Full Text Political Headlines March 14, 2013: Senator Mike Lee’s Speech at CPAC 2013 the 40th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference





Sen. Mike Lee’s Speech at CPAC

Source: UnitedLiberty.org, 3-14-13

Up in the Pacific Northwest two brothers, Billy and Bobby, decided that they would sell apples. They set up a small fruit stand on the side of a busy road then drove their old pickup out to the farmer’s orchard, where they purchased a truckload of apples at a price of one dollar an apple. They returned to their stand and began selling their apples –for the head-scratching, bargain price of… one dollar an apple.

After selling the entire load the brothers drove back to the orchard and bought another truckload of apples for the price of… one dollar an apple. Back at the fruit stand, apples were flying off the shelf – again at the price of… one dollar per apple. In no time they sold every apple and enthusiastically raced back for another load.  They filled their truck and paid the farmer one dollar an apple.  Sweaty and exhausted from their efforts, the two brothers hopped back in their truck and hurried toward their stand.

As they drove, Billy said to Bobby, “Ya know, I’ve been thinkin’….  We’ve been working really hard today and sold two truck loads of apples – but it doesn’t seem like we’re making any progress in our business.”

Bobby thought about it then replied, “You know what? You’re right… He thought long and hard, then asked,… “Do you think we need a bigger truck?”

When it comes to the size, cost and scope of the federal government, I am here to tell you that we Do Not need a bigger truck.  Like Billy and Bobby, we instead need to stop and rethink what it is we are trying to accomplish and how best to achieve it.  Unfortunately we have a president who not only wants a bigger truck, he wants a truck with a personalized license plate, heated leather seats, a tricked out stereo system and a rack – no, not a gun rack – at least not without a universal background check – so maybe a rack for his golf clubs!

Did you listen to the President’s inaugural address in January?  It was an extended info-mercial for the biggest and most expensive truck in the world.  In soaring rhetoric, no 60-second truck commercial could ever match, the President rattled off a myriad of big Government solutions, which were each touted as the latest and greatest way for every American to have a bigger truck filled with massive government programs and the promise of utopia.  Of course no mention was ever made about the price of the truck, the size of the debt or how or when the payments would be made.

(And by the way, I am pretty sure he violated many standards of truth in advertising.  He should have hired the fast-talking voice-over guy who races through the disclaimers at the end of an ad, to say something like – this big truck you are buying will not solve your problems, will not pay your mortgage, will not provide you healthcare or give you a job or provide for your retirement.  Your truck loan, and that of your neighbors is payable to the Chinese government and will be painfully extracted from you today and from your children tomorrow.)

But here is what kills me.  As conservatives, instead of focusing on the real issues and the real goals for our society, we have been sucked into debating about what size of truck we really need!  We argue that we need a smaller truck, a smarter truck, a limited purpose truck, a more efficient truck, or even just a better truck.  I repeat – It is not about the truck.

It is time for us as Conservatives to reframe the debate.  It is time to focus on the principles that will lead us to the kind of country and society we want for ourselves and our future.

Here is the principle I am asking conservatives to understand – The opposite of bad government is NOT good government.  It isn’t even just limited government.  The opposite of bad government is Civil Society. A free and strong civil society is built on the innate desire of Americans to freely contribute to the betterment of the community.  Civil Society is the result of the relationships that connect, bind and strengthen us.  It is what drives each of us to do our part to help those around us.

Civil Society is where free individuals thrive and communities flourish.  The interconnection of local communities has always been at the heart of our nation.  I am also convinced that our future success will be found in a return to that connectedness that has driven the American dream from the beginning.  We see civil society when a parent instills values in a child, when a doctor heals a patient, when a teacher stays late to help a student learn to read, when a neighbor stops to help a neighbor– these are the bonds that will restore our faith in the institutions of civil society and move us away from reliance on bureaucratic, centralized decision-making. “We, the people” does not mean a collective adherence to the agenda of the ruling class.  It instead means as Americans we share basic values and principles that when viewed as a whole help form and protect a more perfect union.

Conservatives’ belief in civil society is grounded in the bedrock principles of freedom, self-reliance and self-governance and is manifest in the form of historic American institutions including the family, schools, churches, private groups and civic organizations.  These institutions of civil society teach the morals, values and behaviors that instill faith, confidence and trust between individuals, communities and even government.  The Constitution of this great nation provides the framework that ennobles the vision of the individual while enabling the value of the institutions to create an environment where people prosper and society succeeds.

Government cannot create a civil society, but it can kill it.  Over the past 80 years the federal government has expanded well beyond its constitutional limits.  The history of progressivism demonstrates that as the power of the federal government increases, the ability to self-govern diminishes. And as self-governance decreases, so does the influence of the institutions of civil society. Soon the ability to instill faith, confidence and trust among individuals and communities is replaced by the false promises of big government. And the more our citizens look to big government for solutions, the more the strength of civil society is sapped away, and our collective muscle as a nation – the very muscle that has forged the greatest civilization the world has ever known – atrophies.

