Texas House Representative David Simpson delivered the following speech on October 8, 2014 at a Students For Liberty Event in Houston. This text was originally published at the SFL website. Rep. Simpson also recently was a keynote speaker for the first Christians for Liberty Conference.
We are here today to celebrate the next generation of pro-liberty leaders. In so doing I want to link pro-liberty leaders with America’s greatness.
America’s greatness is often depicted in its natural resources and so we sing: “O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!” But America’s greatness lies not merely in the blessings of its rich resources of oil and gas, and farmland, but most of all within its people!
A people bound together by an idea, but even more than that, a conviction and recognition that individuals are endowed with certain inalienable rights—rights that cannot be severed from our being without doing violence to their humanity.
America’s greatness is in We the People! Not because of rights conferred upon us by the government or conceded by a king under duress. America’s greatness is not derived from rights obtained from any man or group of men, or institution, but in recognition that our rights come from God! That our Creator made us alive, free, and capable individuals. This recognition of and respect for each other as free and responsible individuals (the dignity of our humanity) also coincides with another idea, that the use of force is only legitimate when it is employed to protect us from those who use their freedom irresponsibly and harm their neighbor.
We the People, in order to form a more perfect union, in 1787 established a limited and constitutional federal republic with LIMITED powers, in recognition that though we are created free and responsible, given opportunity, individuals will abuse their freedom at the expense of others’ freedom. So America’s greatness is bound up in not only our identity as free and responsible individuals, but also in recognition that individuals often and invariably use that freedom irresponsibly. We the People are bound together by a realistic view of humanity—both its dignity and its propensity to depravity.
We the People of America are not bound together by race or class or even in the end by complete unanimity of religious conviction. Few of our forefathers were natives; most were immigrants from different nations and people from all walks of life, with varying abilities. Some wealthy, some poor. Not all were even free. Our ideals were better than our practice.
We are bound together by a vision of a common identity, tested by intense fires of nature and human depravity and frailty. We are bound together as new People, not just any people—a free and responsible people! The true greatness of We the People of the United States of America is found in our recognition of who we are as human beings; that we are special and distinct and separate from all other creatures—we are not accidents. No, our founders recognized that we are made in the image of God, free, responsible, under him.
Why is that important? It is important because, we have forgotten a lot of this in the midst of amazing prosperity produced from one of the freest society’s that has ever existed. We have lost our way and forgotten who we are. We have become accustomed to being treated as children, dependents on civil parents, instead of responsible, independent adults. If we are not going to lose more of our freedom to statists and people who would rather live at the expense of others, it is critical that the this generation of young lovers of liberty lead as they did in 1776.
When we think of the founders and we think of independence, we tend to think of them as older men. But many were younger then you might think. Benjamin Franklin was 70 at the time the Declaration was signed, but many patriots were young men and women in in their late teens, 20s and 30s. Consider the ages of these patriots at the time of the signing of the Declaration: • Marquis de Lafayette, 18 • James Monroe, 18 • Henry Lee III, 20 • John Marshall, 20 • Nathan Hale, 21 • Alexander Hamilton, 21 • Gouveneur Morris, 24 • Betsy Ross, 24 • James Madison, 25 • Henry Knox, 25 • John Paul Jones, 28 • John Jay, 30 • Benjamin Rush, 30 • Abigail Adams, 31 • Thomas Jefferson, 33 • James Wilson, 34 • Samuel Chase, 35 • Thomas Paine, 39 • Patrick Henry, 40 • John Adams, 40 • Paul Revere, 41 • Richard Henry Lee, 44 • George Washington, 44 • Samuel Adams, 53 • John Witherspoon, 53 • Roger Sherman, 55 • Benjamin Franklin, 70.
We desperately need pro-liberty leaders who: love God and their neighbor as themselves; demonstrate wisdom that is pure, peaceable, and gentle; are easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good works, without partiality, and without hypocrisy; and demonstrate courage and strength to carry on, to persevere, to never, never give up. Those who limit not only the power they give to civil magistrates, but to themselves.
Now 179 years ago, on October 2nd not far from here, at the town of Gonzales, Texans heralded the challenge, “Come and take it!” with a white banner to the troops sent by the self-appointed Mexican dictator, Santa Anna. They refused to give up their right to defend themselves and their family. With a canon the Mexican government had given them, they did just that—they defended themselves.
Soon Americans heard about this in Georgia and on November 12, 1835, raised $3000 at a town hall meeting to outfit 150 volunteers to go to Texas and fight for its independence. The first stop for the patriots was in Knoxville, Georgia at the home of a 17 year-old Joanna Troutman where her family ran an inn. Desiring to honor these brave men who had left their homes, wives, children and businesses, she took what she could, something precious, her own white silk skirt and made one of the earliest lone star banners. On the front of the banner she emblazoned a blue star on the white field and underneath it stitched the words, their goal: “Texas and Liberty.” On the back in Latin she put their motivation: “Where liberty dwells, there is our country.”
Those Georgians understood who they were and what God would have them to do. They believed in the patriot dream of which we sing: “O beautiful for patriot dream; That sees beyond the years: Thine alabaster cities gleam: Undimmed by human tears!” This is the glorious destiny of which Galatians 4:26 refers, where individuals in community use their freedom responsibly!
May God help us, in this generation, to renew this vision, for Texas and Liberty!