Cold and timid souls no more
By Ken Mandile
Three years ago, the tea party movement was sparked by bailouts, stimulus spending, growing deficits, and an ever-expanding government. We spoke out against politicians who over-promised, overspent, and overtaxed. Our political process had become a corrupted system of self-serving politicians, cronyism, and greedy public employee unions, fueled by money provided by large corporations who distorted the free market to their advantage.
These are but symptoms of the real issue, though. The true blame belongs to people like me who were too busy raising a family and paying their bills to participate.
If there is one thing that I have learned in the past three years, it is that participation in the political process is not something that can be left to others. Every citizen has a duty to participate beyond casting a vote. For a republic to function effectively, its citizens must be actively engaged in politics.
A little more than 100 years ago, in April 1910, former Progressive Republican President Theodore Roosevelt delivered his "Citizenship in a Republic" speech at the Sorbonne in Paris. It is best known for the single paragraph referred to as the "Man in the Arena" quotation:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Those of us who are new to politics are often criticized because so many of us were not active before President Obama took office.
We plead guilty to this accusation, but it does not diminish the credibility of our position that our Constitution must be defended, that our inalienable rights are best protected by truly free markets and a limited government, and that irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies are threats to our freedom and to that of future generations.
We may have come late, but it is never too late to do what is right. In fact, having become aware of our duty we have no choice but to remain in the arena.
President Roosevelt's 1910 speech in Paris on citizenship was not a new theme for him. He had given a similar call to duty 17 years earlier in another speech about citizenship.
He said, "The people who say that they have not time to attend to politics are simply saying that they are unfit to live in a free community. Their place is under despotism; or if they are content to do nothing but vote, you can take despotism tempered by an occasional plebiscite ... If freedom is worth having, if the right of self-government is a valuable right, then the one and the other must be retained exactly as our forefathers acquired them, by labor, and especially by labor in organization, that is in combination with our fellows who have the same interests and the same principles."
This Sunday, the Worcester Tea Party will celebrate local citizen activism with its fourth annual rally, from 2 to 4 p.m. in Lincoln Square, Worcester. At our very first rally in 2009, we thought that we were just protesting an out-of-control government. Little did we realize that our small group of novices would become part of a major force in American politics. It's still very early to know where our efforts will lead us, but we remain committed to our cause, not because we don't have other things that we would rather be doing, but because we do not have a choice.
The fact that 200, or maybe 2,000, people will show up in Lincoln Square on Sunday to defend our freedom genuinely moves me, but there should be 100,000 people there. Throughout history people have given and continue to give their lives for a chance of freedom for their children and future generations.
We have remnants of our freedom left and can defend it without risking our lives, but most Americans refuse to participate. Are you one of those people that Teddy Roosevelt referred to as "cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat?"
Ken Mandile is president of the Worcester Tea Party.
April 12. 2012 12:00AM
Cold and timid souls no more
AS I SEE IT, telegram.com