Last night I attended a dinner benefiting the Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. As an Eagle Scout, Iâ€™ll be forever in scoutingâ€™s debt for the values, principles and skills they tried to instill me â€“ how successfully it took is perhaps a different question.
Gov. Rick Perry, also a Eagle Scout, and whose son is an Eagle Scout, received the â€œDistinguished Citizenâ€ award.
His acceptance speech was mostly free of politics, and instead focused on the impact scouting made in his life â€“ which frankly mirrors the impact it has had on so many of millions. (He also announced that he has written a book on scoutingâ€™s values, which will be published early next year. Oh, and heÂ had a great line about â€œLawsuit-happy do-goodersâ€ that warmed my political heartâ€¦)
Perry made an insightful remark on the importance of principles that resonated firmly with me. He said, â€œMy fear is not that we will lose our freedom to a superior power, but that the decay of our society will lead us to trade our freedom for shortsighted self-indulgence.â€
Think what you will of Rick Perry (or anyone else) and the application of principles to political action, but his message was right on target.
As Benjamin Franklin once similarly observed, â€œSell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.â€
Too often we confuse temporal indulgences, power and wealth with true liberty. But the confusion will not last for long; the bill comes due, being paid with the loss of liberty â€“ and ironically the loss of indulgences, power and wealth. No people are as poor as those who have traded lasting liberty for baubles and toys.
True liberty only exists where there is responsibility, and indeed the level of our liberty (economic and personal) is in direct proportion to our level of responsibility. Where we allow government to shield us from our mistakes, we quickly find ourselves prevented from enjoying the fruits of our success.