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Conservatism Will Triumph

Synopsis: In this Jan. 31 speech, Pat tells conservatives that the ideals they aspire to will survive and come to dominate the American agenda once again. Conservatism depends on the people who espouse those ideals and not Ronald Reagan, the leader who implemented them so effectively during his presidency. Pat urges conservatives to take up the standard and continue the battle for a strong America.

Conservative Political Action Center, Jan. 31, 1986

The conservative agenda, which you have targeted and on which all of us have long labored-is about to be completed …unless we are defeated in our minds and hearts. We will win -- unless for reasons of political expediency or tactical compromise, we let certain objectives and ideals be sacrificed.

Conservatism a Passing Fancy?

The pundits, columnists, and editorialists are this day wagering their word processors that conservatism is only a passing fancy. They are betting that Reaganism cannot survive Reagan. They are betting that the conservative cause cannot last without the charisma of a leader.

They are wrong because if principles lived only as long as the proponents who advanced them, the Declaration of Independence and the ideals it inscribed would have died on July 4, 1826, that 50-year anniversary date on which the last signers, Adams and Jefferson, died. They are wrong because ideals transcend leaders.

Conservatism does not depend upon holding the White House, but rather upon the millions who chose President Reagan to occupy it.

I remember the first time I ever visited the White House. My father, who was then Senator from Virginia, took me along to see Harry Truman in an exercise of senatorial privilege. In subsequent visits the magnificent simplicity of the President's Oval Office has never lost its impact.

An Unfinished Portrait

One of the most curious items to see in a visit is a portrait. This painting which was supposed to depict the Signers of the Declaration, hangs just outside the Office. The painting attracts your attention because it is unfinished. The artist who was commissioned by Congress died before he could complete it. The result is a work one quarter done and the rest stark gray canvas. A few completed sketches of figures sit in the foreground. The rest of the figures are only dimly penciled in the background.

One President, Dwight Eisenhower, suggested that the unfinished portrait might reveal the hand of Divine Providence. For in that uncompleted painting there is revealed a message for all of us -- that it is not just the Signers, or the Presidents, or Congress who have the responsibility of preserving our freedoms, but all of us. All of us belong in that picture. That space in the picture is for all of us. That preservation of democratic rights depends not on leaders, but on us. That the greatness of a democracy depends not upon an extraordinary leader, but on ordinary men doing things extraordinarily well.

Abraham Lincoln said much the same thing. He was making his way by train to the inauguration in Washington, On February 22, he was in Philadelphia and at Independence Hall and he stopped to say a few words for the festivities honoring the first President.

"Finally, my fellow citizens, it is not the Presidents, not the Congress, not the office seekers, but to you whom the question remains, "Shall the liberties be preserved until the next generation?"

Conservatism Will Survive

George Washington, by the way, was one of the first to coin the word "American" to describe the settlers of the thirteen colonies. Well, Lincoln was saying in effect that Americanism did not stop with George Washington. Today we say that Conservatism will not stop with Ronald Reagan. And we say with Winston Churchill "This is not the end of (conservatism) nay, not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning." Conservatism is beginning a new era, a new chapter that will bring a new challenge to our resolve, our stamina, and our unity.

Some two centuries before the Thirteen Colonies met to establish a nation, there was another confederation created-the Long House confederation of Indian tribes that stretched their hegemony from Canada to Chesapeake Bay where I have established my roots.

The Susquehanna River, which begins in New York State and empties into the Chesapeake, would become the water highway of that nation. And on an island in that river, the various tribes met to consider the advantages of union. Chief Hiawatha took five sticks, representing the five nations, and asked each of the chiefs to break the bundle of tide sticks. None could, and then Hiawatha untied the sticks and broke each stick separately. So Hiawatha persuaded the tribes on the advantages of unity.

I mention that today because the Conservative Movement is more than a collection of constituent causes. Conservatism is greater than the sum of the many rights we protect and defend.

Our Priorities Vary

Some of us may feel more fervently about moral rights: the right of unborn children to live, the right of our school children to pray, or the right to be free of pornography and drugs.

Others may be more concerned about civil rights -- the right to have a protected home, or the right to walk our streets and neighborhoods safely at night.

Those of us who have families in Communist lands might want most to champion political rights-the right of Polish workers to a solidarity movement, or the rights of freedom fighters in Nicaragua and Angola to democracy and political justices or the rights of our citizens traveling abroad to be free of international terrorism.

Still others may be aroused by economic rights -- the right to pay only fair taxes, the right of our posterity to be freed of monstrous deficit, or the right of citizens to be submitted a balanced budget by its government.

But whatever our special goal, we will risk defeat if we allow our adversaries to engage us singly, one by one, cause by cause. There is nothing our opponents want more than for us to disassociate disintegrate and disband and then break each of us separately by labeling us as some ""kook" unrepresentative pressure group.

Or as Benjamin Franklin so succinctly put it to the Continental Congress, "If we do not hang together, we may all hang separately."

But it is more than a question of strategy; it is a question of soul. We in the conservative movement will prevail unless we fail to see the spiritual chord that binds and wraps our causes in a crusade. Abraham Lincoln sensed it when he quoted from Shakespeare, "There's a rough divinity that hews and shapes our ways."

