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Today's Commentary: Happy Independence Day America -- Keep government limited -- Remember Sybil Ludington -- Leadership 101 -- Moral standards are necessary -- Evening Edition - Daily Verse
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Happy Independence Day, America, and happy 242nd anniversary to history’s greatest experiment in freedom!
Today is when Americans celebrate our freedoms. But sadly, too many of us seem more than willing to trade away our freedoms in exchange for hollow promises of comfort and security. As the great philosopher Joni Mitchell once said, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.” That’s why the Founding Fathers took such care to lock our most important rights safely within the First Amendment to the Constitution. It was America’s first “lock box.” There are more freedoms guaranteed in that one short sentence than people in most nations can even dream of. That’s why for centuries now, people from around the world have risked their lives to come to America. The Founders understood that freedom really is that precious.
Keep government limited
By Mike Huckabee
I hope you’re having a great 4th of July week, but amid all the fun and fireworks, let’s take just a moment to reflect on what this day really means and how it led to the freedoms and blessings we often take for granted today.
Most historians mark the beginning of America as the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. But in truth, there was still a long road to travel before America as we know it came to be. First, of course, there was the matter of fighting a bloody revolution against Great Britain, one where victory was far from certain. That was followed by heated battles over what kind of government we would have.
Our Forefathers finally agreed to a blueprint, the Constitution, that wasn’t even introduced until 1789 – over 13 years later. But today, too many Americans take those hard-won freedoms very lightly. Many seem willing to trade them away for false promises of security. Some can’t even name the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Maybe they’d cherish them more if they knew how close they came to not having them at all.
Did you know that the Constitution very nearly got passed without the Bill of Rights? Even some of the wisest of our forefathers thought a Bill of Rights was a dangerous idea. Alexander Hamilton argued that it was risky to list the rights the government couldn’t take away because then, politicians might try to grab any power that wasn’t specifically prohibited to them (apparently, the ability to rap wasn’t the only way Hamilton predicted the current century). He and many others also felt that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary: since nobody was surrendering their rights by agreeing to the Constitution, there was no need to list them, right? Hamilton wrote, “Why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”
It’s ironic that Hamilton made that argument. Later on, as the first Treasury Secretary, he cited powers the Constitution merely implied that the government had in order to take on debt, create a federal bank and impose unpopular taxes. Over a century later, when the federal income tax was passed, some lawmakers wanted to include a 10% limit, but they were voted down. Opponents scoffed that it was absurd to think the government would ever take 10% of an American’s hard-earned wages. Flash forward just 30 years, and they were happily taxing away 94%. So just imagine how few freedoms we’d have today if they’d listened to Hamilton and decided it wasn’t necessary to limit government power.
Luckily for us all, Thomas Jefferson won the argument, and the Bill of Rights was added. They even included the 9th amendment, which I’ll bet most people can’t even describe. Here’s what it says:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
It means that just because some God-given rights aren’t specifically listed, that doesn’t mean the people cede them to the government. Maybe because so many of the framers were also farmers, they understood that like weeds, government tends to grow and grow, choking out the productive crops -- and like a bull, it will trample you if you don’t corral it.
So if we want to preserve our freedoms, and keep government limited, maybe we should send more farmers to Washington -- and fewer lawyers.
Remember Sybil Ludington
By Mike Huckabee
I’ve been astounded recently by the way the left has been so successful at using “hate speech” and school shootings to convince young people to demand that their own First and Second Amendment rights be taken away. Somehow, they have managed to bamboozle a large slice of the young generation into simultaneously believing that they are wise and mature enough to start voting and even writing laws at 16; yet they are so childish and irresponsible, they can’t be trusted to handle a firearm until they’re 21 or to hear an opposing opinion without rushing to a safe space to cuddle a puppy.
When young people don’t know their rights, where those rights came from, and how much was sacrificed to secure them, it’s easy to convince them to trade them away for empty promises of comfort and security. These days, students barely learn the most basic facts about American history, let alone all the great stories you discover when you dig into the details. This seems like the perfect week for a lesson in how America came to be born. And I’ll try to put it into terms they can relate to.