In this country results matter.  And when it comes to the dismal and even dreadful outcomes delivered by the promises of big government – no rhetoric can cover the reality of the results.

We must remember that whenever government becomes too involved in anything, bad things happen.  Is it any wonder that the vast majority of Americans have little to no confidence in government?  (and they have even less confidence in congress as manifest in congress’s current approval rate of 15% – which makes members of congress a little more popular than Raul Castro and little less popular than the influenza virus.)

The current angst and apprehension among Americans originates, in part, because it is easy to forget where to look for solutions, strength and certainty.  I suggest that a return to civil society – engaged, self-reliant, free individuals building and strengthening communities – is the answer.

America is extraordinary, not because of who we are, but because of what we do.  Despite the current crushing weight of our bloated federal bureaucracy, we can still see the strength of our nation’s fabric through the intertwining actions of the genuine heroes around us.  They are often disguised as the daily deeds that everyday citizens perform, every single day.  Again, we see civil society when a neighbor stops to help a neighbor, when a 5th grader stands up to a bully for a classmate, when a pastor inspires faith in a troubled soul.  It is often the small and seemingly insignificant things we can and should do each day that ultimately determine the greatness of America.

When we look within and to each other, instead of looking to Washington and government, we will see the greatness of our country reemerge.

Today we are witnessing what happens at the end of the progressive, big government approach.  After the promises of federal solutions have eroded our faith in the institutions of family, school, church and community and having spent our nation to the brink of bankruptcy progressives simply shrug their shoulders, throw up their hands and say, “it isn’t my fault, it isn’t my job and it isn’t my responsibility.”  That is a very un-American approach to a challenge.

I saw this attitude once on a trip through southern Utah with my family.  We had stopped at fast-food restaurant for lunch.  Because my wife Sharon was with me, I thought it would look good if I chose to go to the salad bar instead of buying a hamburger.  I went down the salad bar getting bits of healthy greens and nutritious looking vegetables.  I was very uninspired at my prospects for an appetizing lunch when to my great surprise and delight, at the very end of the salad bar I found… chocolate pudding!  I immediately scooped a large blob of it on my plate, trying to hide it by fluffing up my greens around it.  Suddenly I was feeling very good about lunch.  Looking very healthy, but still getting desert – a lot of it.

Sitting down, I mentally complimented myself for the ingeniousness of what I was about to pull off.  Smiling at the thought, I took a large bite of the chocolate pudding, only to find that it was completely rancid, rotten and spoiled.  It was awful!  I immediately set out to find an employee of the restaurant so I could warn them of the spoiled pudding at the salad bar.  I approached one young lady who worked there and said, “Excuse me, I just want to let you know that the pudding at the salad bar is spoiled.”  She gave me a deer-in-the-headlights blank stair.  I clarified, “The chocolate pudding is rancid and rotten and should be removed before someone eats it and gets sick.” She proceeded to roll her eyes and deliver that deep, soul-crushing sigh that teenagers have perfected and said – “I’m not on salad!”   ….. and walked away.

Instead of that type of shoulder shrugging, what we need in this nation and especially in this town is some serious shoulder squaring in the spirit of civil society.  You see we are all “on salad.”

We are all:
On helping someone in need.
On dealing with the debt.
On building our communities.
On upholding the Constitution.
On restoring the greatness of this nation.

I invite each of you to square your shoulders and be “on salad.”  The synergy, connection and strength that comes from civil society is not only what has made and preserved us a nation, but what will lead us toward a bright future and better days to come….

In order to move forward on this path to a flourishing civil society I invite you to join me on a journey back… back to a place and time not unlike our own…It was a turbulent time of deep division within our young republic.

George Washington recorded the events of March 4th 1797 – the last day of his second term as President of the United States.  Washington wrote, “It was with a heavy heart that I left my room today, thinking not so much of myself as of our country…

Walking out onto Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Washington continued, “ I was plain George Washington now, neither General nor President. Suddenly I realized I was not alone.  People were following me, at first only a few, then a swelling crowd.

“For a long moment, I stood face to face with them – the young cobbler, the carpenter, the storekeeper, the laborer.  All of them stood facing me.  They said not a word.  I realized that Providence was showing me a vision of America, of what it would become.  I could feel assured that, come what may, whether it be political bickering…, or any other evil in government,… our country rests in good hands, in the [hands] of its people. …”

A similar crowd has gathered here today at CPAC.  Political strife divides our country.  Government is expanding in ways that would shock the Founding generation…  As I look out at this crowd, I don’t see cobblers and shopkeepers but scientists and school teachers, web designers and entrepreneurs, mothers and fathers and friends. I am also confident that our country rests in good hands – the hands of its people.

Hand in hand, acting on the instincts of our better angels and connected in the principle of civil society, we the people, not we the government, will form a more perfect union and ensure that the vision of George Washington becomes the destiny of the nation…

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