In Defense of Liberty

As a Marine, I can recall our earliest memories of a Drill Instructor yelling out, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”!

In our state capitol and in the White House there is no one to lead, there is no one to follow, and worst of all, they won’t get out of the way!

America could be working again with a lot less politicians and a lot more Marines.

I’m sure Ronald Reagan was thinking specifically of authentic leaders when he said, and I quote: 

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they will make a difference. Marines don’t have that problem!”

All of us are here today because we understand that freedom will not survive without leadership. 

The bad news is that most of those in whom we have placed our trust…have failed that trust…always giving just the right speeches to get the votes…yet their actions, and failure to act, betray their oath of office.

More than ever America needs:

  • Leaders of integrity.
  • Leaders of courage
  • Leaders who place their faith in the almighty instead of themselves. 
  • Leaders that understand that triumph without victory is the fatal flaw of the opportunist. 

General McArthur said, “In war, there is no substitute for victory”.  And I would issue the challenge that the cause of liberty demands nothing less than victory.

Yet our politicians and too many of our citizens are all too ready for compromise, to succumb to accepting triumph without victory. 

Triumph without victory is about winning elections and losing our freedoms.

Triumph without victory is celebrating the return of our POW’s in Korea and Vietnam and leaving the rest behind. 

Triumph without victory is the president landing on the aircraft carrier declaring, “Mission Accomplished”, with years of war to follow.

Triumph without victory is launching a missile from a drone and leaving a country in revolution

Triumph without victory is implementing Homeland Security and the TSA while abandoning our civil liberties.

Triumph without victory is graduating from High School without an education.

Triumph without victory is earning a college degree, and no hope of a job.

Triumph without victory is winning back control of the congress and the presidency only to borrow and spend down the path to disaster. 

Triumph without victory is electing politicians not leaders.

In my business, the most important responsibility was always to find the right person for the job. 

In three decades I reviewed tens of thousands of resumes and interviewed hundreds of potential associates.

Nothing was more important than getting the right person in the right job. 

My company was successful because we hired great people who became a great team.

Unfortunately as citizens we have trouble finding and hiring great people to represent us. 

Here’s the type of person that my friend, Senator Coburn thinks we should be hiring and I’m quoting from his book, “The Debt Bomb”. 

“The typical member of Congress is a wonderful and engaging individual with little real-world experience. If we are to solve the problems in front of us, we must elect individuals with backgrounds similar to those of our founders—people full of life experiences paid for with hardship, hard work, and disappointment; people who are willing to give up the comfort of today for a better America.”    

My friends, we’ve got to do better. We’re the boss. We make the hiring decisions in primaries and general elections. 

The problem is there just aren’t good choices and too often we settle for “good-enough” or “not as bad as the other candidate”. If this were a business, we’d be bankrupt…and we are!

We’ve got to find the right people with the right motivation with real world experience…the survival of our country depends upon us hiring the right kind of leaders for the tough job ahead. 

We all know we don’t have enough authentic leaders anymore; we have suits with titles.  

Fifty years ago titles (senator, congresswoman, president) used to mean something. Now for the most part they’re empty shells, only an echo, not the real thing. 

If you have little experience, and want to be a somebody, a celebrity, you can become a politician, and for the rest of your life you will be addressed as the honorable such and such, no matter who you pandered to, what lobbyist you fell prey to, or what principles you compromised. 

Think about this.  When was the last time a member of congress, a governor or the president had the courage to put his or her career on the line for the good of the country? 

Instead we have elected officials promoting their own personal agenda, not with courage, but with the power of their office. 

I shudder to think what leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan would think about our so-called “leaders” today!

For our country to grow and prosper we need authentic leadership. We need leadership in our communities, our schools, our churches, and in our families. 

Over the years I’ve been challenged to fully engage the most effective words to explicitly define “Leadership”.

I compared the experiences of others with my own in the Marine Corps, business, as well as on the mission field. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the best summary on leadership is from General of the Army Douglas McArthur.

He said and I quote, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent”.

With MacArthur’s words in mind and my own personal experiences here’s what I‘ve learned about authentic leadership.

To begin, I’ve found that many of the best leaders, the authentic leaders, aren’t the ones with titles, fancy resumes, or diplomas from prestigious schools. 

As some of you may know, after my service in the Marine Corps, my father asked me to come back home to help save the family business.

We had some rough times to work through. We faced a crisis where the business irrefutably had less than a month to survive before all was lost.

Clearly understanding the threat to the company, our associates all pulled together as a team. Almost instantly leaders rose from the ranks to take on insurmountable challenges. 

We always considered ourselves just a bunch of ordinary people working together to produce extraordinary results.   We went from the edge of disaster to the best year in our company’s history in 18 months. It took authentic leadership, at all levels, to get the job done. 

Today’s tragedy is not that America doesn’t have leaders. We are all leaders: a homemaker, special education teacher, businessperson, foreman, nurse, volunteer in the community, a deacon in a church, or a student working part time to pay for their education. 

