February 22, 2013

From my favorite vacation place in Vermont, a sunrise has many of the qualities of a sunset. Indeed, when looking at a photograph of light over the Green Mountains, it can be difficult to discern whether it's dawn or dusk. That's in the eye of the beholder.

I enjoy both the morning and evening skies, but I'm a "sunset" person. I live in anticipation of the light of the next sunset, especially in the autumn with the beautiful foliage which is most beautiful among the hundreds of maple trees throughout the state.

My wife, however, is a sunrise person. One may argue that one who loves sunrise is optimistic always looking forward to good things. A sunset person is often looked upon as either more pessimistic or a believer that the best of times have passed away. In my case, however, I simply see beauty and look for the best of things despite what may be interpreted as "the end" of a day or age."

I inherited that propensity from my father, tempered as a child of the Great Depression. After the Depression waned, he was hired as a natural gas maker for a local utility, thankful to be employed anywhere. He possessed dedication and hard work, and he raised a family through the turbulence of the '60s and the malaise of the '70s. At his passing in 2000, he still looked back on the "good ole times" when his hard work paid off with the benefits of a humble, but comfortable life. He was positive, even when all he had at his advanced age was looking back.

My father saw the best and worst of times. Given the wisdom of age, he clearly saw prior to his death that there were threats to Liberty already in place in the late 90s and there would be serious challenges facing this generation. He saw similar threats and challenges from FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society. He couldn't put it in words, or define their programs for what they really, but what he surmised in his mind was that our country was becoming a socialist state with a nanny mentality.

In my life's hobby -- as an analyst of political, social and economic trends, and a forecaster of their consequences -- sometimes it's difficult to hold fast to the "sunrise" perspective. For me, it's getting harder to see the beauty in the "sunset". But I can't help but see opportunity in any crisis, including the present. In addition to this predisposition for optimism, I'm also grateful for the example set by another eternal optimist and mentor, Ronald Reagan.

I wasn't around for the New Deal, of course, I do recall some of the Great Society years, as I was entering my teen years when most of those programs were getting underway.

I do clearly recall the Great Malaise of the 1970s, which began while I was in college and reached it's height while in graduate school. I watched as this country entered a time of high unemployment and interest rates to match, runaway inflation, energy shortages, menacing threats from abroad, and a president who, though a man of good character, was wholly unequipped to handle the job. Then came President Reagan, who ably led our nation's about face, restored our national dignity, and seeded the longest economic expansion in history.

Ronald Reagan was a sunrise president. He heralded Morning in America. He focused on all that was good and right with America, the bright days ahead.

Reagan's spirit shines today in stark contrast to the darkness our adversaries promote. They appeal to the worst in their constituents -- their fears, doubts, greed, envy, brokenness, pessimism and dependence on the state.

Indeed, light is the mark of Liberty while darkness is the result of statism. But a physicist will tell you that darkness does not exist -- it is only the absence of light. So it is with the hearts and minds of men.

Today (Friday), we observe the life of another sunrise president, George Washington, whose birthday (February 22, 1732) was spontaneously celebrated nationally from the date of his death in 1799 until 1879, when Congress officially established the observance.

Washington was not only the model of presidential character, but also the character of our nation. He endured great trials to lead his generation of American Patriots, those who pledged their Lives, Fortunes and sacred Honor to lay the foundation of American Liberty and Rule of Law. Those who don't know our great history are predisposed to think of our Founding Fathers' trials as distant and unrelated to those of the present day. And yet, as the old English proverb concludes, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

For instructive insight into Washington as president, it would be sufficient to read his First Inaugural Address, delivered on April 30, 1789, and his Farewell Address of September 17, 1796. These two speeches embody the real George Washington, and the true spirit of a Patriot. They were written by his hand, not professional speech writers guided by focus groups.

In the former, he stated, "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People."

In the latter, he wrote, "The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government."

He made plain in his Farewell, "Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions [sic]with private and public felicity. ... Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Washington's advice from the bleak days of 1777 is as applicable today as then: "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."

American Patriots, take heart. I am certain that at the end of the current long, dark night that there will be a bright new dawn for Liberty, just as the sun has dependably risen after the darkest of times throughout our history.

English theologian Thomas Fuller wrote in 1650, "It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth." The darkest hour of this era has yet come, but dawn will surely follow.

Despite my love for sunset (remember, I am looking at its beauty) I can still be optimistic and on this birthday of the Father of our Nation I would like to remind you of a timely piece of advice President Reagan's friend Barry Goldwater gave: "illegitimi non carborundum". That is translated "Don't let the bastards get you down!"

We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.