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A New Freedomism: Reflections on the Upcoming Presidential Campaign

© Third Millennium, LLC
Keith A Fournier

I write this article at a time when I pray that we will soon see the end of the hostilities in Iraq.

It is Sunday morning and I, like so many others, prayed this morning for a quick end to the war and the safe return of our brave troops.

I prayed for our President, who is a good man, and for all those in authority. I prayed for all those who are suffering, including all the innocent victims of war. I prayed for our Nation on the eve of a Presidential cycle.

I also reflected on my own personal "political history."

Raised in a blue collar Catholic home, I identified most of my life with the party in America that Calls itself "Democrat". Yet, ironically it was a Republican Presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan, whose message on the campaign trail and exercise of leadership in Office impressed me into a life of serious political participation.

I simply do not believe that politics is about parties but rather about ideas...and about true leadership.

Before we know it, the Presidential race will quickly be upon us! I am deeply interested in politics. I write this article as a citizen who seeks to expand the great promise of freedom.

Campaign 2004

There is little doubt that our current President will be unopposed for his parties' nomination. Thus, all eyes, and the cameras of the Press, will probably turn to that party that once purported to carry the banner of the working person and the poor. That is, until they failed to hear the cry of the poorest of the poor, the children in the first home of their mothers womb.

Who will become the Democratic nominee for President? Will that party break with the current lunacy that has co-opted its once proud record of caring for the working class and those with no voice? Will a true leader emerge?

If so, it has not yet happened in the current field. Who knows, maybe a surprise is in the air.

I address this article to both parties. However, I am especially speaking to the party of my roots, the Democratic Party.

It is hard to believe that it was so long ago that an American president faced the Wall that separated not only the people of Germany, but stood as a symbol of the failures of Marxism. Casting aside the advice of many of his trained consultants, he reached into the courageous cavernous heart which propelled his statesmanship and he proclaimed "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

The world would never be the same. That Wall fell like the walls of old Jericho. An American President, Ronald Reagan, carried the burden of history and spoke the Language of leadership. His bold words were backed up by even bolder action. He won that office with surprising support from Democrats like my own people, blue collar, working class folks who recognized real leadership.

We began this new century and this new millennium, filled with much hope for our future. The cold war was over. The economy seemed poised for great growth and the promise and possibility for economic freedom seemed to be opening to those who had so often been missed by its promise.

Yet, now we are now at war with another form of tyranny. The national mood is mixed. The once robust economy is now languishing. The rest of the world seems poised, waiting for what the future will offer, hope or despair, and again looking to America.

Once again, the choice, at least in one sense, lies with us. We desperately need Statesmen (and women), in both major Political parties, who are unafraid to speak the language of leadership and rouse us to follow our "better angels."

These leaders need, above all else, courage. It was courageous leadership that led to the tearing down of that wall in Berlin and only such inspired leadership can help secure a future of freedom, in America and beyond her shores.

There are walls impeding the flourishing of freedom within the contemporary American culture as well as around the world.

Each of the walls within our shores can stand as a barrier to true freedom by impeding real people and real families from engaging in what the American founders called the "pursuit of happiness" and finding the promise of freedom.

There are many issues and needs to be addressed by the future Presidential candidates. Let me suggest a few:

One need is education. It is time to tear down the walls that keep our children out of good schools and prevent parents from making educational decisions.

Another is affordable and accessible health care. It is time tear down the walls that keep working families from affordable, quality healthcare and keeps the decision making power in the hands of bureaucrats.

Another need is a viable and dynamic social security plan. It is time to tear down the walls that keep our young from investing their own money for their own retirement- as well as trap our elderly in fear of the future. We do not need intergenerational rivalry, we need solidarity. It is time to recognize our obligation in solidarity to our elders as well as to the next generation and to refuse the temptation to choose one over the other.

A FUTURE OF FREEDOM

This election should be about the future of freedom in America and ---because of her great influence in the world-- about the future of freedom in the rest of the world. From the ruins of that wall in Berlin, and the failure of the Marxist counterfeit of freedom which it symbolized-- must arise a new century of authentic human freedom.