The tragedy is that we’ve allowed those with titles to push us back, to keep us in our place and out of the way. 

I always coached my business team to never confuse authority (seniority, position, office or title) with leadership. Because leadership isn’t a title; leadership is a result. 

In defining authentic leadership for the associates in my company, I would challenge them with this statement: 

“Leadership is earned, through integrity in action, attested only by those who freely choose to follow; unencumbered by persuasion or rewards, unaffected by threats or punishment, uninfluenced by titles or position.” 

I observed this first hand in the Marine Corps.  Leadership transcends whatever rank was on the collar or the shoulder.  This is true everywhere. 

It takes courage to lead. It’s the courage to believe in your principles and convince others, by your actions, to follow you.

It’s the courage not to take the easy way out but the right way forward.  It’s the courage to make a decision and face the consequences rather than kicking the can down the road.

Unfortunately many politicians have become compromising careerists. It’s a rare exception to put their job on the line to uphold the Constitution.    

They’ve capitulated and surrendered as Senator Tom Coburn stated, and I quote:

“…to the forces of careerism—which have so far prevented our leaders from making the courageous choices these times require.” 

The majority of those we place our trust and confidence in fall way short in their oath to “To defend and protect the Constitution” because they’ve abandoned whatever virtues they may have for lack of courage.

Winston Churchill said it best and I quote: 

“Courage is the first of the human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all the others.  Without courage all other virtues lose their meaning.”

There is much to be learned by those who have displayed such great courage in the defense of our country and way of life. 

In my family we have a tradition at Thanksgiving and at all significant family gatherings. 

We get out the “Medal of Honor” book and read a citation. There’s no better way to develop an intrinsic sense of gratitude for all we have as a nation than to recall the true accounts of courage under harrowing situations. 

We then offer a prayer for the protection of those who today are in harm’s way.

Let me tell you a story about courage. Not in the safety of Washington DC or the state capitol, but in a hell-hole of torture and deprivation.

About a year ago my mother suggested I go to Washington DC and meet a friend of my late father. 

Mom and Dad had the opportunity over the years to get to know Captain Red McDaniel of the US Navy and his wife Dorothy.

Red was a POW for 7 years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton.  The first three years of his captivity neither his wife and children, nor anyone in our government knew whether he was dead or alive. 

When Red and Dorothy and I met in a little café in Alexandria, Virginia, they shared some of their experiences from those fateful years. Red went on to recall the horrible beatings that lasted for weeks on end over the course of seven years. He said he learned some personal lessons as well as some lessons for his country. 

He told me , “I learned to appreciate freedom and I learned to appreciate my children and my wife and all of those things that you sometimes take too much for granted. Sometimes it takes having these torn away from you in order to know their value.” 

Red went on to say, “I learned that a man can take away everything you possess, your clothes, your food, your health, even your freedom, but he can’t destroy your will to survive. He can’t destroy your will to believe. And he can’t destroy your faith.” 

Red McDaniel affirmed, “I learned another very important truth:

Courage is not the absence of fear. I was scared to death in that torture room. Courage is simply the presence of faith.”      

Think about it.  When Red and his co-pilot Kelly Patterson, who by the way is still missing in action, took off from their aircraft carrier, they expected to be back in an hour and have some hot chow and shuteye in officer’s quarters. 

Instead, in a moment, Red’s faith was called upon to provide courage to endure the unendurable and lead other POWs through the valley of the shadow of death.

Authentic leadership depends upon courage. And courage depends upon faith. 

St. Paul helps us in his counsel and encouragement to his young associate Timothy about such faith. 

Paul declared to Timothy, “At my first defense no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me, but the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength and I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.” 

Paul goes on to emphasize, “The Lord rescued me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” 

The message was clear then and it is clear today. Confidence in God and His Word gives courage to life and all of its exigencies and all of life’s trials and sufferings.

It’s principal that has proven the test of time throughout the centuries. It is a principle validated by heroes like Red McDaniel.

Leadership depends upon courage.  And courage depends upon faith.

Our country was built upon a common faith of our founding fathers, our document of freedom, our Declaration of Independence declares: 

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  

Our founders proclaimed that the truth was self-evident, that the created has a creator, the source of our inalienable rights. Our rights are from God. 

In risking their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, the signers of the Declaration of Independence had courage because of their profound faith in God. 

Freedom flows from our creator to each of us as inalienable rights. There is no man, no politician and no government that can morally take away what has been given to us by God. 

Some will say we are in a “culture war”.  No it is much greater than that.    

We’re at war to re-claim liberty!

This is a war between those who promote government as the source of our rights and freedoms verses those that stand with our founding fathers who stated that the source of our rights and our freedoms are from our creator. 

Freedom is a moral concept. It only exists within a moral framework. If that moral framework is removed, then we don’t have an increase in the amount of freedom in society, but a loss of it. 

Freedom isn’t doing whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. That’s not freedom. That’s anarchy. 

When virtue vanishes, moral standards collapse and anarchy advances, until tyranny regains control.

Liberty is embraced within a moral code provided by our creator. 

