As we pass from Barack Obama’s two-term presidency into Donald Trump’s first term, it feels to most conservatives like we’ve been in the wilderness for some time and may wander through it a while longer. It’s a tiring trudge, especially if we lose our way.
Saturday was the 32nd anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s Second Inaugural Address. Though the Constitution mandates that the president be sworn in for each term on January 20th, in 1985, that day was a Sunday. So although Reagan was sworn in on Sunday, he waited to give his Second Inaugural Address until Monday, the 21st.
The words of Ronald Reagan are always good sources of guidance and inspiration. Here is part of the closing of his Second Inaugural Address to help remind us what drives conservatism:
History is a ribbon, always unfurling. History is a journey. And as we continue our journey, we think of those who traveled before us. . . . [W]e see and hear again the echoes of our past: a general falls to his knees in the hard snow of Valley Forge; a lonely President paces the darkened halls and ponders his struggle to preserve the Union; the men of the Alamo call out encouragement to each other; a settler pushes west and sings a song, and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air. It is the American sound. It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent, and fair. That’s our heritage, that’s our song. We sing it still. For all our problems, our differences, we are together as of old.
With all of the talk of building walls from our new Republican president, it is good to remember what Reagan said about them, so conservatives can keep in mind the principles to stand upon as we do our best to hold Donald Trump accountable.
In his Farewell Address, he said:
I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But 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. 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. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.
Finally, in a time when our country is so divided as it now, we can look to when Reagan spoke with pride about the progress America has made, with resolve not to take steps backwards and with optimism about our ability to unite and make the lives of every American better.
Again, from his Second Inaugural Address:
[T]here is another area where the Federal Government can play a part. As an older American, I remember a time when people of different race, creed, or ethnic origin in our land found hatred and prejudice installed in social custom and, yes, in law. There is no story more heartening in our history than the progress that we have made toward the “brotherhood of man” that God intended for us. Let us resolve there will be no turning back or hesitation on the road to an America rich in dignity and abundant with opportunity for all our citizens.
Let us resolve that we the people will build an American opportunity society in which all of us—white and black, rich and poor, young and old—will go forward together arm in arm. Again, let us remember that though our heritage is one of bloodlines from every corner of the Earth, we are all Americans pledged to carry on this last, best hope of man on Earth.
This is not a time for nostalgia, but to re-energize and focus. President Reagan provides us with an example of how we too can approach conservative politics even when it’s difficult.