Special message that is currently lost in translation

Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

During his two terms as president, Ronald Reagan earned the title as the “Great Communicator,” a richly deserved label for a superb orator who honed his speaking skills during an acting career in Hollywood.

In his farewell address in January 1989, President Reagan defined his vision of the “shining city upon a hill,” drawing on the biblical underpinnings of the phrase that would serve as the finest example of American exceptionalism, the inherent quality that sets us apart as a great nation.

“In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity,” said Reagan, who early in his career was a radio broadcaster in Iowa. “And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

He then took notice of a growing divide in the nation, challenging political leaders and the citizenry to do better.

“We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American,” Reagan said in his final address from the Oval Office. “And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood . . . Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed, you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture.”

In closing, he urged everyone to recognize that we need to do “a better job of getting across that America” stands for freedom – “freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.”

In his inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol little more than a week later, Reagan’s successor, President George H.W. Bush would carry the theme a step further with a message that seems particularly pertinent today.

“We meet on democracy’s front porch, a good place to talk as neighbors and as friends,” said President Bush on January 20, 1989. “For this is a day when our nation is made whole, when our differences, for a moment, are suspended.”

If only it was so, for it was just three years ago that the Capitol – the citadel of democracy – was under siege, attacked by a violent mob determined to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The January 6, 2021 insurrection left a lasting stain on our country, one caused in large part by a would-be American autocrat unwilling to accept the rule of law.

His leading role in the orchestrated attack on the Capitol has been well-documented, first by the House of Representatives when on January 13, 2021 it adopted an article of impeachment for “incitement of an insurrection.”

His culpability was confirmed by the House select committee on the January 6 attack, which in late 2022 presented a comprehensive 845-page report highlighting in exhaustive detail his deadly attempt to derail democracy itself. The report represented the bipartisan committee’s investigative work over 18 months, spelled out graphically during a series of televised hearings in the summer of 2022.

In addition to expressing our gratitude to those members of Congress who voted for his impeachment shortly after the insurrection took place, we also should celebrate the efforts of the January 6 committee who called on the Justice Department to bring criminal charges against the former president and several of his allies for attempting to subvert the election process.

Fortunately, there is a majority in Congress who have the courage and conviction to stand tall against attempts to put democracy on the chopping block, repudiating groups who have expressed contempt for our personal freedoms and the very right to cast a vote that will be counted.

Ironically, those extremists who wallow in the political fringe were in a celebratory mood at this time last year.  They were given their moment in the political sun thanks to the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in the House of Representatives, perhaps offering them a chance to rediscover the principles that have guided us for more than two centuries.

Instead, what we have witnessed over the past year has been nothing more than a shameful display of public posturing for the love of chaos, which figures to escalate in the months ahead as they promote their self-interests while engaging in a fresh round of political vendettas as the presidential election approaches.

The legislative silliness can only leave us in a quandary of how can America lead the world when we continue to “send in the clowns” to run the Congressional show.

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