Remember when Conservatism was supposed to be dead and America was primed for a New New Deal? Well, a funny thing has happened on the road to the latest iteration of progressive liberalism—The Tea Party Movement.
The Tea Party Movement has been one of the most significant citizen efforts in our times to revive America’s founding principles. Across the country, people who had before never been engaged in politics—people like Billie Tucker of The First Coast Tea Party —began to attend rallies with homemade signs begging for fiscal common sense and a return to constitutional government. This grass roots movement has been much maligned (especially on the left and in the media) and rarely honored for their activities. Until now.
At the 2010 Resource Bank, the Tea Party Movement was recognized as the recipient of the annual Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship. Named for entrepreneur and philanthropist Henry Salvatori, the Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship is given annually to American citizens who uphold and advance America’s principles, embody the virtues of character and mind that animated America’s Founders, and exemplify the spirit of independence and entrepreneurial citizenship in the United States. Matthew Spalding explained why Heritage honored the Tea Party Movement with this award:
Behind [The Tea Party Movement’s] activities and motivating their efforts is not a single issue or partisan agenda but a deepening commitment and advocacy of the truths of the Declaration of Independence and the basic principles of the United States Constitution. Because of the significance of this effort, bringing America’s first principles to the fore of the public debate, motivating millions of their fellow Americans to get involved in the effort to revive those principles and to reorient our politics toward them, the 2010 Henry Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship is awarded to the Tea Party Movement and thereby honors all those American citizens nationwide who are now newly committed to renewing American liberty.
The Tea Party Movement is in good company. Past recipients of the Salvatori Prize include David McCullough (2009) and Princeton University professor Robert P. George (2008) as well as the Mount Vernon Ladies Association (2005) and The Federalist Society (2006).
The Tea Party Movement is truly a grassroots movement. It was not organized by one individual or group. As a result, there is no single recipient of the award. Instead, the funding from the Salvatori Prize has been used to help meet the tremendous demand for educational materials from tea party organizations across the country. So far, 265 Tea Party Movement leaders from every state and the District of Columbia have received a collection of First Principles resources, monographs, and books: including copies of We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future, The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, and How to Read the Federalist Papers. An even greater number of groups has received bulk copies of the pocket Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Heritage fact sheets to distribute at their events.
Like their 18th century brethren, today’s Tea Party Movement faces an impetuous vortex of government that everywhere extends its sphere of activity. But, as Spalding reminds us, there is a key difference between those early patriots and the movement today:
Those early patriots had to establish their independence and to start anew. Our task is different. It is not about fixed bayonets but fixed principles; not about bullets but ballots. Our task is not to overthrow; it is not revolution; it is renewal and restoration of those self-evident truths of constitutional government at the heart of America