From the grip of other forms of totalitarianism, some masquerading as religion, must arise a true respect for true religious freedom as well as a recovery of an understanding and respect for the common good.

The American longing and impulse for freedom was expressed so well in the great words of another of America's great leaders, Abraham Lincoln. He called America, at another critical time in her history, to "A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM".

That is what we need today, leaders who will do the same.

Freedom does not exist on its own as a concept---it must be en-fleshed in human persons and proclaimed by real, inspiring leaders - not the kind who parrot the failed ideas of the puppet-masters who currently control the Democratic Party.

Freedom is birthed and advanced through the sacrificial and inspirational lives of human persons and the witness of truly free societies.

In other words, only people can be free and it takes people to both understand and to exercise freedom. That is because we alone, among all creatures on the earth, have been given the capacity to make choices. That capacity to choose lies at the heart of what makes us human. It is what theologians have long expressed as the "Imago Dei", the image of God within every one of us.

This capacity to choose brings with it an obligation to choose the good and to do what is right! There must be a moral constitution to the exercise of human freedom- otherwise liberty devolves into license. Some choices, like the taking of innocent human life in the womb, is always and everywhere intrinsically evil. It must never be viewed as a "choice." Leaders who will win the hearts of America and secure a future of freedom need to be willing to say so. People cannot be treated as products.

The American Presidents of the twenty-first century, should have the courage to, where necessary, break with the failed policies of the past, including the horrible travesty set in motion by the reprehensible abuse of judicial power in Roe v. Wade.

America is poised, both from within and without, to assert extraordinary influence on the entire world. All people still yearn to be free. It is the noblest impulse of every human person. The question is what kind of leadership will we assert? This upcoming election should be about building and securing a future of authentic freedom in America and beyond. That will take true leadership.

Leadership

What this nation needs is leadership in both major political parties and a robust debate on the nature and the future of freedom.

I, a lifelong Democrat, was once captured by the example of a Republican candidate many years ago, a man named Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was not just a Republican; he was, above all, a leader. Even those who did not agree with many of his policies have come, in hindsight, to admire his leadership. He did not lead by polls or hunger for popularity. He held convictions and he acted upon them.

He was also a man of the people. He loved to travel this country he loved so much and listen to its people. This was a practice he began early in his professional life and continued in his public service. He knew that there was a wide divide, a "disconnect", between official Washington, and the American people. There still is. Having lived "in the beltway, and worked with a Presidential campaign, I know that most of America does not think like Washington, D.C.

Reagan's leadership was of a different sort. He believed in the basic goodness of the American soul. Americans knew that he was "the real McCoy" and they loved him. He was a true freedom fighter- a leader who not only spoke the language of leadership but also backed it with action. Because of that, he could call us to fulfill our potential, and we would follow.

Abraham Lincoln was also such a leader. Through his extraordinary words, but even more through his example, he called us as a nation-- at a critical time-- to unite, rise up and follow what he called the "higher angels" of our conscience. He brought healing to a wounded people, torn asunder by a great social justice issue, slavery.

Both of these men knew that freedom was not free- it was purchased in the blood of our ancestors and must be reaffirmed in every American generation.

We now stand at another significant time in our nations' history. Freedom itself must once again be set free! America's role in human history unfolds before us in this new millennium. This is a new American moment. The world waits --still-- for the truths that can set men free. We can- we must- rise to this moment. We have crossed the threshold of the next millennium, and it is time to build a better future together!

Let me suggest some themes for the upcoming election by presenting them in the language of freedom. They are offered as "food for thought" and perhaps a framework for what I call a "New Freedomism."

The Freedom to be born

We must secure in the law-- and embrace in our hearts-- the first freedom--the freedom to be born because it is the first freedom! Just as America, in the days of Lincoln, could not be half slave and half free, if she were to be truly free---- just as the world could never begin to experience freedom while a wall in Berlin separated families and threatened the death of true freedom, during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan- America will be truly free only when she welcomes into her national embrace, every child, and recognizes, once again, that the inalienable right to life is the foundation of freedom itself.

