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Reflections of Washington

By Mia Garza McCord, President. Nov. 12, 2019

I had the privilege to spend a few days at the end of October in Washington D.C. for a fellowship sponsored and hosted by the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI). CPI is a non-profit led by Senator Jim DeMint with the purpose of connecting people within the conservative movement and providing the tools needed to be effective advocates. As part of their second class of Haggerty-Richardson Fellows, a group of young professionals were brought together to not only learn the processes of Washington D.C., but to collaborate and inspire one another in the conservative fight.

Having been to Washington many times, I find the city beautiful and historic, but the politics and government dark and dysfunctional. We often hear of the lack of progress made in D.C. and the polarizing politics. On Sunday morning shows, politicians point fingers and make excuses for the often-childish fights in play. Between secret impeachment proceedings and a President who utilizes social media in an unprecedented manner, my expectations for this trip were dismal. While I looked forward to the fellowship, I hardly expected anything but “doom and gloom” on the politics front.

I came away from this experience with a different view of our Federal Government. The politics has not changed, but my American spirit has been renewed. I found three restorative reminders while on this trip, each inspired by engraved quotes throughout the U.S. Capitol Building.

“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal well-meaning but without understanding”- Louis B. Brandeis, 1928

Known for his fervent belief in protecting the liberty of citizens and the freedom of speech, Louis B. Brandeis was an attorney and Supreme Court Justice. Written in a landmark case of Olmstead vs. United States, June 4, 1928, Brandeis’s dissenting opinion spoke to the rights of citizens when it came to the use of wiretaps as evidence in court.

This quote ages beyond wiretaps and is applicable today in discussing the continued fight for liberty from the grasp of a government, though usually “well-meaning” often separated from the everyday plights of millions of Americans. The fight for liberty and freedom are long standing and our great Nation has persevered. Brandeis reminds us to continue to fight for our freedoms by holding our government accountable and not allowing its “insidious encroachment.”

“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom and no such Thing as publick Liberty without Freedom of Speech.”- Benjamin Franklin, 1722

While written by Franklin, this was published under the pen name of Silence Dogood in the New England Courant in its July 2-9, 1722 issue. The full quote reads, “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or controul the Right of another: And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to know.”

Our inherent rights of liberty and speech should not be controlled by another, including our government, unless our rights impede the rights of someone else. Our ability and freedom to participate in civil (and, thanks to Twitter, sometimes uncivil) discourse is perhaps the most beautiful recognition made by our Founding Fathers. The fact that we can freely speak out against authority, including our Federal Government, without fear of censorship or punishment is a freedom that should not be taken for granted. Franklin reminds us that our country is great particularly due to our freedom of speech-- our right to exercise both our minds and our words.

“The only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed.”-

William Henry Harrison, 1841

This statement made by the 9thPresident of the United States of America during his Inaugural speech is perhaps the greatest and most inspiring take away from my recent visit to Washington, D.C. In today’s polarizing, tv and news headline grabbing, us vs. them politics, it is so easy to forget that we have given each and every one of our representatives the power to govern by electing them, but it does not end there. “An express grant of power from the governed”…. If we are the governed, and we are willfully granting the power of governing to our elected officials, then is it not our responsibility to speak up when our government is wielding too much power? Or, equally as important, not remembering their constitutional oath? Our government exists because of the people being governed.

As an American people, we should continue civil discourse, holding our government accountable, and always remember that their right to govern exists only through us. Afterall, as Ronald Reagan reminded us, America continues to be the “shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

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