Today is my last day as president of The Heritage Foundation, and I want to write you one last note in that capacity. We’ve had quite a ride these last three-and-a-half decades, and I leave knowing that Heritage will flourish under my successor, Jim DeMint.
I want to thank you for your generous support, of course, but more importantly, to tell you to remain optimistic about the future. Yes, progressives are on the offensive, aggressively trying to remake our country using a Euro-socialist mold. But this is why we must now redouble our efforts, not lessen or abandon them.
I know that as a patriot, you will do all within your power to ensure that our society will take back the reins from Big Government. I know that you believe in the enduring truth of our ideas of limited government, free enterprise, and individual freedom, and that they will eventually win the day. Freedom is man’s natural state; whenever he’s enslaved, all he thinks about is how to become free once again.
My friends, let us remember that we’ve been here before. When we started Heritage in 1973, liberals controlled the Congress and all the socio-cultural institutions. In the White House, we had a president weakened by scandal and who had instituted wage and price controls, grown the welfare state, and trekked to Beijing to meet Mao.
We had few, if any, allies in positions of power back in 1973. We were in fact surrounded.
There was no Internet or Fox News or talk radio to break the monopoly of liberal media. The liberal experiment was in full swing. If you drew your inspiration from Russell Kirk, F.A. Hayek, Bill Buckley, and Milton Friedman, life looked mighty grim.
But we didn’t give up. We fought back and started The Heritage Foundation. We resolved to take control of our fate, defend our values, and work night and day to save our country and the American Dream.
Within seven years, Ronald Reagan was elected president and started the conservative counterattack against the Leviathan of government. We were there to help him, and he embraced many of the proposals in our 1980 best-seller, Mandate for Leadership. To name just one: missile defense, a proposal that now even Barack Obama seems to be admitting is important.
Getting Reagan to enact our reforms was comparatively easy and the country prospered. Working with our 42nd President, William Jefferson Clinton, was something else.
But we didn’t give up or even slow down. Welfare reform was one of the biggest battlegrounds, and we were in the middle of the battle. President Clinton twice vetoed welfare reform bills that Heritage helped write. But eventually he signed our reform into law—and then bragged about it as one of the highlights of his presidency!
Not so President Obama, who has gutted the heart of the reform by getting rid of the work provisions. Our response? We are fighting hard on all fronts to put back the provisions, because we know from our research that unconditional government assistance hurts far more than it helps the needy and society.
Anticipating the progressive onslaught under President Obama, Heritage launched 10 key initiatives under the Leadership for America campaign. LFA is designed to change the direction of our country, from health care reform to energy exploration, based on a renewed commitment to the first principles of America’s founding.
Which brings me to the present. Many of the critiques we’re seeing these days, from individual conservatives and the Republican Party, sound all too ready to abandon first principles and accept big government.
What can they be thinking? The last thing we need right now is more government, more spending, more debt, more dependence on Big Brother!
I am happy to report that the next generation of bright—no, make that brilliant—conservatives is inventing new ideas and breaking new ground on taxes, education choice, and providing for the needy at the state level. I am confident that you and the hundreds of thousands of other Heritage members, 559,000 Facebook fans, and 281,000 Twitter followers will flank them.
In this last note as your Heritage president, I challenge conservative thinkers, here at The Heritage Foundation and elsewhere, to come up with solutions to strengthen the family, civil society, and our nation. I know they will come up with far better solutions than the progressives who, when they see a problem, automatically turn to the government.
Our Founders bequeathed to us the principles and the culture of a self-governing republic. They created the first experiment in leaving people free to live their lives as they wish as long as they don’t infringe on the freedoms of others. They believed in coming together voluntarily to solve common problems under the rule of law. Their vision was a country of faith, family, and free enterprise.
It’s been my honor and my joy to fight alongside you in order to secure America’s blessings for future generations. The battle continues with Jim DeMint as your president. Please join me in giving him, and Heritage, our full and enduring support.