- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

"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." With these ancient morals, a new nation our nation was born. And before Thomas Jefferson put the final sentences in our Declaration of Independence, he labeled the "truths" as "ends" of government, not just means. It took several generations, including a costly war led by Abraham Lincoln, to live up to these truths, these ends of government. But no nation in the history of the world has come as close as we have to abiding these norms of government, enshrined in our conscience, identified as the idea around which the United States of America was founded.

It was no accident that Martin Luther King Jr. led his most famous march and delivered his most well-known speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, at the feet of the man who reified these principles and wrote "All honor to Jefferson to the man who had the coolness, forecast and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men at all times, and so to embalm it there, that today, and in all the coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression."

During the dark days of Nazism's march through Europe, as Hitler was working to establish his goal of a thousand-year Reich based on principles of racial superiority (and not much else), Franklin Roosevelt laid out his "Four Freedoms." The world, he said, was founded upon but not living up to freedom of speech, freedom of every person to worship God, freedom from want and freedom from fear. And, Roosevelt concluded "Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere."

Last week, President Bush in his State of the Union proclaimed that "[W]e have a great opportunity during this time of war to lead the world toward the values that will bring lasting peace. All fathers and mothers, in all societies, want their children to be educated and live free from poverty and violence. If anyone doubts this, let them look to Afghanistan, where the Islamic 'street' greeted the fall of tyranny with song and celebration. America will lead by defending liberty and justice because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere. America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the power of the state; respect for women; private property; free speech; equal justice; and religious tolerance."

Jefferson's self-evident truths, Roosevelt's Four Freedoms and Mr. Bush's non-negotiable demands of human dignity are all of a piece they are what those yearning to breathe free see when they see America. There is a reason that protesters throughout the world be they in China or Iran march, under the threat, and often with the guarantee, of death with American flags and homemade Statues of Liberty. And there is a reason that nations such as Mr. Bush laid out this week, North Korea, Iran and Iraq, were put on notice. For the regimes of such nations do not only tyrannize their own people, they also threaten the world, both with their evil ideology as well as their weapons of mass destruction.

Nations that sponsor terrorism against their own people make no distinction among geographical lines. Mr. Bush put it well: "The entire world is the battlefield." While such distinctions among peoples are not made, the enemies of freedom's first target is the United States because of what we stand for as a nation and because of the beacon of liberty we represent to the un-free around the world. We are in tyranny and oppression's way, and as Mr. Bush made clear we will not shrink from our duty to oppose them.

Opposition to tyranny is our nation's pride; it is also every individual's purpose. This is why Mr. Bush said that our new ethic and creed is "Let's Roll." He labeled this ethic and creed our "new culture of responsibility." Countries, as well as corporations and citizens, bear this burden of responsibility. We bear it because we are its greatest international example and symbol of it.

The United States of America will now bring a new birth of freedom to countries that oppress their citizens and threaten the free world. But to do this, our Army must not just include men and women in uniform. Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick and Tom Burnett from Flight 93 knew their duties as citizens and did not hesitate to die for them. Every American now must realize his and her duty. Parents have duties to raise their children well. Teachers have duties to represent their country and teach their students with the respect they are due. Corporations have duties to operate honestly and with full disclosure. Welfare recipients have duties to look for work. Alcohol and drug addicts have duties to seek rehabilitation. Criminals have duties to repent and repay society. And priests, pastors and rabbis have duties to present a living example of God. The era of "if it feels good, do it" is over, just as the era of merely observing terrorist regimes is over. Action has replaced apathy, and patriotism has a new cause. And seductive theories of moral relativism, where certain truths are seen as mere cultural constructs, should be rightfully buried.

Mr. Bush stated that "America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity." There's a reason we take these demands of human dignity seriously: If we don't, no other nation can. Whether we wear the uniform of the armed forces or whether we wear a blue collar or a white shirt, we have a calling it was inspired by our founding and carried by the heroes of our past. Today, we must all defend liberty and justice, not simply because our forefathers did, and not because they are right for a few people somewhere, but because, as Mr. Bush said, they are the virtues that "are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere."

William J. Bennett is a co-director at Empower America and the author of the upcoming book "Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism."


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