One of the most rewarding parts of running for president was meeting thousands of my fellow Americans in the heartland of our great country.
Many folks I met were concerned and even heartbroken that leaders in Washington no longer represented American ideals that are the fabric of our country.
Our nation faces some serious issues today; issues I believe can be solved by the time-tested principles our founding fathers instilled while fighting for our freedom. We can move forward from these difficult times, but to do so we must take the time to remember where we came from.
That is why I felt it important to write American Patriots: Answering the Call to Freedom.
After the Constitutional Convention, when asked what kind of government the delegates crafted, Benjamin Franklin famously stated: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Franklin’s warning still rings true today. Our republic is constantly under attack from those who do not understand or accept the purpose of government or the role of self-government in America.
Our founders agreed that the form of government mandated in the Constitution was the best way to achieve the purpose of government. However, the Constitution, the "how of America,” as I have called it, doesn’t say what that purpose is. The “why” of America is found in this confident and stately proclamation in the Declaration of Independence, which I have quoted countless times:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
What drove the American patriots of the revolution to pledge to each other “their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor”? Preservation of these God-given rights.
The brave men and women who fought and sacrificed for American independence achieved “a new birth of freedom,” as Abraham Lincoln called it – it is an American legacy passed down to us from generations before.
The political philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries, when our nation was being built, uncovered and articulated the central idea that government has the sole jurisdiction to protect the people’s rights to life, liberty, and property – that these are God-given “natural rights” are not to be messed with by man or government. These natural rights are the fundamental things we all crave for – preservation of our lives, the freedom to live our lives according to what we deem morally right and virtuous.
Some credit the language of the Declaration to Thomas Jefferson, and maybe the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to English political philosopher John Locke. I say they articulated the sentiment well. But it is a sentiment that is deep inside every American.
The brave men and women who settled the untamed wilderness of the New World knew it by experience, learned self-government, and passed down the experience from generation to generation. The founding fathers were really the first to form a government around this idea of freedom and self-government – that’s why they called it the American Experiment, it was untried.
These are the ideals that made America exceptional, too. Many people have asked me why I believe America is exceptional, what I think the role of government is, and what frames my worldview. I tell them that my guiding principle, both in Congress and as a presidential candidate, has been the same as those wise men: government is for the protection of those fundamental, natural rights. I have devoted years of my life to advocating the dignity of life and the freedom to seek happiness.
I’m serious about the defense of those same principles. That’s why I take on some of the toughest issues of the day, despite some political blowback: Issues like abortion--protection of life; healthcare – protection of liberty; government spending and taxation – freedom to pursue happiness.
America is not guaranteed eternal greatness. Make no mistake, freedom is perpetually under attack.
As Ronald Reagan warned, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” He was right. We see the effects of degrading the value of life every day as the number of innocent children aborted increases.
Liberals have devalued the meaning of life through expansion of abortion laws. We see the government infringing on liberties when they force us to buy into state-provided health care. We see the government infringing on our happiness every time it tries to regulate something like soda sizes. In short, our basic rights are under attack and we need to fight back.
The heroes described in the pages of my book stepped up to the plate when they were called to win our freedom. Most of us are not called to offer our lives or fortunes to the cause of freedom like those heroic patriots who fought in the Revolution. But we should always be ready. It’s up to you and me, in our own ways, to continue the American Experiment.
And while we have the amazing efforts of Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin rightly etched in our historical knowledge, I found it very important to expand that knowledge on some of our lesser known patriots. These stories of lesser known patriots are equally important in passing our American ideals from generation to generation.
The founders who affixed their names to that radical document were seriously committed. If unsuccessful – and most of the world thought they would be – those signers, made up of clergy, cobblers, and farmers, would almost surely be killed for their treason. The same goes for those who offered their fortunes and lives to the Cause. Freedom was that valuable to them.
“Live free or die” is more than a great state motto – many from the Founding generation meant that and paid dearly for it. Nor were the Founding Fathers kidding when they “pledged to each other” their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor,” a sentiment that has always been at the heart of the American experiment. My hope is that these stories inspire you as they did me. By reading the inspiring stories of the unsung heroes of the Revolution, I hope you come to value freedom and try to protect it all the more.
Editor's Note: Rick Santorum, a Republican, is a former Congressman and Senator from Pennsylvania. He is co-founder of Patriot Voices.
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