In the spirit of Independence day, I’d like to share the original full text of a speech I wrote for the under-30 speech contest put on by the organizers of the Western Conservative Summit. A shortened version of the speech is given in this video.
The gist of the speech is that our independence and liberty can only be maintained if we have, as the founders did, a firm reliance on God.
Today I would like to talk about how we can win the fight against liberalism, and save America, both today, and in the next generation.
Right now, America is in peril. I think that most of us would agree that this is a critical time in our nation’s history.
The choices that America makes over the next decade will have a profound impact on her future. It will decide what kind of country my children, and your grandchildren, will be living in when they are my age.
Will America be free, or will she have an oppressive form of government?
We in the conservative movement understand the dangers facing America. We can see the peril.
You saw it coming. And you fought to try to prevent it. And we will continue to fight to turn America around.
Many of you have warned America of what would happen if we forsook our founding principles, and our founding documents.
Those things are the foundation of this nation, and if we allow that foundation to be eroded beneath our very feet, we will fall.
So you have fought to uphold those foundations.
We have signed petitions and called and written Congress on innumerable issues.
We have held rallies, many thousands and hundreds of thousands strong, on numerous occasions.
We have founded organizations to promote our values and beliefs.
We hold conferences like this one.
We’ve raised millions of dollars to take the fight to the courts, to lobby Congress, and to support conservative candidates.
We have recruited and endorsed candidates at all levels of government.
Many of you have held office, are currently serving, or have run for office or are running for office, to advance the conservative cause.
We have done, and continue to do, what we can, to build the conservative movement.
And we have accomplished so much.
And yet… Here America stands, as if at the edge of a great abyss.
And some of us cannot but question whether a movement which has tried so hard to pull America back from that danger, as she steps closer and closer, whether that movement will be able to stop her from leaping over the edge.
If everything that we had couldn’t keep America out of peril, how will it be enough to bring her back from that peril, to restore her footing on the firm foundations of liberty and the constitution, and the values that we hold dear?
Is what we are doing enough?
I think that we have to ask ourselves this question, for the sake of America.
If what we are doing is going to come up short, then we need to form a new battle plan.
If there is anything more that we can do, then we must.
For the sake of America. For the sake of my children, and your grandchildren.
I don’t think that there is anybody here who can say with confidence that they believe America will still be clinging to her conservative moors in two generations.
I don’t think that there is anybody here who can say with confidence that they believe that America, the America that you and I know and love, will be preserved, and understood and embraced, by the next generation.
Even if we rescue America today, can we really be confident that she won’t begin edging back toward liberalism tomorrow?
I was born in ’95. The only thing that I can remember about Ronald Reagan, is the day he died, and his funeral.
But Reagan lives on in a legacy that he left to us.
To many today, he is the paragon of conservatism.
Reagan was a great man, and he was President at another critical time in our nation’s history.
The conservative movement was still young then.
But it fought hard. And won.
And yet, one generation later, a liberal dictator sits in the Oval Office.
How does that happen?
I reckon the conservative movement today must be bigger than it ever was before.
There are more people, who are more involved, raising more money and taking more action, than ever before.
And yet, we still can’t be confident that this time we will win.
Or that even if we do, we will truly be securing America for the next generation.
Will America learn from that, and embrace the principles that can save her?
Or will she once again move toward the abyss of tyranny, from which she will hardly be able to recover herself?
What did America learn from Reagan?
Did America learn from Reagan?
Or did the next generation forget?
We have all done so much. Everything we can, it seems.
And yet it seems that America will likely continue to hover near the edge of socialism for generations to come.
Even if she has her Reagan’s.
She may swerve at times to the left or to the right, but in the end she will continue traveling down the same path.
A path away from our founding documents. Away from our founding principles. Away from the vision of our forefathers. Away from conservative values.
Why is this?
We seem to be doing the things that we are doing with all our might. And yet that doesn’t seem to be enough.
If you are thinking to yourself that you are doing everything that you can, know that I’m not here to tell you to try harder.
I’m not here to tell you that you need to do more.
But that maybe we should ask ourselves whether there is something more that we can do.
And if there is, we have a duty to ourselves, to our children, and to our country, to find out what it is, and do it.
Because otherwise, America will fall, never to rise again.
So, what else is there?
Why is it that all that we have done doesn’t seem to have changed Washington, to have changed the direction of this country?
Our first President, George Washington, once said that “[V]irtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”
In other words, you can’t have liberty, without integrity.
Liberty, without integrity, is anarchy.
That ultimately leads to more and more infighting and oppression, and ends in tyranny.
