A half-century ago, Sen. Barry Goldwater strode to the podium of the Republican National Convention in San Francisco to accept his party’s presidential nomination.
He declared, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vise.” Let me remind you further: “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
My dad set the stage for the resurrection of a passionate belief in liberty and redefined the Republican brand.
It is interesting these same words could be used to describe another effort to ensure the civil rights of all Americans regardless of race. Unfortunately, those words were distorted by the media and his critics.
In his book “Conscience of a Conservative,” published in 1960, Goldwater noted:
“The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take into account of the whole man, while Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature. The Conservative believes that man is in part, an economic, an animal creature; but he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Liberals, on the other hand, — in the name of concern for “human beings” — regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society.”
It is interesting that my father’s good friend Jack Kennedy echoed my dad in his own speeches. While my dad lost the 1964 presidential race, he launched a movement that has dominated and influenced the body politic and government for the past 40 years.
I can still hear my dad explain his philosophy “Let me remind you a conservative is one who fights to expand individual liberty and resist the accumulation of power by those who claim they know best.”
It was Madison versus Jefferson as to the balance of power. Who should control? Who should dominate?
It is a struggle that has dominated the history of our country. John Maynard Keynes versus Milton Friedman, The New York Times versus The Wall Street Journal, the right versus the left, conservative versus liberal, MSNBC versus Fox, Republican versus Democrat.
The difference between a liberal and a conservative is that the liberal think we should be equal at the finish line while conservatives think we should be equal at the starting line.
That is the war, the classic struggle, going on in Congress and in America as we gather tonight.
I might also note that his belief that America and the free world will remain free only with a strong commitment to national defense. Clearly, with the record of the current president, we need a change in defense policy as well.
The conservative movement has been on a tortuous trail. It suffered defeat many times but came roaring back. With the overall huge victory in 2010 and 2014, I believe we are on the right path because we stuck to the message.
Now we look ahead to the 2016 presidential election. With 70 percent of the state legislatures in Republican hands and 36 Republican governors and control of the Senate and House, conservatives have an incredible responsibility to provide the leadership so lacking at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
In considering the challenges facing the new Republican majority in Congress, it is important to review my father’s observation that conservatives must present positive answers to national problems, not just condemn the answers provided by the left. He observed: “Our failure is the failure of Conservative demonstration. Though we Conservatives are deeply persuaded that our society is ailing and know that Conservatism holds the key to national salvation we seem unable to demonstrate the practical relevance of Conservation principles to the needs of the day.”
We have come together tonight to celebrate a powerful idea: liberty. We came tonight to recognize a movement: conservatism rooted in principles. We came together tonight as brothers and sisters to remember a man who had such a powerful influence on the two-party system and us.
With fond memories of battles we fought, friends we made and a philosophy we love, we salute our leader, Sen. Barry Goldwater.
Goldwater changed America for the better. He gave America a choice, not an echo. In our hearts, we know he was right. Goldwater was a man of principle, integrity and honesty. His ideas, his courage and his candor helped shape our national character, and I hope that his work will continue to be lived through the lives and dedications of the generations to come.
• Barry Goldwater Jr. served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a member representing California from 1969 to 1983, and currently serves as chairman and president of The Goldwater Taplin Group.