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By: J. Ollie Edmunds
J. OLLIE EDMUNDS is President of John B. Stetson University. That Something is a statement issued by him in May, 1951.
AMERICA has been different from any other nation on earth. Here is why. The men who cut the pattern for Americans a century and three-quarters ago, held a deep conviction that men-all men-are born with qualities that give them a unique status. The simple fact of man's being born a human being, they felt, marks him as the most important thing God ever created-and entitleshim to a certain dignity and to self-respect. They believed that in this sense men are born equal and are endowed with certain God-given, not man-given, rights-each being free to live, to be free, to build his life without the handicap of any interference that can be avoided.
These profound thinkers designed our government on the basis of this conviction, as a new kind of government that would be operated by the people themselves. Jefferson said that this was to be a great experiment which would determine for all time whether or not "men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master." He predicted future happiness for Americans "if we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."
In the lively decades following 1776, Americans became a great and virile people-self-reliant and free. Most historians of an earlier day believed that we had demonstratedfor all the world to see the truth of Jefferson's theory that men are able to govern themselves. Many are not now so sure. Something seems to have happened to America-and to Americans.
Especially during the depression and World War II we gave up much of our freedom-"temporarily." Since then we have discovered that freedoms relinquished "temporarily" are hard to get back. Emergency "regulations"have led to "planning" and now the government-which according to our rules is supposed to be the servant of the people -is pretty much taking over the running of our lives. This "planning" appears to be changing not only the character of our government but the character of our people. Millions now seem willing to give up their independence for the promise that the government will take care of them. The great cause for alarm is not that the "planners" want to plan our lives but that we are allowing them to do so. And the most tragic aspect of it all is that so many of us, who should be more far-seeing, are helping them, by scurrying to Washington every time our own"security" in the form of special favors is endangered, every time we ourselves want some "planning"--subsidy--from the overnment. This country was not built by men who relied on somebody else to take care of them. It was built by men who relied on themselves, who dared to shape their own lives, who had enough courage to blaze new trails-enough confidence in themselves to take the necessary risks.
This self-reliance is our American legacy. It is the secret of "that something" which stamped Americans as Americans. Some call it individual initiative; others backbone. But whatever it is called, it is a precious ingredient in our national character-one which we must not lose. The time has come for us to re-establish the rights for which we stand-to reassert our inalienable rights to human dignity, self-respect, self-reliance-to be again the kind of people who once made America great. Such a crusade for renewed independence will require a succession of inspired leaders-leaders in spirit and in knowledge of the problem, not just men with political power who are opposed to communism, or to diluted communism, but men who are militantly for the distinctive way of life that was America. We are likely to find such leaders only among those persons who teach self-reliance and who practice it with the strict devotion of belief and understanding.
NOTE: This is an article found in Essays On Liberty (Foundation for Economic Education) republished under permission printed in the front of the book.
EDITORS NOTE (from front of book): These essays on liberty were originally published as separate releases by the Foundation for Economic Education. They are still available in pamphlet or single-sheet form. Samples and prices will be furnished on request.
A brief biography of each author may be found on pages 293 to 297. Permission is hereby granted to reprint these essays in whole or in part. Copyright 1952
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