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  • Writer's pictureEmily Duke Hargan

Whiskey Wednesday: As Our Nation Struggles To Find It's Way We Should Listen to Words from the Past

I don't know about you but lately I feel as if I am a stranger in a strange land. As I scroll through the news, Twitter and my social media accounts, I am appalled at the images I see. We are light-years away from the original protests over the horrific death of George Floyd. Town squares are littered with toppled statues of Christian saints, World War II Memorials are being desecrated with spray paint, entire city blocks are occupied by protestors for weeks on end, and just last weekend over 100 people were shot in Chicago.

Perhaps even more appalling to me is that while we helplessly watch our cities get trashed, our leaders either remain silent or they stand complicit with those intent on doing harm. We must not let our great country fall to violence and mob rule. We must not let our leaders back away from their responsibility. We have to hold them accountable and demand that they show up for work and defend our country. It's time for us to set an agenda that includes protecting religious liberty, respect for all life, education freedom, economic stimulation and support for families, and security for all Americans.

This great American experiment is not lost. The task of restoring confidence in our exceptionalism will be daunting but we have faced challenges in our past, and Americans have risen to the occasion. Americans want freedom.

Lessons from the Past: Great Speeches that Shaped History

Read these great speeches from the past and be reassured and inspired.

In March 1775, Patrick Henry spoke passionately at the Second Virginia Convention as they considered breaking away from British rule. “The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms,” said Henry, who spoke without notes. “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

The famous opening line, “Four score and seven years ago,” calls on the American people to remember the intentions of the Founding Fathers. In the speech Lincoln never mentions slavery, the Confederacy, or even the Union. Instead, he emphasizes healing, and a return to ideals of the Declaration of Independence. The speech defined the concept of American government as “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Given while serving as a New York assemblyman, this address examined the reasons why every man should be involved in politics and the practical means of serving. TR chastised those who excused themselves from politics because they were too busy; it was every man’s duty to devote some time to maintaining good government. "You can no more have freedom without striving and suffering for it than you can win success as a banker or a lawyer without labor and effort, without self-denial in youth and the display of a ready and alert intelligence in middle age. The people who say that they have not time to attend to politics are simply saying that they are unfit to live in a free community."

In 1933, the new President faced a nation entering into the Deep Depression. “First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance,” Roosevelt said as he began this powerful speech. This inaugural address set the agenda for FDR’s 12 years in office.

Even though heavy snow had fallen the night before, the Inaugural at the Capitol in Washington, DC proceeded as usual on January 20, 1961. It is one of the shortest inaugural presidential speeches but one of the most memorable and oft quoted. "So, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

King's memorable speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC challenged Americans to live up to their democratic ideals. "I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; 'and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'"

While President Reagan's speech in Berlin condemning communism and demanding that Gorbachev "tear down this wall", is probably his most famous. His address to the nation on January 28, 1986 after the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger is probably his most memorable. I remember watching the Space Shuttle Challenger take off and explode—all school children at that time had been following the exciting story of the first school teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe.

Reagan was to deliver the State of the Union that evening and instead he delivered this brief address from the Oval Office, written by an unknown speechwriter at the White House, Peggy Noonan (later to become a quite famous journalist and author). She had mere hours to put together what would become exactly the right words a shocked country needed to hear.

Most poignant was this, “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives,” Reagan said. “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”

Let us not forget all the sacrifices great men and women have made to honor and serve our country. From fighting for liberty to create a new nation to fighting to preserve our union to facing the insurmountable challenge of the Great Depression and taking a stand to end racial discrimination. We have risen to the occasion as a nation over and over again. We strive for greatness. We are optimists. America is exceptional.


Coming soon... my exclusive interview with Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota. Governor Noem spoke with me about her political experience, how she managed her state during the coronavirus and what the future looks like for South Dakota and our country. Stay Tuned next week for our next Whiskey is Freedom Profile!

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