We simply should not, as a freedom loving people, any longer affirm as a "right" what is so clearly wrong. Medical Science has confirmed what our hearts have known all along, the child in the womb is our neighbor. She must be welcomed into the neighborhood.

Freedom to educate our children

The freedom to educate our children must once again be returned to those who are the first and best teachers of their own children, parents. The movement toward parental choice in education is a civil rights issue, an issue of social justice. No parent should be forced to send their child to an unsafe or unqualified school. Yes, all children must have access to an education, but it must be a good education. We must, once again, as a free people, place our first confidence in the first government-- the family.

We must set parents free to make the choice as to where formal education can best occur for their children. That choice should include the full array of all options for all parents--- public, private, parochial, charter, or home schools. This freedom simply must not be for the wealthy. All families must be free to give their children the best education. This is a social justice issue.

The national government should defer to the wisdom of parents, the government in the home, and support that freedom through a constitutionally sound voucher or credit program. The Federal government, following the principle of subsidiarity, should defer and empower local government initiatives in public education. It is time to break the stranglehold of a federal monopoly in education! Government works best when it is closest to the people.

Further, we must not, as some would argue, delay this freedom. Why? The track record is clear. Let's give competition the opportunity to produce excellence. Further, we need to again trust the judgment of parents and the ordinary wisdom of the American people. We should return taxpayer money to parents to make this most fundamental choice.

Freedom to care for one another

Abraham Lincoln's' call to care for all men and women, regardless of the color of their skin, and Ronald Reagan's courageous call to stand in solidarity with those oppressed by the tyranny of what he rightly called "an evil empire" --are both examples of Presidential leadership cut from the same seamless cloth of authentic human care and solidarity. It is the cloak still worn by an America at its best.

We must now defend the freedom to care for those who are most in need. An American understanding of freedom has always included an intuitive understanding of the both sides of freedom's coin- freedom from and freedom for. Americans time and time again have proven themselves to be the most charitable and compassionate of all the people of earth.

Who among the nations of the world steps up to the plate whenever the need arises to clothe, feed, and assist those affected by tragedy? We must set Americans free to care and empower them to do so, even with federal tax dollars. After all, it is our money!

Let's be honest--- big Government is not very good at being good. Oh, it may be well intended, but it is inefficient and ineffective. We must set churches, charities, and neighbors free to do what they do best, offer a hand up --and a heart full- of love, to those most in need. This vision of charitable choice is not new-- it is old. Charity does indeed begin at home.

Simply using the word compassion will not be enough it it stays an adjective. It must issue forth into action-- into policies-which set compassionate people free! Only then will charity move from the heart of the American people into the homes, the Churches, and the marketplace of both ideas and action.

The role of the National Government must become one of support and empowerment, not monopoly and misery. The current administration has begun the task of building a new "social safety net" that recognizes the right role of the "intermediary associations." For that they are to be commended. Now, leaders in both parties have to carry the work forward. Only then will the compassion of America become the seedbed of a new birth of freedom for all Americans, and expand beyond her borders.

Freedom to be well

The freedom to be well is at the heart of living the full promise of our freedom. Health care is not an option! The only real question is how it can be expanded to all Americans. We must set all Americans free to make healthcare decisions for themselves and for their own children. America's healthcare system is the best in the world! What is missing in our healthcare system is not providers but participation.
We must give the American people, not bloated bureaucracies, the power and the freedom to make their own healthcare decisions. This can include Medical Savings Accounts and market-based solutions--- but it will require much more than that. It will require a partnership of both the public and private sector.

We do not need an ill fated huge bloated bureaucracy that will only lead us down the same path that led to that wall in Berlin. Let's leave the siren song of Socialism behind as we cross into this New Millennium.

However, we do need leaders in this area to frame the alternative approach. Real people are sick and real people and families are without insurance. A crisis looms and leaders are needed, in both parties, to help us rise to the moment, solve the problem and forge a future of freedom.

Freedom from Fear of the future

The Freedom from fear for our seniors' future must be secured. This is a sacred obligation. Our approach to Social Security must be expanded!