Maybe – possibly – today’s students can identify Paul Revere (although I doubt they had to memorize the poem, the way we did.) But how many know there was another heroic midnight rider who warned that the British were coming, only this one was a teenage girl from Duchess County, New York? She’s just one of many American heroes that kids don’t learn about because modern textbooks scrub history of everything interesting or inspiring to promote trendy social and political agendas that downgrade America. But kids, history is simply everything that ever happened to everyone before you came on the scene. Seek it out. Trust me: it can be pretty cool, and you can actually learn things from it.
For instance, listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of…Sybil Ludington? As the oldest of 11 children, Sybil had to take on a lot of responsibility at a young age. She was barely 16 on the night of April 26, 1777. She had just tucked all her siblings into bed when, suddenly, there came an urgent knock at the door. It was a messenger, coming to warn her father, Col. Henry Ludington, that British troops were invading.
His troops weren’t expecting an attack and were scattered all over the countryside. Gathering them meant a dangerous ride over pitch black roads, through enemy soldiers, wild animals and hostile Indians (sorry: “Native Americans.”) Understandably, the messenger refused an order to go. But Sybil volunteered. Her father protested, but she pointed out that she knew where all his men lived. As any father of a strong-willed daughter will recognize, he’d long since learned that arguing with her was futile. So Sybil mounted up and rode off.
It was a rainy night. The British had already set nearby Danbury, Connecticut, on fire, and the flames cast an eerie, red glow on the fog. It spurred Sybil on as she galloped from house to house, banging on doors and shouting that the British were coming. According to legend, at one point, a highway robber tried to intercept Sybil, but she raised her father’s musket and sent him running. Yet another reason why teenagers should think twice before demanding that the Second Amendment be taken away from them.
By dawn, Sybil and her horse were cold, wet and exhausted. She’d roused over 400 troops, who joined the Battle of Ridgefield and helped drive the British all the way back to Long Island Sound. Gen. Washington personally honored Sybil for her heroism.
Today, there are historic markers all along her route, and statues of her in New York and Washington. But I’ll bet most young people never even heard of Sybil Ludington, a teenager much like them. Maybe it’s because nobody wrote a famous poem about her midnight ride -- even though it was over twice as long as Paul Revere’s.
By Mike Huckabee
Endless effort and spin has gone into trying to explain why Hillary Clinton lost (without ever considering that her own history, personality and views had anything to do with it). As I tried to explain long before the election in my book, “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” the elites of politics, academia and the media had sealed themselves into such an airtight echo chamber, they had no idea what the mysterious natives of that vast “flyover country” that they looked down on, literally and figuratively, were thinking.
What they were thinking was that they were fed up to the gills with a double standard that gave the politically-connected a pass for things that would land them under the jail. There were sick of being ignored and insulted for voicing legitimate complaints about how their lives were being adversely affected by leftist policies, disregard for the Constitution and selective enforcement of laws.
And just on a visceral level, they were tired of the grating combination of ignorance and arrogance – that condescending attitude of elitists who seemed to believe they were the smartest people in the room even though the results of their ideas in reality showed that they didn’t have the slightest idea what they were doing. They thought they knew how to run the entire planet, but they had fewer practical skills than the average apprentice plumber.
During the Obama years, a lot of young savants with massive egos sailed triumphantly into Washington only to go slinking back to academia after seeing their precious theories shatter on the rocks of reality. So what can all those Ivy League hothouse flowers learn about problem-solving from a lowly former Arkansas governor and business owner?
Well, the most important tip I could offer is this: very big problems are usually not solved with very big solutions. A 2000-page bill only creates a whole new set of problems. If you want to turn a problem into a catastrophe, the recipe is simple: just add lots and lots of federal bureaucrats.
When you have a big problem, Step #1 is to break it down into little problems. Then put someone in charge of each problem who actually knows how to solve it. It takes an experienced, executive decision-maker just to decide which decisions to make and which ones can be left to someone else.
Next comes the hardest part: prioritizing. We’ve all seen executives who are constantly bustling and shouting. They look busy – some people are even impressed by their constant bustling -- but they never really get anything done. That’s because they’re trying to do everything at once, instead of focusing on issues in their order of importance.
