THE SAPIENT SPARROW: conservatism for commoners

"What has always made the State a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven."–Holderlin

ONE BRIEF SHINING MOMENT: George W. Bush @ SMU

Former President George W Bush

Yesterday, former President George W. Bush spoke at Southern Methodist University.  As he described the vision for the George W. Bush Policy Institute, it felt as if I had awakened from a nightmare to find a bright morning full of possibilities.  President Bush stated his goal of “continued public service” guided by the same personal values that guided his presidency, to wit, empowering the individual to take advantage of opportunities, free markets, personal responsibility, freedom and the dignity and value of the individual.  Furthermore, President Bush emphasized that the Bush Institute would be non-partisan, impact the real world, set goals and measure results.  He outlined four major areas in which the Bush Institute would work: education, global health, freedom and economic growth.

Previously, I might have not listened to this speech at all.  If I had, it would not have had the same impact on me. Yesterday, his words fell on my ear like rain after a particularly dry spell.  After ten months, (has it been only ten months?), of hearing tortured “Obamaspeak”, the same slick boilerplate speeches, the lectures on greed and profit, not to mention the tiring rhetoric that, predictably, ends up blaming “the Former Administration” for worsening conditions, Mr. Bush provided genuine and powerful images of America, great and prosperous again.  This was a speech of substance, not soaring rhetoric.  It was a speech that touched and moved my spirit.  It was the speech of an adult.  It was a speech that never once produced a “shout out”, or overused words like “robust”,  “transparency”, “sustainable”, “back from the brink”, “teaching moment”, “at the end of the day”, etc., etc., etc.

His themes kept catching both my attention and imagination: accountability, measurable outcomes, partnership instead of paternalism, not dictating strategies to others, and above all, freedom.  It fell to Mr. Bush to correct the glaring omission of the Obama Administration at Berlin with respect to the contribution of President Reagan in ending the Cold War.  Mr. Bush, with pride, told the story of how the words of Mr. Reagan encouraged and supported those who fought for freedom behind the Iron Curtain, and eventually allowed them to prevail.  As he described his “Freedom Initiative”, Mr. Bush built on this theme.  What emerged was the picture of internet technology reaching out to dissidents with the message, “as you stand, we will stand with you”.  Using the internet to effect the destruction of totalitarian regimes reminded me of the way that radio, the cutting-edge technology of its day, was used to reach behind the Iron Curtain through Radio Free Europe.  It was a good memory and a powerful one.

Next, President Bush turned to the “Economic Initiative” of the Bush Institute.  He stated clearly that it was “not the job of Government to create wealth, but to create the environment in which it thrives”.  He opined that as this Country moves through the current economic downturn it would be tempting to replace the free market private sector with the “blunt instrument” of Government regulation and control.  But in terms of economic growth, he said, “the problem is not too little government but too much”.  The “Economic Initiative” will focus on economic growth both at home and abroad.  Promoting free trade, as over against protectionism, and cheap, clean, abundant energy.

Finally, Mr. Bush spoke about the promotion of  “social entrepreneurship” and empowering women in all areas through these initiatives.  Before introducing his wife, former First Lady, Laura Bush, he made a last forceful statement, “I am convinced”, he said, “that the women in the Middle East will lead the move to democracy.  They will have an ally in the Bush Institute.”

For one brief shining moment, yesterday, I caught a glimpse of America—strong , prosperous, mighty, benevolent, God-fearing and just.  That is my America, not the one that apologizes, victimizes, coerces, begs foreign money, creeps relentlessly toward socialism, appeases dictators and gives its own, at home and abroad, platitudes and empty promises in the midst of their great need.  Until I heard Mr. Bush yesterday, I had not realized how much I missed his manner, his humor and his steady, unwavering belief in our purpose as a great people who have been immeasurably blessed by this Country.   God bless you, Mr. Bush for refreshing my soul.

In 2010, let us all resolve to find and work for those, who like President Bush will truly discharge their duties as our elected officials with integrity.  Let us find and work for those who share the kind of values delineated in this speech.  Let us find and work for those who share a vision for this Country in keeping with her founding principles.  Let us believe that in so doing, we will stretch one brief shining moment into
a lifetime of lifetimes.

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