This column originally appeared in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
There are three actions called for in the Declaration of Independence that assure that individual liberty will be preserved:
» We, the People form the government to serve us, not vice versa.
» We, the People elect officials to public office where they take care of details on our behalf.
» We, the People lead those elected officials who lead the government by correcting and supervising them.
The Declaration itself and the Constitution took care of the first duty. We have been doing the second without a lot of enthusiasm.
The third obligation is where we have failed.
The 56 men who signed the Declaration demanded self-government. The only effective way to limit the size and scope of government is for the majority to be willing to govern themselves. But this makes it essential to include families, communities, civic organizations, churches and other volunteer activities. These make each person and community more self-reliant and less dependent on formal government. In the process, our third obligation becomes clear.
Ordinary (and busy) people do not have time to monitor all political activity. That is the job of the elected officials who can do so in only two possible directions: UP, allowing individuals to be free to govern themselves in their pursuit of happiness; or DOWN, which ultimately ends in tyranny. The Founders rejected DOWN.
According to recent Rasmussen polls, 80 percent of the American people believe government is too big and intrusive. Sixty-five percent say the government is operating without consent of the governed. An amazing 78 percent say elected officials are less ethical than society. And 72 percent say that current members of Congress should not be re-elected. Based on that, it would seem that We, the People are alert and aware of the big picture.
What is missing is a deep understanding of the third duty and the substantial power the people possess so long as they stick to principle. Unfortunately, the details that bombard us every day seldom mention key principles. This is because the vast majority of communicators (including many of those we elected) find it profitable to distract We, the People from supervisory, big-picture duties. If we are to preserve freedom, we cannot afford to become distracted. Much like a corporate board of directors, the people need to stay focused on the bottom line and act accordingly.
As a teenager, I worked on a large ranch in New Mexico. Each morning, my working day began with an unforgettable bellow from our foreman: “Get off your ass and on your horse, cowboys, them cows need leadership!”
This July Fourth weekend, as we celebrate the birth of our nation, we need to do as the Founders decreed and build our leadership talents. Then we must listen to the foreman in our own minds and take action, pledging our “lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to each other” to get the job done.
Work and organization are required. Actions and resources like recruiting, educating, training, drilling, encouraging and responding must be put in place. In other words, our citizen leadership skills need to be honed. The result will be millions of inspired citizens intent on restoring the American Dream. UP will destroy the weeds of DOWN.
And together, we will say out loud “If liberty is to be, it is up to me!”