I’ll let you in another secret: the importance of an issue is not determined by how important the people closest to it think it is. You might have to disappoint people by telling them their pet issue isn’t your top priority. But sorry, that’s part of the job.
I once had a professor of religion who said one of the wisest things I ever heard about management: “Don’t use all your water to put out too small a fire.” If you use up all your resources and credibility overreacting to a small crisis, then what do you do when a big crisis comes along and your fire extinguisher is empty? (We’re seeing this a lot in the media these days, when every little controversy becomes a hair-on-fire CRISIS, then gets dropped the second the next one comes along. All this has accomplished is to erode their own credibility.)
Another essential skill is choosing the right employees. If you have important jobs to fill, find people who’ve mastered every aspect of their current job and are happy there, but ready to move up. Someone who wants a promotion because he’s not comfortable where he is won’t be any more comfortable higher up.
You also don’t need an idealistic dreamer who leaps in from academia to reinvent the wheel. Advanced degrees are admirable, but often, real world experience is much more valuable. When you need to put out a fire, you call a firefighter, not a Ph.D. in combustion theory. And as we’ve also learned, you don’t put people in charge who let partisan zeal prejudice the way they do their jobs or deal with the public.
That’s what you should learn on day one of “Leadership 101.” So how come so many of our leaders still haven’t learned it?
Moral standards are necessary
By Mike Huckabee
We hear often these days that society shouldn’t have any absolute moral standards. Imposing standards is oppressive, judgmental and outdated. Like Linus and the Great Pumpkin, it doesn’t matter what we choose to believe, as long as we’re really sincere in believing it. Well, pardon me for pointing it out, but that’s…well, stupid (sorry, Linus!)
There are all sorts of absolute standards to which we adhere. A rock band might be filled with nonconformists, but they can’t each play in whatever key they feel like. You might concede Hannibal Lecter’s sincere belief in cannibalism, but you wouldn’t go to his house for dinner. It seems counter-intuitive, but freedom can’t work unless we all agree to abide by certain basic standards of right and wrong. When we step outside those boundaries, chaos ensues. That can leave a bad taste in your mouth, and I’m not still referring to Hannibal Lecter. I like to illustrate the concept with a story from the days when my own kids were young.
When my son John Mark was only 12, he decided one day to bake a cake. My wife Janet and I returned home and were greeted by our son, proudly offering ol’ dad the first taste. Well, it looked good, and I was already preparing some fatherly praise as I took that first bite. But what came out of my mouth wasn’t words. It was the cake. It was so awful, I had to spit it out. My first thought was that my son was trying to kill me for the insurance.
As soon as my tongue overcame its shock, I asked John Mark if he’d used a recipe. He said he had, and he’d followed it to the letter. Well, except that he didn’t know what a “dash” of salt meant, so he decided a cup of salt should be enough.
Now, my son worked hard on that cake…he had the best of intentions…and he sincerely believed he’d done a good job. But hard work, good intentions and sincere beliefs meant nothing once he decided he could make up his own measurement standards. That’s literally a recipe for disaster.
Freedom can’t exist in a moral vacuum. It makes some people uncomfortable to hear this, but without clear boundaries of right and wrong, the very concept of liberty breaks down. A person might argue that he should be free to look at pictures others find offensive. But if it’s a photo of a child who’s being exploited, then there’s more at stake than just the liberty of the viewer. We’re currently having a big media controversy over whether to separate children from parents who cross the border illegally, but very few people bring up the fact that the parents chose to bring their children along as they knowingly violated federal immigration law.
Self-government can’t mean each of us lives by our own unique set of rules. If that’s how you define liberty, then you’re just going to get less of it. When people live outside the boundaries of a principled and agreed-upon moral code, it always leads to government that’s bigger and more intrusive, just to force people to do the right thing. Not to mention creating an avalanche of lawsuits.
If you think more lawyers and bigger government actually improve society, then I have a delicious cake recipe I’d like to sell you. Then again, no…taking your money for that cake recipe would definitely be morally wrong.
Evening Edition - July 3
By Mike Huckabee
A wrap-up of all the news you might have missed yesterday!
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
-Ephesians 4:32 - KJV
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