George Washington also said that: “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people. The general government . . . can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any despotic or oppresive form so long as there is any virtue in the body of the people.”
Today we are keenly aware of that very danger. In fact, we could say that it is already upon us. That our government is actively in the process of degenerating into an ever more oppressive form.
According to our first President, it is impossible for this happen while there is any virtue in the people.
So if it is happening now, what does that tell us about the heart of the people of America?
Many of us like to talk about how out of touch so many of the people in Washington are. But I’d like to ask you today, is Washington really the problem? Or is it only the symptom of a much deeper illness?
Today, Washington boasts an incumbency rate of more than 95%. The incumbency rate hasn’t dropped below 80% for the last 30 years.
More than 16% of congress has served for 20 years or more. That means that a sixth of Washington’s aristocracy has remained unchanged for my entire life.
If Washington is so out of touch, and yet the people keep reelecting their representatives, who is really out of touch?
I think it is time that we step back, and consider whether Washington is really the problem, or whether the true problem is deeper than that.
Is Washington really just a reflection, a reflection of the heart of America? Of the heart of her people?
None of us wants to believe that.
But you see, every few years, America has the opportunity to create a new Washington. To change it. To shape it and mold it to be whatever it wants it to be.
And we all know the Washington that it has created, and maintained.
We like to joke about low-information voters.
But I’d like us to ask ourselves whether the problem with the voters is really only a matter of ignorance.
Is the problem that the voters don’t have enough head-knowledge to make informed decisions about whom to vote for, or is the problem really deeper than that?
Is the problem up here, in the voter’s heads? Or is it really down here, in their hearts?
George Washington believed that knowledge wasn’t the key to sustaining our republic. It was virtue.
In the Bible it says, “Add unto your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge.”
It puts virtue before knowledge.
Because without virtue, there is no will to obtain that knowledge.
It is only when you understand and embrace your duty to your God and your fellow man, that you will diligently seek the knowledge necessary to perform that duty well.
An ignorance in regard to our vote—a duty and privilege so precious—is inexcusable.
And it belies the fact that virtue has departed from America.
We in the conservative movement make an effort to reach out to people. To educate and inform voters.
And this is a necessary thing.
But there comes a time when this is not enough.
There comes a time when people won’t just ignorantly choose liberalism. They’ll knowingly choose it.
They’ll reject the country that our founders created, reject the principles in her founding documents that made her great.
Because it’s a matter of the heart.
They’ve rejected good and evil in favor of relativism.
They’ve rejected conservative values in favor of liberalism, or populism.
They’ve rejected virtue.
And that lack of morality, that lack of virtue, provides no foundation for conservatism. No supports upon which its principles can lean.
And so, as George Washington predicted, such a nation will fall from its republican form of government.
Conservatism, in the face of an amoral society, cannot be maintained.
And so I submit unto you today, that we will never truly change Washington, we will never truly change the direction of this country, until we first change the heart of America, and restore her virtue.
It seems like we have done everything that we can to promote conservatism. But America continues to step closer and closer to the edge of the abyss.
We have done everything possible to promote our solutions to her issues, and pull her back.
But it is not possible to impose conservatism upon a virtueless society.
It cannot be generated in a top-down manner. We cannot change Washington, and think that this will change America, and it will see the light.
If we want to change Washington, if we want to restore America, then we have to go to the heart of the problem.
And that is the heart of America. The hearts of her people.
But if the problem is in the heart of America, then how do we fix it?
If that “something more” that we must do in order to restore America, is to restore virtue to her people, how can we achieve that?
You can’t see into someone’s heart and know what’s there.
So how can you change it? How do you know how to change it?
We can’t. But God can.
It says in Psalm 7 verse 9 that “the righteous God trieth the hearts.”
God tries the hearts. As a metal is tried in the fire, tested and purified.
God is the one who can try and purify the hearts of America.
King David, who wrote Psalm 7, goes on to say in the next verse, “My defense is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.”
If we want to save America, if we want to restore her, and deliver her from liberalism, from socialism, from oppression and tyranny, we’re going to need God’s help.
We must rely today, as we seek to restore America, upon that same Divine Providence upon which the founders declared their firm reliance, when they penned the Declaration of Independence, and this nation was born.
If we want a new birth of freedom, it must come from that same Source of all life, which guided those men who first gave breath to our republic.
And God declares that he does help us, and deliver us.
He saves the upright in heart.
But before America can receive that deliverance, it needs to have its heart tried, and purified. It needs to be made upright in heart.
About a year ago, I set out on a journey. A journey of the heart.
