The National Asian Indian Republican Association — NAIRA — held its 9th annual event in Colorado recently, highlighted by a speech by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
National co-chair Hitesh Patel delivered introductory remarks after a dinner of Indian food and performances by the Laya Dance Academy.
“For the last four years I have stood before you and have been giving you bad news; that the state of the party and the country is going to change for the worse. We’ve had election losses continuously. For grassroot organizations like ours, we feel the pulse of the citizens, we feel the pulse of the people, what the mood is,” stated Patel.
“Well, let me tell you, people are waking up. There’s good news now, the wind of change, real change, is coming,” Patel said to a group of almost 200 gathered at the Lone Tree Marriott.
“This government, this congress believes that we need to be like Europe, but there is a big difference,” he continued.
“Europe was founded through history, this nation was founded on philosophy and liberties. So in today’s America there are very strong issues at stake and emotions are running very high.
“From the government’s grasp of our health care, to the post-unionizations in our workplaces and businesses, these are trying times for us all,” the NAIRA leader said.
“The so-called cap and trade — what it really means is that there’s a cap on your earnings, a cap on your potential, a cap on your dreams and trading away your liberty and trading away your rights,” Patel said.
“We are the party to which we believe that individual liberty is the hallmark of the American success story. We believe that ordinary Americans have the freedom to make their own decisions and live their own dreams. We believe that ordinary Americans should be free from governmental or any other interference in their private lives without intimidation. And yes, we believe that in doing so, we are the envy of the world for that is precisely what the difference is between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. NAIRA believes and commits to these ideals, for they are the pillars of our democracy. And yes, in believing these ideals, we have to fight for it,” Patel continued.
With those words, he introduced the guest speaker, whom he called “the right man at the right time in the right place.”
In fact, Patel said about former Attorney General John Ashcroft, “You may call it divine intervention” that he was in office during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Ashcroft’s tough anti-terrorism campaign, Patel said, “kept America safe and resulted in many terrorist cells in the U.S. being broken up.”
“Throughout my time as Attorney General and especially during the time following 9/11, people were talking about the necessity of balancing freedom and security,” Ashcroft recollected. “I reject the notion that freedom needs to be balanced with anything,” he stressed.
“I think freedom is the central virtue of existence. It is the stuff of which human dignity is made, it is the stuff of which human achievement is made. It is the special — if you will — pixie dust, it’s the special ingredient, the special sauce that converts the ordinary into the extraordinary,” Ashcroft said.
“I learned in about the 9th grade about something called the Periodic Table and it has to do with atomic values and you can’t change base elements into something else. But there is something that changes base humanity into extraordinary champions and that’s freedom. And for that reason, freedom is without peer. It is not to be compared to or balanced against any other value. So when people talked to me about the fact that we’ve got to balance freedom and security, I said, ‘No.’
“When we talk about security, I always want to say, secure what? And the purpose for security is to secure freedom. It’s something to enhance the value of freedom, to make freedom more meaningful. So whenever we do something… I think we ought to have a test. And the test ought to be, what does this proposal do to our freedom? Does it make freedom more valuable? If it doesn’t make our freedom more valuable, we shouldn’t do it.
“And some may find this difficult, coming out of the mouth of one who was strong in supporting the Patriot Act. Coming out of the mouth of one who was strong in support of airport security. But I believe those things make it possible for me to have a freedom that is more valuable to me and more valuable to this culture.
“Yes,” acknowledged Ashcroft, “I would rather not have airport security but if the threat we know exists continues to exist, it will enrich our freedom to have it and I’m pleased to have it. Freedom is the core value. It is what changes ordinary humanity into extraordinary humanity. It is not something that is limited to a continent or to a culture or to a community or to an ethnicity — it is a principle and a value that can change the nature of achievement for human beings. It is at the very heart of things.”
Point number two, Ashcroft said, is that freedom is tougher to defend today than it’s ever been to defend before.
“At the time of the American Revolution, the most robust explosive known to mankind, I believe, was black powder. If you loaded up this podium with black powder and set it off, you could cause a lot of trouble. You could kill some people, you could injure a bunch more people, you could send other people home with a ringing in their ears that might persist for a month. But black powder is no longer the most robust of explosives known to mankind.
“If you put a nuclear weapon inside a container as small as this podium, you could vaporize an entire city or urban area. Not to mention what you could do with aerosolized anthrax or other evil chemistry or evil biology and just release it in an airport where the passengers would become carrier of death in their travels. Freedom is tougher to defend now than ever before.
His last point, Ashcroft said, is that freedom must be first defended individually before it can be defended nationally. “The ultimate defense of freedom depends on human beings respecting and understanding it and caring.
“We have to be prepared — if a nation decides to impose its will upon us, that would be an affront to our freedom of the most profound magnitude. But there is another way in which I think we all need to be concerned about freedom and that is, even if those who are well intentioned to think that their judgment in terms of our lives is superior to our judgment in terms of our lives, if they want to impose their better judgment on us with our own government, we need to resist that. We need to stand up for our freedom and we need to say, ‘No, we prefer to make decisions on our own. Even if you can make better decisions for me about what I should eat for breakfast tomorrow morning, I will make the decision. Even if you can make better decisions for me than my decision about what kind of investment I make, I want to make that decision.’”
Ashcroft said that after 9/11, “we really decided we would get a change in the Justice Department’s point of view. Yeah, we wanted to prosecute people who might have been involved but prosecution always lives in the past.
We needed to be involved in prevention because we couldn’t afford that kind of disaster again and prevention was a way of fixing the problem instead of fixing the blame. Now freedom is tough to defend, but it takes special values in the hearts and minds and in the lives of the individuals. It takes a focus on the future, an understanding that we need to make sure that what we leave to the next generation is better than that which we inherited.
“It is the fact that God has endowed us with the opportunity to make choices. Meaningful choices, choices that are literally life and death choices. And he has given us the very dignity of living with the consequences of those choices. That’s what the process of politics is about. It’s a process of making choices and insisting that the values we hold dear are respected and understood in the halls where the decisions are made that affect our lives. There is no value superior to freedom. Security is simply a means of making our freedom more valuable than it otherwise would be. Freedom is tougher to defend perhaps today than ever before. It simply emphasizes the fact that the defense of freedom and of liberty begins in the hearts and minds of individual Americans and their insistence on freedom, their insistence on liberty will result in the lamp of liberty held high, burning brightly for the next generation.”