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Boyd Matheson: From hand-wringing to highly resolved

Portrait of 16th United States President Abraham Lincoln. (1809-1865) (Courtesy of the National Archives/Newsmakers)
Portrait of 16th United States President Abraham Lincoln. (1809-1865) (Courtesy of the National Archives/Newsmakers)
National Archives, Getty Images North America

There is a lot of hand-wringing taking place around the country as we approach the first Tuesday of November. (To be technically correct, it is the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.) But because I am from Utah I can, with confidence, focus on the first Wednesday of November – knowing that the answers to what ails the nation are not to be found in Washington but in our homes and neighborhoods. Utah is thriving, with a strong free market economy and institutions of civil society fueled by community-driven solutions.

During this divisive and often discouraging election cycle, Utah alone among the states has resoundingly rejected the politics of fear, anger, angst and frustration the major parties and their candidates have peddled. The world has taken notice – and reporters from across the country and around the globe have flocked to Utah to come and see for themselves what is going right, right here in the Beehive State.

Utah’s economy, community and success, combined with its repudiation of the status quo in Washington, have pierced the noisy and negative chatter and clamor of our failing – and often flailing – political system and media pundits who cover it. Utah is sending out to the nation the sound of the certain trumpet of principles and policies, while also providing a window in where all can come and see what happens when these principles and policies are properly applied.

The American people are starving for elevated dialogue, searching for inspiring ideas and striving to find hope in heroes worthy of emulation. As always, a look back in history provides a clear vision of what is needed for the difficult days ahead.

When we honor those who have paid the ultimate price while standing for the principles of freedom, we rightly reference the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, that “they gave the last full measure of devotion.” We often miss, however, Lincoln’s powerful and immediate pivot to the future – to us. In the crescendo and cadence of freedom, he called on our better angels, saying it is “for us the living,” that “we be here dedicated,” that “we take increased devotion” and above all, that “we here highly resolve!”

Lincoln recognized that those he honored had already paid the price, done their part, and passed their test. He knew the real question was a question for the ages – whether each of us would be highly resolved to do our individual duty.

To be highly resolved is not a casual choice but a complete commitment. A well-known biblical verse says, “Choose ye this day,” but the phrase from the more powerful Greek translation reads, “Commit ye this day.” The difference between a choice and commitment is too big to measure and provides both a directional and destinational difference in our individual lives, as well as the fate and future of the nation. Thus choosing freedom is vastly different from having a highly resolved commitment to freedom.

In these challenging times, our children should never have to strain to discern our commitment to freedom, nor should our grandchildren have to wonder what we believe or what we have committed to do. Our communities need more highly resolved men and women who care about creating better neighborhoods and a better nation.

The question of our commitment is simple. As Lincoln asked – will we take increased devotion to the principles that have fostered the greatest civilization the world has ever known? Will we be so dedicated to the unfinished work and the task before us? Will we be as highly resolved to the cause of freedom as those who have gone before?

They didn’t have to, you know.

That Revolution

That Declaration that all men are created equal

That law for the people and by the people and of the people rules supreme, not a king

That freedom to believe and imagine and pursue your dreams with small steps or giant leaps

That freedom to speak and sing and write and create without fear

That freedom to try and fail, grow and build, question and explore, share and lift

They didn’t have to

But they did.

And we took it, we the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free

And we breathed.

And we ran, daring to scale the greatest heights of human achievement.

This is who we are.

This land.

This people.

We stumble, yes.

But we get up, highly resolved to give our children and our children’s children this gift, this pursuit of happiness

This new birth of freedom.

With a highly resolved commitment to the principles of liberty, Utahns will continue to lead the way on the journey toward a new birth of freedom.

Boyd C. Matheson is president of Sutherland Institute, a Salt Lake City-based think tank advancing free markets, civil society and community-driven solutions.