A journey that led me unexpected places.
This journey began as I started studying the book of Psalms in the Bible.
You might guess that I wasn’t searching for political advice.
I was seeking to better understand the many prophecies of our Savior Jesus Christ which I knew to be there.
And I found that.
But at the same time I also found something that I was not looking for.
And that is how the heart of a nation affects their liberty, and determines whether they are oppressed or free.
You see, King David wrote the early chapters of the book of Psalms in just such a time as this.
The nation of Israel was in peril.
There was wickedness and oppression in government.
David himself even lost power and had to flee for a short time, while unjust men raised up the people against him, in an attempt to take the power of the kingdom to themselves.
But through it all, David stayed true.
And because he trusted in God, he was delivered, and the power of the kingdom was restored to him.
But that wasn’t the end.
That wasn’t the end because David saw that there was still a problem.
He saw that the upheaval that the nation had experienced, wasn’t just because of a few bad men in high office.
He understood that for these men to have obtained the support of many of the people, there must be a much deeper problem.
And when David returned to the throne, he realized that oppression was still taking place among the people.
He realized that God had delivered him, but that he hadn’t completely delivered them yet.
He realized that tranquility was only transient, and that upon his death the nation would again fall into the hands of oppressors and be destroyed.
And so David cried out to God.
In Psalm 10 verse 1 David asks, “Why standest thou afar off, O LORD; why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?”
The people wanted deliverance from oppression. They were even asking God for it. And he hadn’t brought it.
It seemed as though he wasn’t listening.
But at the end of Psalm 10 David realized that God was listening.
He says in verse 17, “Thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.”
The problem wasn’t that God didn’t hear.
The problem was with the people. In their hearts.
Unlike David, they weren’t upright in heart. They weren’t virtuous.
And so, as a natural consequence, they were loosing their peace and liberty and prosperity.
But David didn’t settle for that.
When David understood what the problem was, he did something about it.
He asked God for help, he asked him to increase the number of the upright among the people. To restore virtue to the hearts of the people of his nation.
In Psalm 12 verse 1 he cries out, “Help, LORD, for the godly man ceaseth, for the faithful fail from among the children of men.”
David asked God to bring the hearts of the people to a place where they could be freed from oppression once again.
And he persisted, until he understood what he could do to change this. Until he understood how the hearts of the people could be tried and purified. How their virtue could be restored.
In verses 5-7 of Psalm 12, David received his answer from God.
In verse 5 God tells him that he is going to arise and set them in safety. He is going to show them how the nation can be delivered, how the virtue of the people can be restored.
In verse 6 David receives what he has been searching for.
He is given an understanding of what could purify the hearts of the people, and restore their morality:
“The words of the LORD, are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”
It was the word of God.
The words of God, which are tried, that could try the people.
The words of God, which are pure, and can purify the hearts of the people.
It was that which would restore their virtue, and save the nation.
And so David took the words of the LORD, and did not cease to proclaim them to the people.
The word of God in the Psalms, words of prayer and praise, were inserted into every trial and every joy.
And through them the people came to see the light of truth, and to understand that freedom from oppression could only come through the fear of God.
That it was only through faithfulness and virtue that they could be upheld as a free people.
And as a result, the nation was restored.
Upon David’s death, instead of the disintegration of the kingdom, what followed was one of Israel’s finest hours.
His son Solomon took the throne, and the nation entered a period of peace and prosperity such as she had never known.
As I came to see this, as the word of God in the Psalms worked in my heart, I came to believe that this is what is needed for America.
That if we want to restore America to her conservative roots, we first need to restore her virtue, through the word of God.
Some may think this quaint, and mock it. Some may believe it, but lay it aside.
But I would remind you, that if so, you are rejecting a truth that the founding fathers believed to be vital to the preservation of our nation.
If we are genuinely seeking to restore America to conservative principles, then we must heed the foundations upon which her architects built her, and the supports that they deemed necessary for her continuance as a free people.
And so we must continue the fight along all those fronts upon which we have drawn up our battle lines.
But we must remember, that the ultimate victory, the restoration of America, cannot be achieved without the restoration of the heart of her people.
And so let us not neglect that vital part of our fight.
Let us take good heed to reinforce the ranks of those that are already fighting on that front.
And, with a firm reliance upon God, let us use his word to purify the heart of America, and prepare it to receive a new birth of freedom. A new dawn of conservatism.
To once again be a shining city on a hill, a lady of liberty, holding forth a torch of light in a dark world.
Because America cannot shine without the light of truth, and virtue.
So let us seek to restore that light to her, with God’s help, through his word.