ICAS Liberty Award Speech

No. 2002-0125-BND

Great Principles
America Values

Becky Norton Dunlop

Winter 2002 ICAS Liberty Award Dinner

January 22, 2002 6:30 - 9:45 PM
Lai Lai Garden, Blue Bell PA.

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

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Biographic Sketch & Links: Beck Norton Dunlop

Great Principles America Values
ICAS Annual Liberty Award Dinner
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
January 25, 2002
Becky Norton Dunlop

It is a privilege and an honor to be here tonight to address this distinguished group. I am grateful to Dr. Kim for extending this opportunity to me. And, I must say that I am pleased to be sharing the podium with the Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States, John Yoo.

Dr. Kim has asked me to address the subject: Great Principles America Values. As I began to think about this topic, I decided to first go to the dictionary and see exactly how I might focus my remarks. How does Webster's define Principle? Well, in three ways that pertain to tonight's discussion. 1. A comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption. 2. A rule or code of conduct. And 3. The laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device (like government.)

So, tonight I intend to cover three categories of principles America values but necessarily limit my remarks to just a few key ones in each area. It is my hope that you will find we are in enthusiastic agreement about these ideas.

The first category of Great Principles that America Values are Personal ones.
Simply speaking, I mean that each of these principles applies to every American in a very personal way. And individuals must make conscious decisions whether or not to apply them daily. They are fundamental and guide personal conduct meeting Webster's test. The ones I shall describe to you are from the Judeo-Christian tradition but I believe that all of the great religions of the world teach these principles in their own unique way.

The first of these is what most know as The Golden Rule. Now some say that the Golden Rule is, "He who has the gold rules." That would not be the rule I refer to. No, the Golden Rule is, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." This is quite a basic and clear statement but just think for a moment how life would change if everyone simply applied the Golden Rule to every aspect of his or her lives.

Examples for us to consider abound: initiating a war, terrorist acts, neighborhood robberies, cheating at sports or on your taxes, cheating employees or shareholders, even road rage and rudeness.

I remember that President Ronald Reagan said, "If we lived by the Golden Rule, there would be no need for other laws."

The second of these great personal principles is "Love your neighbor as yourself." The most important element of this principle is that one must recognize the value and worth of each human, beginning with one's self. If one has a poor self-image, does not view themselves as an individual with dignity and value, how can they then be expected to treat their neighbor with dignity and love and generosity. Too often, inspiring and challenging talks are given about the first phrase…love your neighbor. My encouragement and challenge is to really think about this entire principle. If we indeed value this great principle which easily springs to our lips, we should readily understand that government programs that diminish the value of each human life and individual American, that diminish the opportunity for every American to have a sense of self worth and self-respect; these are not government programs that we should champion. Government programs should in fact "do no harm" to the individual and where appropriate even enhance the value and worth of each citizen so we can have a higher standard for "loving your neighbor as yourself."

Foundational Principles

Let me move quickly on to the next category I would like to discuss: Foundational Principles. These, and I will touch on only three tonight, are among those organizing principles for the new government of the United States. I am mentioning only three so that Mr. Yoo will have plenty of time for his remarks. However, I have brought for each of you a copy of The Founder ' Almanac published by The Heritage Foundation. It contains a wealth of wonderful material about many of the Founding principles I do not have time to discuss tonight.

The three I do wish to mention are:
  1. Freedom versus security;
  2. Limited Government; and
  3. Equal Justice Under the Law.
Let's first look at Freedom versus Security. The Founders of this country faced and debated this principle. There was a certain security being part of the British Empire; the colonies were under the "protection" of the Crown; there was some degree of certainty about their future. Freedom was "freedom from the crown" with all of its inherent uncertainties. Certainly, there would be a loss of security since there would be a war. The King of England would not give up the colonies without a fight. Lives would be lost, property and businesses destroyed, families divided, future prospects of the colonists were unknown. Debates - public and private - raged among friends, between family members: debates about the costs of freedom versus the benefits of freedom.

Thankfully, for those of us who live in America today and who love and cherish our liberty, our forebears took the risk and sided with freedom over security. They fought a war, won the freedom and birthed a new nation, our nation, the United States of America.

The Declaration of Independence declared boldly the basis for choosing Freedom; "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." This was a different way of thinking -- different than the thinking anywhere else in the world. It was revolutionary.

Just think about it for a moment...All men are equal.

None deserve to rule over others.
None deserved to be ruled by others.
Individuals possess these rights.

The rights are given by their Creator and not granted by a king or a government. The governments in this new country would derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Freedom is a birthright but it often must be sought and won at great cost. And freedom is constantly threatened --- often by the opposing objective of security regardless of the cost to individual freedom. This is one reason why we must always be vigilant.

