With this era bereft of pithy comments of enduring value, it is refreshing to reflect on some of the best by the best.
“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”
“If we can prevent government from wasting the labor of the people under the pretense of taking care of them — they must be happy.”
“The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”
“It is in the natural course of events that liberty recedes and government grows.”
“If we let Washington tell us when to sow and when to reap the nation shall soon want for bread.”
Nothing approximating this philosophy has been heard reverberating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue lately. Contrary concepts have.
What a different culture this would be if the court decisions of our day were shared by President Reagan’s understanding of the First Amendment to our Constitution.
“The First Amendment was not written to protect people and their laws from religious values, but it was written to protect those values from government tyranny.”
No area of thought was exempted from his wit.
Once he commented a person asked him if he had any idea how many people were praying for the President. He answered, “Yes, I am. I have felt it. I believe in intercessory prayer, but I couldn’t help to say to that questioner, that if sometimes when he was praying he got a busy signal it was me getting there ahead of him.”
Being a bold advocate of a strong national defense posture did not prevent him from realizing the need for an even better form of defense as noted in this quote.
“It is not enough to depend on our own courage and goodness, we must also seek help from God our Father and Preserver.”
The President kept a card file of favorite quotes. He knew literature and used this quoted from “Antigone to the Legislature: Sophocles.”
“You who are mortal cannot change the infallible, unwritten laws of heaven. They did not begin today or yesterday, but they are everlasting and none can tell the hour that saw their birth. I would not from fear of any human edict, incur the God-inflicted penalty of disobeying divine law.”
Many of the quotes were of our founders. He knew our roots and reverend our history. One such quote was by Thomas Jefferson who said, “The God who gave us life gave us liberty — can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
May there be a new birth of sensibility in our nation framed by such foundational truths that these liberties might be secure.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.