Judeo-Christian Ethic Central

After all, we are a nation whose purpose in government is graced by the Judeo-Christian ethic. When we landed at Plymouth Rock, the first words expressed in the Mayflower Compact were "In the name of God Amen." Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention two centuries ago in petitioning for prayer said, "If no sparrow can fall from the sky without his notice, surely no nation can rise from the ground without his assistance."

The last addition Abraham Lincoln made to the Gettysburg Address while Edward Everett was delivering the main address of the day was to insert "under God"-"That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom."

So as we fight for our rights, let us remember where our Founding Fathers believed those rights were derived. Thomas Jefferson writing in that rooming house on Cherry Street in Philadelphia wrote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are endowed by their creator with certain"…and what is the next word? Some of you say 'inalienable' and some say 'unalienable.' In a way you're both right!

It is engraved 'inalienable' on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial. But in the copy of the Declaration of Independence that can be seen at the National Archives, it reads 'unalienable'. That is because the revision committee-John Adams and Benjamin Franklin-changed Jefferson's word 'inalienable' to 'unalienable.'

Inalienable, Unalienable?

Now you ask what difference does it make; Well, perhaps only a lawyer turned preacher would try to find out. (Some of my friends say I went to Union Seminary to undo the sins collected at Yale Law School!)

The phrase 'inalienable' which Jefferson employed is still a current phrase in legal usage which describes something that cannot be involuntarily taken from you-a wristwatch, car, or house. On the other hand, you can voluntarily sell, will, deed or give it away.

"Unalienable' however, is an archaic 18th century word, and it describes the rights given by God-rights you cannot give, sell, or deed away. But rights which you must preserve for your children and children's children.

By the dignity of being God's children, we have unalienable rights-the right to be born, to walk without fear, to pray without interference, and to live in freedom.

There are those of our adversaries, not just abroad, but at home, who deny that dimension of deity in our rights and in our purpose. They are the ones who see the Soviet Union as different from us only politically, but not spiritually. These are the advocates of "moral equivalence" who, in their glib talk of "superpowers," strip Lincoln's democratic mission and purpose from our spiritual Heritage. Perhaps this nation has not always lived up to its ideals, but isn't that because no nation ever wrote higher ideals to live up to.

"Moral Equivalence" a Misnomer

These peddlers of "moral equivalence" remind me of the preacher who once visited a convict. The prisoner who had committed an armed robbery told the parson who had confessed to jay walking "Well, Reverend, we're both criminal; after all we both broke the law."

We see the moral "equivalence" permeates our movies and televisions where Soviet counterparts of our CIA agents seem always to have redeeming qualities, but our American businessmen, on the other hand, have none.

There is a word for this-devised by the late Stewart Alsop. He called it 'spiritual appeasement'--the selling short of America, and by doing so, the betraying mission and its way of life. There is no more sticky evidence of this disease than the recent rash of spies who sold their country's secrets to pay credit card debts. When we deny our spiritual heritage, we become materialists just as the Marxists.

Today we see in the Soviet Union attempts at decollectivization. In the People's Republic of China we see the initiatives in economic incentive. In Poland, we see churches once again filled.

In other words, when they are in a sense, beginning to turn our way -- let us not make the mistake of beginning to turn their way!

Remember Our Grand Purpose

A German philosopher once wrote of a passerby who observed three stone masons. He asked the fist, "What are you doing?" He answered, "I am chipping stone." Then the second mason was questioned and he replied, "I'm building a wall." Finally he queried the third stone mason. He responded, "I'm erecting a cathedral."

If each of us will remember that our particular project is part of a grand purpose, that our special cause is part of a grand crusade, no opposition will stay our hand nor stifle our spirit. But each of us in our own project or cause can help America fulfill the dream our Founding Fathers sought. And each of us in our life can bring nobility to America by making our job a vocation, our house a home, our community a neighborhood and our religious creed a commitment.

As great a personality as President Reagan has been, as dynamic a spokesman he has been, we should note that it is not the leader, but the creed that has stirred souls' and mobilized your movement. It is not the candle bearer that gives off light, but the candle itself that lights our path. And, as long as we do not let the flame of ideals flicker out, we shall never lack for those who will bear the torch.

The day President Reagan steps down from the Presidency is seen as a dark one by some conservatives. But I am reminded of a day in Hartford, Connecticut on June 4, 1780 when an eclipse of the sun made noon of that day dark as midnight.

Keep the Candles Lit

In that day -- more religious than ours -- some thought the Day of Judgment had truly come. In the Legislature there was panic. Legislators were then motioning for adjournment. But Colonel Davenport, Speaker of the House, gaveled down the motions saying:

"Gentlemen of the House, the world is either coming to an end or it is not coming to an end. If it is not coming to an end, there is no need to adjourn. But if it is coming to an end, I want the Lord to find me doing my duty. I therefore will entertain the motion that each of us light candles so that we may enlighten this hall of democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, our pilgrimage is still unfinished, our journey unended; let us with the candles of our ideals, continue.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
—Philippians 4:13

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