That’s why the day after the declaration of American Independence was signed, one of the signers, John Witherspoon said, “Civil liberty cannot be long preserved without virtue. A Republic must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty.” 

Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom”.

And James Madison, declared, “We have staked the whole future of American Civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

Leadership requires courage, courage requires faith, and the source of faith is our creator.  Only on this foundation will America be free again.

There are a few who had the faith, the courage to be leaders.  There are a few who could not compromise triumph without victory.

Think about the election of 2010.  There were a few authentic leaders who challenged the entrenched career politicians. Everything was thrown against them. But they would not compromise the principles of liberty for “Party unity”.

What if Florida didn’t have a “hard charging” Marco Rubio to challenge a “flip-flopping” Charlie Christ?!  

What if Utah didn’t have an outspoken Mike Lee to challenge  “go along-get along” Bob Bennett?! 

What if Kentucky didn’t have a “stand with Rand” Paul to challenge Secretary of State “Trey” Grayson?! 

What if Texas didn’t have “freedom fighter” Ted Cruz to challenge “you gotta love me” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst?!

Consider the impact these new leaders have made in America in less than four years!

Will there be other authentic leaders in 2014–2016–2018?! The entrenched politicians in a panic will declare, “We can’t risk losing elections with new challengers!”

But if Thomas Jefferson were here today he would respond, and I quote; “One man with courage is a majority.”

Not all of us are called to be combat Marines or CEO’s, or even fighter pilots like Red McDaniel.  But each of us has a purpose. Each of us has a talent to offer.

An unknown poet said it best,

“You can’t choose your battlefield, God does that for you.  But you can plant the colors where the colors never flew.”

Each of us, in our own way, on our own battlefield, is called to fight, even if the odds are stacked against us, even if the battle appears lost. We must have the courage to fight and never give up.

I want to finish with a letter that I received the day after my father’s memorial service, back in 2006. 

It was from his long time administrative assistant Mary. Here is what she wrote:

The Memorial Service for your father yesterday was beautiful.

As I was driving to Church I kept thinking of all the wonderful times I had working with your parents.  I recalled one day in specific I had typed up a letter to Senator Smith for your Dad. 

I brought the letter to him for his signature and asked, “Mr. Brunner don’t you feel like you are just fighting a loosing battle?” He replied, “Mary, the only battle you lose is the one you don’t fight!” 

That has stuck with me ever since. It has made me realize that if that one statement from your Dad has been with me all these years, then maybe one statement from many of those letters sent to our Senators and Congressmen stuck with them also and caused them to vote a different way.

To this day I choose to fight those “losing battles”. God bless you and your family during this time of loss.   Mary

Those words from Mary encouraged me at a very difficult time and they continue to be a source of inspiration.

We were born at this time in history to serve a higher purpose. We all have a duty to a higher calling. 

It begins with faith in our creator. The presence of faith is the source of courage to put our values into action; the sustainable courage to engage in life’s challenges and battles. This is the foundation of true leadership.    

Each of us must challenge ourselves to be authentic leaders in our families, community, as well as our state and country. We need more leaders to join the ranks.

A nation-wide poll, taken the first part of May, asked the following question: In the past 2 years have you been an active participant in a civic, community or political organization? Yes…16%, No…85%.

America is “out to lunch” or as a fellow Marine once told me, “America is not at war, America is at the mall.”

Leadership is desperately needed at every level of our society and country. 

Each of us is a leader to someone. It may be by serving in local government or organizing a charitable effort or chairing a committee at your place of worship. It may be writing an email to a newspaper, a comment in a blog or a thoughtful letter to an elected official.

It may be by running for elective office or helping those that are in the race. It may be one of many things. 

But leading comes with a cost.

Leaders will stand alone in the crowds.

Leaders will be despised by the powerful.

Leaders will face the relentless enemy of discouragement. 

Bluntly stated: Duty requires sacrifice.

But know this–your courage will be a source of inspiration for others to follow you and join in the fight as leaders.

Faith in God will give us the courage to be true leaders and never one to accept triumph without victory. 

It was 70 years ago this week, the night before the D-Day invasion, that General Matthew Ridgeway recalled the immutable words told to Joshua, 3600 years before, and I quote: 

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will neither fail you nor forsake you.” “Be strong and of good courage, be not afraid; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

These words are as alive and powerful today as they have ever been throughout the ages. This is the promise that will sustain us in all the battles ahead.

My utmost hope is that years from now, in the twilight of our years, our family, friends and fellow citizens will continue to be encouraged and inspired by our relentless actions.

That they will observe us still engaging in the battle, never giving up, always fighting for Truth–Those inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

May it be with us as it was with St. Paul when he proclaimed; 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith!”

Lead, follow or get out of the way…?  There is only one choice. Our country is calling each of us to be a leader.

Our country is calling each of us to Stand with Liberty. 

May we never forget… 

The cause of liberty demands nothing less than victory.

May we never forget… 

The eternal source of our liberty. 

May God continue to shed His Grace and Mercy on America. 

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