Are America’s Best Days Ahead?
The Right Perspective on the Future
“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” —Thomas Paine in “American Crisis” (1776)
At the 1992 GOP convention, even though it was becoming apparent that a draft-dodging serial adulterer named Bill Clinton might bookend the optimism and character of the Reagan/Bush era, former President Ronald Reagan had this to say about our nation’s future: “America’s best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead. America remains what Emerson called her 150 years ago, ‘the country of tomorrow.’”
I have to ask: Do you believe Reagan’s pronouncement of nearly a quarter-century ago to be true today? If you answered “no,” I certainly understand why. But I believe President Reagan’s words are as true today as in 1992. Allow me to tell you why.
A flood of pessimism continues to swamp our nation, and in the process it has swept away the hopes and dreams of a hundred million Americans, leaving most justifiably angry, if not merely depressed. After more than seven years of abject domestic and foreign policy failures under the Obama regime and its cadres of Socialist Democrats, too many Americans, including more than a few of my fellow Patriots, have lost sight of all that is good and right with America.
Make no mistake: I’m a realist, and I have no illusions about the detrimental impact the last seven years have had on every quarter of our nation. But I do not get caught up in the 24-hour news spin cycle, be it CNN or Fox, and the “chicken little” syndrome they propagate.
I have history’s assurance that Reagan was right. It is the spirit of his words that are most relevant and they reach back to the dawn of our Republic.
In 1777, ahead of the devastating winter at Valley Forge — during the darkest days of the American Revolution, when it seemed all was lost — George Washington remained resolute: “We should never despair, our situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times.”
Those inspirational words are timeless, and they reflect the extraordinary character of our nation’s greatest leaders, from Washington to Reagan, and the generations of Patriot citizens and soldiers between. That character is manifest in the determination that, no matter how dire our current circumstances may be, our devotion to Liberty will ensure a brighter future.
Our circumstances may grow worse — much worse indeed — before growing better. But being rightly and firmly convicted as I am that Liberty is irrevocably “endowed by our Creator” — the foundational premise of our Declaration of Independence — I must ask my doubting brethren: What is the basis for such pessimism?
We don’t have to venture back to Valley Forge for evidence that America, under the banner of Liberty, can endure incredible hardship. Let’s look back just 100 years.
In 1916, our nation was on the verge of entering World War I, a horrific conflict in which allied nations lost 5.5 million of their best and brightest young people. A decade after the conclusion of “The War to End All Wars,” which most certainly didn’t, our nation was at the precipice of the Great Depression in 1929 — and the extended recession that lasted until 1937. Four years later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, thrusting the U.S. into World War II, and the bloody theaters of both Europe and the Pacific.
While I have read extensively the scholarly opinion on these three cataclysmic events, I learned most about them in personal relationships with those who lived through them — including my grandfather and particularly my father. Those events shaped my dad’s optimism and his devotion to our country and our countrymen. I share that devotion.
The American economy enjoyed stable growth between 1945 and 1975, but the harmony of national prosperity was punctuated by the Korean War, the Cold War, social and civil unrest in the 1960s and the slog of Vietnam. In the mid-1970s the U.S. economy hit a wall, and American prestige and morale hit rock bottom during the malaise, “stagflation” and geopolitical impotence of the Jimmy Carter years. So much so that a Misery Index was created.
Enter Ronald Reagan.
In the decade that followed the 1980 election of President Reagan, his domestic policies halted the economic decline and led to one of the longest and strongest periods of economic growth in our nation’s history — in stark contrast to the fun-with-numbers economy of Barack Obama. Reagan’s humor and optimism buoyed the nation.
And notably, Reagan’s ardently anti-communist foreign policy resulted in the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union’s “Evil Empire.”
A decade later, we suffered the devastating 9/11 attack on our nation — the direct result of Bill Clinton’s failure to confront the emerging Islamic terrorist threat, and his unwillingness to eliminate Osama bin Laden when we had him, literally, in our sights. The economy was already in a slide with the bursting of the dot-com bubble during Clinton’s last year in office, and the 2001 jihadist attack merely sealed our economic fate.
Under the leadership of George W. Bush, our nation engaged the Islamic threat on two deadly and protracted warfronts: Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As Bush’s second term concluded, the nation suffered its most significant economic threat since 1929 — the cascading collapse of financial institutions sparked by the bursting of the Democrat-policy induced U.S. housing market bubble.
A smooth-talking domestic and foreign policy neophyte, Barack Hussein Obama, glided into the presidency on those financial woes. Since then, Obama’s failed economic policies have resulted in a sustained recession. His foreign policy failures in the Middle East, under the supervision of his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have been no less spectacular. In fact, they’ve resulted in the deadly rise of the Islamic State and an epic humanitarian crisis.
All that being said, as visceral and dangerous as the current economic and foreign policy threats are, our nation has suffered and survived much worse. Tomorrow’s challenges might rival those of the last hundred years, but that would not change my devotion to Liberty at all costs, and the understanding that this is an eternal mission. I do not belittle the concerns and consequences of the Obama era. On the contrary, I note that these are perilous times for Liberty. But as General Washington said, “We should never despair.”
As I look back over the challenges of the last hundred years, and in fact all the years since the first shots of the American Revolution in 1775, the common distinguishing characteristic of all great Patriots is that they devoted their lives to something much bigger than their own self interest.
That is the underlying message from Washington and Reagan.
In his 1989 farewell speech to the nation, President Reagan responded to being labeled “The Great Communicator.” He said, “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation — from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”
Those “great things” have not changed, nor has our mission to advance them.
For the pessimists among our ranks, I offer a final word. In 1650, English theologian Thomas Fuller wrote, “It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.” The darkest hour of this era may be yet to come, but dawn will surely follow. I am certain that at the end of the current darkness, there will be a bright new dawn for Liberty, just as the sun has dependably risen after the darkest of times throughout our history.
In the meantime, fellow Patriots, as President Reagan’s friend Barry Goldwater declared in mock Latin, “illegitimi non carborundum” (don’t let the bastards get you down)!
Pro Deo et Constitutione — Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
- Ronald Reagan
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