YES--- we must honor our contract with all those who have relied on the existing Social Security and protect it from being raided by the hungry hooks of big government! But we must do even better --by opening up to all people the opportunity to participate in investing their own funds for their own future.

We need a dose of honesty-the Federal Government is simply not a good fund manager. We need a new approach that both secures and respects our obligation to honor our past promises as a nation and which opens the vistas of the greatest economy in the world to the greatest number of Americans.

This kind of an approach will welcome the continued contributions and wisdom of our older Americans and set them free from financial fear, but it will also free the next generation to build their own American future while they continue to care about others. This kind of two track approach will enrich our national future.

Economic Freedom: the new Frontier

The freedom to participate in the greatest economy of our history is a part of the hope of this new century. America is a nation rich with untapped entrepreneurial genius and creative potential. The market economy can be a new frontier of freedom. But, the entrepreneurs of the new millennium must be set free. This will be advanced when we remove the obstacles which keep free enterprise shackled---- the greatest of which is a Tax Code that is the equivalent of the kiss of death for those who seek to prosper and free their families for a future of hope. The current Code penalizes performance and punishes creativity!
Of course, we must also affirm that the market was made for man and not man for the market. We need to encourage the "social entrepreneurs" of our age and make compassion an ally of economic freedom. We must avoid a kind of "economic Darwinism", a survival of the fittest approach to the market economy. We should promote an economy of participation, not exclusion--a moral market economy, which affirms the dignity of every human person---a market that also promotes the family, is infused with truly human values and promotes the common good.

For example, one of the unfortunate social effects of the last economic revolution referred to as the industrial revolution, was the undermining of the in tact family. The wonders of this new age of technology could promote a rebirth of what was formerly known as "cottage industries"--- home based businesses where the family once again becomes the first business.

But this kind of economic approach will take visionary leadership. It will take a president who understands the extraordinary potential of a market economy---but who also values the human person and the family.

The market and its liberating potential for all of our citizens will only be advanced as a vehicle to promote freedom and solidarity through inspired leadership. This technological age must not be feared. It must be faced, embraced-- and given a human heart to help promote America's future of freedom.

CONCLUSION

This kind of an expansive vision of freedom trusts in the inherent goodness of the American people. However, it also recognizes that there is a sort of "goodness gap." That is the gap between the Washington elite and the people of this wonderful nation. The heart of goodness still beats strongly in America. That goodness needs to be set free by inspired leadership in both parties.
America always has her champions! The greatest tribute we can pay to all of them as we proceed in this new century is to carry on what Abraham Lincoln once called "The Unfinished Work of Freedom." The fundamental struggle of our age is how we will define and how we will live the call to a responsible use of freedom.

The next president has an extraordinary obligation and opportunity. With real leadership, this wonderful nation, conceived in liberty, can once again have a "New Birth of Freedom."

I have great respect for the current President. I believe he is a genuinely good man. However, there is a race that I believe would truly be an exciting one in this election cycle. It is on the Democratic side. Just as I was prompted to political participation years ago by a Republican - even though I was a registered Democrat - I could be prompted the other way by a fresh voice and vision in the Democratic Party. I know that I am not alone in this. I hear voices like my own everywhere I travel these days.

What if a "pro-life, pro-family and pro-poor" type of Democratic candidate emerged in the Democratic side. Wouldn't that make for an interesting race? Wouldn't that raise the water level and make for a great public debate?

I know there are some who fit this description. But, one in particular, I am privileged to call a friend. He is the former Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts where I grew up. He has also served as an Ambassador to the Vatican and is himself an American story.

His name is Ray Flynn. I don't know if you read this site old friend, but if you do.... Run Ray run! The Party that you have spent so many years in is desperately in need of a fresh new vision and the Nation that you so dearly love could benefit from your candidacy.

By the way, if you do... give me a call.

___________________________________________________

Keith A Fournier is a Roman Catholic deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia who also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with approval. Deacon Fournier A graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is a human rights lawyer, lobbyist for faith based initiatives and businessman. He is the founder and Thomas More Fellow of Common Good and was a founder of Your Catholic Voice

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