Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Top Quote from 1974

Every year, Fred Shapiro puts out his "Top Ten Quotes of the Year."  This year, he created a new list, and gives his reason for his top pick:

Fred Shapiro, Yale University

"People resented the fact that [Hayward] was wanting to get back to his yacht races and other aspects of his normal life when those little problems were dwarfed by the magnitude of what people on the Gulf Coast were dealing with," Shapiro said.
Here's the whole top 10 list (courtesy of the AP):

1. (TIE) "I'm not a witch." Christine O'Donnell, television advertisement, Oct. 4.

1. (TIE) "I'd like my life back." Tony Hayward, comment to reporters, May 30.

3. "If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested." airline passenger John Tyner, speaking to Transportation Security Administration worker at San Diego International Airport, Nov. 13.

4. "Don't retreat. Instead - reload!" Sarah Palin, Tweet, March 23.

5. "Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le! Los mineros de Chile!" Chant at Chilean mine rescue, Oct. 13.

6. "I hope that's not where we're going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies [it's about guns]. They're saying: My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?" Sharron Angle, radio interview in January.

7. "We have to pass the [health care] bill so you can find out what is in it." Nancy Pelosi, speech to National Association of Counties, March 9.  [Jimmy Carter must LOVE this woman!]

8. "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach." LeBron James, television broadcast, July 8.

9. "You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?" Christine O'Donnell, Delaware senatorial debate, Oct. 19.  (The Associated Press reported the quote: "So you're telling me that the separation of church and state, the phrase 'separation of church and state,' is in the First Amendment?")

10. "They should never have put me with that woman. ... She was just a sort of bigoted woman who said she used to be Labour." Gordon Brown, commenting about a voter he met while campaigning during the British general election, April 28.

Piggybacking on Shapiro, local Deseret News columnist Lee Benson added his own list of Top Ten Quotes with a Utah flavor.

* * *

It seems the standards of public discourse have slipped substantially if all that is required to make Shapiro's Top Ten List of Quotes these days is to say something so totally dumb and stupid it makes people laugh out loud.  Case in point:  Tied at Number One, Christine O'Donnell said a lot of stupid things in her unsuccessful Senate bid this year, including "I'm not a witch," after admitting she had once "dabbled" in witchcraft earlier in her life.

LeBron James, pretending anyone out there really cared all that much, declared he was taking his talents to South Beach.  It has to be right up there on the top ten list of ego indulgence ever foisted on America.

It started me thinking, what's my favorite quote as I thought back on the 2010 topsy-turvy year in politics?  There are so many who have given up hope in politics and politicians in general.  The country is mired in debt that is escalating now at a quicker pace than revenue (taxes) coming into the Treasury.  It's a dismal time for some, reminiscent of the "malaise" Jimmy Carter once described in a pivotal speech that eventually toppled his miserable presidency. 

It now seems there are many who have been transported back to that time in their minds, if not their stated opinion, of where we are in America.

President Ronald Reagan

Then along came Ronald Reagan, who would have none of it.  At the end of 1974, then Governor Reagan of California gave one of his most famous speeches, known as his "City upon a Hill" speech.  Reagan, of course, went on to beat Carter in the 1980 presidential election and touched off a period of economic recovery, national optimism, and sustained prosperity.   I've already quoted Reagan when he gave his famous farewell address in which again he used the image of the "city on the hill."  So it appears Reagan had a "bookend vision" for America when he commenced his bid to be President as early as 1974, spanning the years he served as President until January, 1989. 

Strange, how Carter was advocating back then for a government-run health care solution, and Reagan was opposed.  "There you go again," he said as Carter rattled off his government program wish list.  It would take 30 years, but finally the "progressives" in government imposed their will on health care and now it is the law of the land at a time when America can least afford another trillion dollar entitlement program.

I make no pretensions about government being able to solve all our social problems, even as laudable and desirable as it may seem to provide health care for everyone.  In fact, I would assert with Ronald Reagan that a bloated government with a voracious appetite for tax dollars has become the problem, exactly as Reagan predicted it would.

