Newt Gingrich, In 1862, during his annual address to Congress, President Abraham Lincoln made an essential point that we’d be wise to remember.
“In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve,” he said. “We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth.”
Lincoln understood that if freedom died in America, then freedom would die for humanity everywhere.
The American idea that human beings are free simply by virtue of being human remains a unique and revolutionary force in this world — one that defines the United States and has inspired countless souls around the world to remove the shackles of tyranny.
Lincoln recognized the power of this idea and appreciated the brilliance of the Founders in articulating it for the first time. Without it, people’s rights come from government. But with it, the dynamic is flipped: Government is beholden to the people and derives its powers from the governed.
This formula, created formally on July 4, 1776, produced the most free and prosperous nation in history. It created a land of hope, where people everywhere could go and receive an equal opportunity to pursue happiness.
Of course, slavery and racism remain deep scars on American history. Some voices will say that, as a result, America is an evil country and that what our Founders produced is inherently discriminatory.
But Lincoln understood that what we had to do as a country was live up to the principles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. We do wrong only when we fall astray from the American idea.
I discuss what 1776 really means on this week’s episode of my podcast, “Newt’s World.” My guest is Wilfred M. McClay, who wrote a wonderful book on American history titled, Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story.
I hope you will listen to this week’s episode and celebrate the last best hope of earth on this Presidents’ Day.
There is no law saying freedom must prevail. Indeed, history shows us that despotism is the normal state of things. Self-government of, by, and for the people is an experiment, which means it can always fail. We must never forget that and always work to preserve a free society.