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Christmas in America: A time to celebrate the gifts of liberty and freedom

“Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great and good philosopher and teacher. Others of us believe in the divinity of the child born in Bethlehem that he was and is the promised Prince of Peace. Yes, we’ve questioned why he who could perform miracles chose to come among us as a helpless babe, but maybe that was his first miracle, his first great lesson that we should learn to care for one another.” ~Ronald Reagan, December 23, 1981

In the 1970s, the US was threatened on multiple fronts. International competition, spiking energy prices, declining productivity, and soaring inflation engulfed America. Our trade deficit was double digit for the first time in history! Government deficits emerged as a constant threat to our security.

Declining international confidence in the dollar depleted our gold reserves and inflation soared to 10 percent by 1974. Escalating wages doubled the cost of doing business! Unemployment topped 9% in 1975 and we were mired in a recession while international relations were at an all time low. And we were being taxed unmercifully to support countless failing government programs!

shutterstock_159963464Prime Minister Jim Callaghan told us, “We used to think you could spend your way out of recession and increase employment through government spending, but with all candor, that option no longer exists.”

The decade of economic misery in the 1970s proved that the liberal economic order established in the 1930s had failed. Traditional macroeconomic policy was powerless to tame this new monster, stagflation! The government no longer had answers for the pecuniary challenges facing a country in a modern world. And for the first time in our modern history, we experienced the wrath of radical Islamic terrorism!

As 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 1979 to January 1981, Americans grew more apprehensive daily. After watching the tragic mismanagement of the war in Vietnam, and experiencing the spoils of defeat for the first time in our lives, this crisis was more than just about American lives: it was the dawn of a new era of failed diplomacy!

By now we had lost all world respect, and were frightened for our future as we learned more about the evils of radical Islam: “The fact is that fanatics rule Islam now & act-out what the Qur’an truly says…maul, march, & murder every Infidel if they won’t convert!” (General Patton)

As this crisis unfolded, President Jimmy Carter, a professed born again evangelical, had lost the confidence of his flock. They now yearned for a new type of leader to comfort and protect them from this threat to their freedom and democracy. Above all, they wanted security as a nation! And just as the wise men turned to the star of Bethlehem to guide them to Jerusalem to praise the new born King of the Jews, Americans turned to a former star of the theater and stage to guide them back to peace, serenity, and security.

shutterstock_124925168 (1)They discovered this charismatic man who offered hope for salvation with a powerful and encouraging brand of patriotism! This ordinary man professed to believe in God and country and promised Americans he would lead by principle not superficial idealism. A movement pejoratively called the “Christian Right” lead by Catholics, Mormons, evangelicals, and even Jews propelled this new Christian Conservative leader into the White House.

On January 20, 1981, at the moment Reagan completed his inaugural address, the 52 US hostages were released. And this epic event marked the beginning of the Reagan era. When questioned about this he simply said, “Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look.”

On December 23, 1981, during his first year in office, President Ronald Reagan made one of the most profound and prolific speeches of his career. This epic oration was not about politics, it was not about the blunders of former administrations, or to sell America on his personal conservative values and political agenda. No, this speech was about hope, peace, and prosperity. It was about reminding us of the many gifts that were bestowed upon us as Americans, such as liberty and freedom!

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And, above all, it was a call for us to celebrate our love and appreciation for the American Dream. His authoritative thespian voice pulsated with pride as he repeated what G. K. Chesterton had once said, describing the treasures we had in America:  “The world would never starve for wonders, but only for the want of wonder” when they see what we have accomplished in America.

His strong encouraging voice resonated with confidence while he looked out from the Oval office across the freshly trimmed lawn at the two great emblems of the holiday season: A Menorah, symbolizing the Jewish Hanukkah, and the towering blue spruce Christmas Tree.

shutterstock_157520087 (1)He reminded us that like those two symbols of peace and everlasting salvation, our nation is a living, growing thing planted in rich American soil by our founders to last and endure through the most tragic of times. And it would take our dedicated and devoted care to continue to fertilize the roots of our democracy and bring it to full bloom. He encouraged us to let this holiday season rekindle our desire to mend our troubled, torn, and mistreated nation. He warned us that “Without a vision, the people perish.”

While millions of American homes were enjoying the glow from their Christmas tree lights, and reflecting on the Christian ideas and philosophy that Jesus Christ brought to our small corner of the universe, he urged Americans to reach out and grasp that opportunity to follow that higher light, that star of hope that shined so brightly during the darkest days of the Great Depression.

It stood as a beacon of courage through world wars and peace that gave us the faith and confidence that the voice of freedom and prosperity would return to America no matter how destitute and unforgiving our circumstances seemed at the time. He reminded us that although we may have stumbled down the wrong path in the past, because of our trust in God we never lost our way!

And he implored us to continue our belief in “Him” if we are to survive as a free nation under God! “I believe with all my heart that standing up for America means standing up for the God who has so blessed our land. We need God’s help to guide our nation through these stormy seas.”

shutterstock_159131459He asked the American people to have patience in his new economic polices. He explained that the long road to full economic recovery would not be an easy journey. That night he promised all of us in this country a job, if we wanted one. He asked us to pray for him and with the help of these prayers these policies would succeed! He said we must make every effort to win the war against inflation, out of control government spending and punishing taxation.

He told a disenchanted public that victory on this front will lead to economic growth, more jobs, and a prosperous future for all Americans. And he asked us to patiently restrain from selfishly motivated personal gain, and to think of the collective future of our country as a nest egg for us and all generations to follow.

And above all, we must realize that America is special because “No arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”

We are living in a troubled world at a troubled time even worse than the world President Reagan inherited in 1981. But there is comfort knowing we have the power to rekindle the fires of peace, freedom and prosperity. “Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things.” And “If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth.” (Ronald Reagan)

America can lead the world back to peace, prosperity, liberty and freedom if we remember the words of our former charismatic leader, Mr. Reagan: “The struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might. The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.”

Merry Christmas.

William Haupt III

William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, citizen legislator in California for 40 plus years, and author. He got his start working to approve prop 13.

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Categories: Commentary, Must Read, Opinion

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