So as we come mercifully to the end of the 111th Congress, the end of 2010, the year marking the re-awakening of the American citizenry now aroused over the tyrannical treatment it has been subjected to, it is well to hearken back to another time, another year, when the infusion of optimism was as needed then as it is today.

So my favorite quote of 2010 isn't from 2010 after all.  It comes from 1974, but it is worth repeating and setting the tone for the 112th Congress to be sworn in next week, and for all of us to reconsider as we embark on 2011.  Note unapologetic references to God in Reagan's speech, and compare and contrast with quotes from 2010 that were considered noteworthy, not a single reference to God among them:

You can call it mysticism if you want to, but I have always believed that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.

This was true of those who pioneered the great wilderness in the beginning of this country, as it is also true of those later immigrants who were willing to leave the land of their birth and come to a land where even the language was unknown to them. Call it chauvinistic, but our heritage does not set us apart. Some years ago a writer, who happened to be an avid student of history, told me a story about that day in the little hall in Philadelphia where honorable men, hard-pressed by a King who was flouting the very law they were willing to obey, debated whether they should take the fateful step of declaring their independence from that king. I was told by this man that the story could be found in the writings of Jefferson. I confess, I never researched or made an effort to verify it. Perhaps it is only legend. But story, or legend, he described the atmosphere, the strain, the debate, and that as men for the first time faced the consequences of such an irretrievable act, the walls resounded with the dread word of treason and its price — the gallows and the headman’s axe. As the day wore on the issue hung in the balance, and then, according to the story, a man rose in the small gallery. He was not a young man and was obviously calling on all the energy he could muster. Citing the grievances that had brought them to this moment he said, "Sign that parchment. They may turn every tree into a gallows, every home into a grave and yet the words of that parchment can never die. For the mechanic in his workshop, they will be words of hope, to the slave in the mines — freedom." And he added, "If my hands were freezing in death, I would sign that parchment with my last ounce of strength. Sign, sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, sign even if the hall is ringing with the sound of headman’s axe, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever." And then it is said he fell back exhausted. But 56 delegates, swept by his eloquence, signed the Declaration of Independence, a document destined to be as immortal as any work of man can be. And according to the story, when they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he could not be found nor were there any who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone out through the locked and guarded doors.

Well, as I say, whether story or legend, the signing of the document that day in Independence Hall was miracle enough. Fifty-six men, a little band so unique — we have never seen their like since — pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Sixteen gave their lives, most gave their fortunes and all of them preserved their sacred honor. What manner of men were they? Certainly they were not an unwashed, revolutionary rebel, nor were then adventurers in a heroic mood. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, 11 were merchants and tradesmen, nine were farmers. They were men who would achieve security but valued freedom more.

And what price did they pay? John Hart was driven from the side of his desperately ill wife. After more than a year of living almost as an animal in the forest and in caves, he returned to find his wife had died and his children had vanished. He never saw them again, his property was destroyed and he died of a broken heart — but with no regret, only pride in the part he had played that day in Independence Hall. Carter Braxton of Virginia lost all his ships — they were sold to pay his debts. He died in rags. So it was with Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Rutledge, Morris, Livingston, and Middleton. Nelson, learning that Cornwallis was using his home for a headquarters, personally begged Washington to fire on him and destroy his home — he died bankrupt. It has never been reported that any of these men ever expressed bitterness or renounced their action as not worth the price. Fifty-six rank-and-file, ordinary citizens had founded a nation that grew from sea to shining sea, five million farms, quiet villages, cities that never sleep — all done without an area re-development plan, urban renewal or a rural legal assistance program. . .

Standing on the tiny deck of the
Arabella in 1630 off the Massachusetts coast, John Winthrop said, "We will be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world." Well, we have not dealt falsely with our God, even if He is temporarily suspended from the classroom. . .

We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, "The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind."

We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth.

No comments:

Post a Comment