We prevailed again in the War of 1812, survived the cataclysm of the Civil War, beat back German imperialism in WWI, and defeated Nazi Germany and imperial Japan in WWII. All the while, our future was not certain - but our determination to prevail was.
Today times are very tough - but with the right spirit, we have won in tougher times. We need to renew the American spirit - through efforts like Patriot Week  - to ensure we continue to win in the future.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Americans and Threats to America

"Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity and hardihood - the things that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity for any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life." President Theodore Roosevelt.

Although one might debate the words, the sentiments reflect enduring truths about America. America, after all, is as much an ideal as a place. Our founding First Principles - equality, unalienable rights, the Social Compact, the rule of law, limited government and the right to alter or abolish an oppressive government - are what bind us together. The virtues described by Teddy Roosevelt are the ways that those First Principles became realities - it takes courage to fight for freedom, it takes sincerity to believe in freedom, it takes honor to live for freedom. And the threats to our liberty mostly involve not putting first things first. Indeed, our liberty is most threatened when we put easy choices - or just ease of living - ahead of what really matters.

A quick look around puts shudders down my spine. How much time and energy, for example, has been wasted on Charlie Sheen? We should be focused on what really matters, not the trivial. Do your part, embrace the important and shun the trivial and banal.

Monday, April 4, 2011

King's Dream Lives On

Today marks the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr by James Earl Ray. Although many of us are too young to remember King while living, his legacy still burns brightly in the national consciousness. 

King bravely led the civil rights struggle for racial equality to new heights.  He reminded our nation that the First Principle of equality articulated in our Declaration of Independence - that "all men are created equal" - had not yet been fulfilled.  King's efforts led to the passage of historic civil rights acts that ensured racial equality in voting, employment, and public accommodations. 

Although he was slain, he remains a great inspiration to new generations of Americans. That is not to say that the struggle for equality has ended - we have much progress to go - but we should acknowledge with great reverence the sacrifices of the generations before us as we look forward to fulling the pledge of equality. 

In addition, King's life expresses what it is to be an American - to have the ability to assemble, speak, and publish freely about the issues of the day - and to challenge the government in its most basic policies.  In most nations in history - and many today (witness China, Burma, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Libya) - these basic unalienable rights have been and are denied by oppressive governments. 

These are the reasons, among other reasons, that Patriot Week celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. on September 15.  Join us at

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Iran: We Ignore their Tyranny at Our Peril

While freedom swept Egypt, Iran's radical theological regime continued its tyrannical oppression of its own people.  In February thousands of protestors - clearly inspired by events in Egypt - took to the streets demanding reform. This was a brave move in light of Iran's previous crushing of street protests which resulted in the deaths of dozens and imprisonment of scores more.

So how did the Iranian government react?  Gholam Hooseein Mohseni Ejehi, spokesman for the judiciary and prosecutor, announced that "The judiciary will quickly and resolutely deal with major elements and those who violated public order and peace."  Meanwhile, legislators - members of the governing party - called for the execution of the colleagues - those, that is, who are in the opposition party.

Why is this important to Americans?  Because despite our apathy, Iran is the very embodiment of a regime based on First Principles exactly opposite of America's.  We believe in equality - Iran embodies inequality against women into its governing law.  We believe in the rule of law - Iran believes in the rule of the gun.  We believe in the Social Compact (i.e., consent of the governed) - Iran believes in oppression of the people.  We believe in limited government - Iran believes in totalitarianism.  We believe in the ability to alter or abolish an oppressive government - Iran believes in abolishing the opposition.

Iran is important because its civilization is ancient (the Persian empire), they are smart, they have a loyal following, they are developing nuclear weapons, they want to annihilate Israel, and they export terror.  They want the world to follow their model.  Unlike Egypt or Libya, Iran has a philosophical government based on radical Islam that appeals to those outside of its borders.  If that model is seen attractive and continues to spread, over the long-term, it will threaten Western civilization.  Remember, communism started in one country; so did republican government.  We need to show the world that Iran is simply one thing: evil; and that America's First Principles should inspire the world - not Iran's. Iran apparently has fallen down the list of American foreign policy perspectives - and we do this at our peril.