James Madison was a most eloquent spokesman for defending freedom citing and writing about the next Great Principle...Limited Government.

Madison talked about a Limited Government constrained by Checks and Balances, Separation of Powers, and balanced responsibility between federal and state government.

If you will permit me, I would like to read a paragraph for you on Madison's thinking about limited government from the Founder's Almanac.

Page 260, paragraph one.

Fortunately for us, Madison and his colleagues agreed and built into the fabric of the new government three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. In the legislative branch, a House and a Senate, two bodies were established. One, the House, had members elected every two years by the citizens; the other, the Senate had members elected at that time by the state legislators to be representatives of the states. Nothing in United States becomes a law unless both bodies agree. Both approve; send it to the President and the President approves.

They established a partially blended government where if the House and the Senate agreed on a bill, passed it and sent it to the President and the President did not agree with it, he could veto the bill. But they also provided that if the Congress disagreed with the Presidential veto, the Congress could override the veto.

They provided that the Senate would advise and consent or confirm Presidential appointees including his appointments to the judicial branch. Again, this is a blended responsibility, the concept of checks and balances. No one branch has all of the power.

Then, of course, the Founders provided for a balanced federal system between the State governments and the national government. As a former state official, I take it as a personal responsibility to remind folks that the Tenth Amendment is still in the Constitution. It is very short…let me read it to you. It is forgotten so often.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution not prohibited by it to the states are reserved to the states respectively or to the people."
So, we have "limited government" as a great principle America values.

The final Foundational Principle I will discuss tonight is: Equal Treatment Under the Law.

It is this principle that assures the government is one of laws and not of men. This principle ensures that the rights of every individual -- protected by a constitution are not unequally enforced or abrogated at the whim of some "government" or government official.

While Americans do value this important principle, we have seen in recent years that this principle is being undermined. There are several examples I could cite to you but let me share just one…The Endangered Species Act, a major environmental law. The Endangered Species Act is supposed to be applied equally across this country and yet we have numerous examples where the law is applied harshly in the western part of the country. And, we have a notable example right now in the backyard of the elites in Washington, D.C. where the law is being ignored.

There is an aqueduct in Washington, D.C. that provides drinking water to Washington, D.C. and to the federal government. On a regular basis, those who manage the aqueduct dump tons of sediment laced with toxins into the Potomac River in to the habitat of an endangered species. This has been going on for a number of years and the federal government has turned a blind eye. They have not equally enforced the Endangered Species Act.

Well, someone has now taken the federal government to court over this situation. And, this is now a test case about whether this principle which Americans do value will be upheld or whether there will be a further eroding of the principle of "equal justice under the law."

It is very important that this principle regains its respect and value or our freedom and liberty is endangered. Every time the principles upon which our Constitution was based and our country was founded are ignored or become eroded, our liberties are in danger. Lip service is not enough. Our federal government must get back to the business of equal enforcement of the law.

Practical Political Principles for Today

Finally, I would like to share with you some principles for practical politics today. I think you will find these to be of interest.

A colleague of mine, Mr. Larry Reed, who is a distinguished scholar but also a savvy and effective political leader summarized a set of practical principles. I believe that most Americans understand these principles and value them today.

  1. If a people are free, they will not earn equal incomes; conversely, show me a people who have equal incomes, and I will show you a people who are not free.
  2. What belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair.
  3. It isn't enough to focus on the short-term effects of a law or policy on a few special interests. The long-run effects on all people must be considered as well.
  4. If you encourage something, you get more of it; if you discourage something, you get less of it.
  5. Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own.
  6. Government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes from somebody.
  7. A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.
So, there you have it -- a short course in Great Principles America values.

Two Personal Principles
Three Foundational Principles
Seven Practical Political Principles
An even dozen.
What a deal!

John Adams made the statement that "Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone which can establish the principles upon which Freedom can securely stand."

Let us hope and pray that Americans will always acknowledge, value and support these guiding principles so that we can remain a beacon of freedom to t he rest of the world.

Thank you. God bless you and God bless America.

Ladies and Gentlemen... The principles we have discussed this evening are great...and valued by many if not most Americans. But too often Americans are not guided daily by the principles they say they value.

Well, the Heritage Foundation, millions of people across this country...and I think I can safely say President Bush values these great principles and seek to guide our country by them.

They are fundamental laws and doctrines that underlie conduct the American people aspire to and they are valued because they form the underlying foundation of our American system of government and laws. Our nation can once again turn the tide, as it did in the 1980s, return to these great principles, and Ronald Reagan's hope will be realized once again.

God bless you and God bless America. Thank you.

(Speech text not transcript 01-25-02)

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