The Three Crusaders

‘You in the West,’ said an Hungarian poet, ‘have a special duty because you are free. That freedom is both a blessing and a burden. For it makes you spiritually responsible for the whole of humanity.’ He was right. For if we do not keep alive the flame of freedom that flame will go out, and every noble ideal will die with it. It is not by force of weapons but by force of ideas that we seek to spread liberty to the worlds oppressed.
            Margaret Thatcher ~ 1983

God has a way of placing special people in our lives, both in our personal lives and on the world stage. Throughout history, there have been numerous people who have been truly special leaders and statesmen. It is not unusual to find one in a particular decade of history. If you manage to get two such unique statesmen in one decade, count it a blessing. But it is quite rare indeed, when you get three such individuals on the world stage at the same time. The decade of the 1980's brought three such people to the forefront of the world. Together, they were the crusaders for freedom and liberty and did what few thought possible. Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II didn't bring down the "Evil Empire" with any military weapons, but with the distinct power of ideas. For anyone who thinks that ideas aren't powerful when articulated eloquently and passionately by true statesmen and leaders, let me submit to you the fall of the Soviet Union.

Harken back to 1980, and you will find a different world than the one in which we reside today. There were two superpowers that dominated the world stage. The United States and the Soviet Union were as stark a contrast as you will ever find between two countries. America was the land of freedom and liberty and the USSR was the land of tyranny and despair locked behind the "Iron Curtain". The 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY became almost a microcosm of the Cold War. The two superpowers met on ice in a hockey game that, to this day, is one of the most amazing sporting events to be broadcast. It was far more than a hockey game. It was good against evil. The Americans won that hockey game, against all odds and a heavy favorite. But the Cold War wasn't over in the least. It would take another eleven years to bring down Communism by a truly amazing trio of crusaders.

In October of 1978, Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II. He succeeded Pope John Paul I, who had passed after just 33 days as pope. John Paul II was born and raised in Poland and knew all too well the evil and misery of Communism and the "Iron Fist" of the Soviet Union. When he visited Poland in 1979, he kissed the ground of his homeland and told the Poles, "Be not afraid". He sparked the Solidarity movement, led by Lech Walesa, and his words and leadership led to a peaceful revolution in Poland. His eloquence and passion for freedom and liberty permeated the lands he visited, especially those living under dictatorships. Countries like Chile, Haiti, and the Philippines, all overthrew their dictators after hearing the message of Pope John Paul II. As Mikhail Gorbachev once said, "The collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II ".

In 1979, the daughter of a grocer became the first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain. Her name was Margaret Thatcher. She was unlike any other. She was the "Iron Lady". Fiercely vocal and unabashedly conservative, she brought a renewed vision and philosophy to 10 Downing St. She hated Communism and Socialism as much as her fellow crusaders. Her contributions were a focus on peace through strength, much like that of her counterpart in the United States, Ronald Reagan. She believed in strengthening Europe and NATO and to resist aggression without fear. She believed a strong Europe, both economically and militarily, would be a key to aiding in the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1984, she met with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and developed a bond with him, leading to a distinct openness, Glasnost, with the Soviets. Her perseverance and tenacity were essential to poking a hole in the Iron Curtain.

In November of 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. He was a former actor and a reformed liberal who renewed the spirit of freedom and liberty in the American people and the world. He believed strongly in peace through strength and went to rebuilding the military and the United States nuclear weapons program. He challenged the Soviet Union and Communism, ideologically and militarily, and believed that ideas are indeed powerful. President Reagan forced the Soviets to abandon the Brezhnev Doctrine and give up the nuclear arms race. The Soviets couldn't keep up, economically or militarily, and Gorbachev knew that change was needed to survive. In 1982, Reagan told the British Parliament that "the march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people." On June 12, 1987, President Reagan said in a speech in West Berlin, Germany, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!". It was a clear and powerful message from a strong statesman and American leader. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, and Communism fell in 1991. The crusaders for freedom had succeeded in doing the unthinkable.

Do ideas and words matter when articulated eloquently and passionately by true statesmen and leaders? To put it another way, do ineffective and weak leaders in the world today allow such ideologies as socialism, fascism, and Islamic extremism to flourish and prosper, due to a failure to confront them in a logical argument and a passionate debate? If you think about it for a minute, we have gone from Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II to Obama, Cameron, and Pope Francis. Quite a contrast in ideology. President Obama has been on a whirlwind apology tour for the last eight years. David Cameron allowed a mass migration of Muslim refugees into the UK. Pope Francis has espoused numerous socialist ideas in his reign thus far. Is it surprising then that our world is worse off than 25 years ago? Ideas do matter. Words matter. Leadership matters. What we are sorely missing today is a trio of crusaders for freedom and liberty.


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