During the summer of 1979, Jimmy Carter gave his famous Crisis of Confidence speech. In the now infamous narrative, Carter intended to set forth a new energy plan. Instead, the speech revealed his shaky confidence in the American ideal. Behind shallow praise of the “American People,” the former peanut farmer painted a picture of our nation with a pessimistic brush. America was facing a “crisis of spirit” and had lost confidence in her future. Needless to say, this message of “Malaise” did not resonate strongly with a generation of Americans who had been raised in a nation with confidence and patriotism in their hearts. During the 1980 election, Americans came to a fork in the road. They had a decision to make between the “malaise” of the Carter administration and the future promised by a retired actor named Ronald Reagan.
Like me, my father was on his way out of college during the 1980 election cycle. Although he did not trust Reagan because of his years in the liberal cesspool that is Hollywood, he was deathly afraid of Jimmy Carter’s policies and lack of experience in the political sphere. Just like in 1980, I believe our nation is standing on the precipice of economic destruction and political chaos in 2012. The future President Obama promises does not align with the principles of hard work, individual innovation, and entrepreneurship that built my past. While the American people will always keep the fires of the American Dream alive in our hearts, our government has steadily progressed away from individualism and small government. At this juncture in history, I find it enlightening to look into the past for answers, both my past and my father’s past.
I grew up learning the values of hard work, innovation, and compassion from my father. He embraced these lessons as a young man growing up in a small town in the Midwest before he imparted them to my siblings and me. My father was born smack dab in the middle of a family of 12 in the small town of Atchison, Kansas. My hometown is one where local, familial ties are important, and the Lutz family was a classic example of this practice. Early on, each of the 12 children learned to work hard and watch out for each other. My grandfather started a dealership and auto repair service with his brother in the 1950s after serving in the Korean War. He was a trusted businessman and always made sure to shop local and take care of his friends and neighbors. My father and his 11 siblings grew to appreciate the small town life, entrepreneurship, and family ties through their parents’ example.
When my father was 7 years old, tragedy struck our family as his father, my grandfather, passed away from a sudden heart attack. My grandmother never remarried and raised 12 children on her own. The entire family pulled together. According to my father, they had to “work as a team if they wanted to survive.” My father and my aunts and uncles didn’t know they were poor. For them, hard work was a part of life. The children made money in any way that they could. My father delivered papers when he was 12 and grew up doing odd jobs around town, including shining shoes and collecting bottles. The children were lucky enough to attend a private, Catholic school in town, but they had to work hard to pay the high tuition bills. During high school, my father would occasionally stop by the school office and drop off 5 or 10 dollars for his tuition payment. Eventually, he and his siblings paid for their own educations.
During college, my father and his brothers continued their trend of hard work at Kansas State University. It was difficult to stay in school, but they pushed each other toward success. My father credits his family and friends as his driving forces. Eventually, the hard work paid off, and each of my family members found success in their own way. Several of my aunts and uncles have owned small businesses, including my father. Many of my relatives have tried their hand in entrepreneurship and found success. That group of 12 tight-knit siblings have spawned two generations of business owners, students, lawyers, executives, and successful athletes. Sure, they each had help along the way, but my father and his siblings can be proud of their own success and are able to stand by their work and say “I built that,” with pride.
When my father cast his ballot in 1980, the country was at a crossroads. The virtues and principles that had built his family had already begun to degrade in Washington. Now, as I seek to cast my ballot in a presidential election for the first time, I too see similar trends. Everyone pines for the “good old days,” but now, there is a different kind of yearning in my heart. The promises of old have faded into the seemingly hopeless aspirations of the present. My family built their successes, but now we have a president who has the audacity to say that they didn’t. Gone are the days when politics was gray and there were logical choices on both sides of the aisle. Now, we face a day when politics is seemingly black and white and divisiveness is the norm. While hard work and individual innovation were part of my father’s worldview, now we live in a nation where more people become dependent on the government everyday. We’re taught to reach for a hand out, not a hand up. I am proud of my family for their success, but that feeling is becoming less and less popular, especially in liberal political circles. Liberals claim to support small business but vilify those who are, in their minds, “too” successful. The term “fair share” is flung around like a political weapon, but no concrete definition of the word has ever been provided. My father and his siblings were never concerned about their “fair share,” they just worked hard, stayed close, and did whatever they could to ensure a successful future for their children.
While President Obama pushes us “Forward” to increased centralized planning and bloated government entitlements, I claim that we should look to the past and revive the virtues of old. Sure, my generation is the future, but we cannot neglect our past. I saw this first hand when I went to see 2016: Obama’s America with my father a couple weeks ago. I was by far the youngest of an audience packed with middle aged and elderly adults. At the film’s finale, I could describe the atmosphere as nothing but righteous anger. One man in the front row shouted “Let’s get to the polls in November,” as everyone cheered. The audience was angry that they virtues they grew up with were being attacked while the media stayed silent about the degradation of their America. In intend to take up their fight and restore the classic American values and fight the increasing influence of the progressive mindset among my peers and many in Washington. Perhaps it is appropriate that Jimmy Carter is speaking at the DNC next week. Democrats, you can keep your peanut farmer, community organizer, and failed hope and change. I’ll stick with my family as I try to revive American passion and restore the dream for my children as my father preserved it for me.