ON-Lion Letter
During his address at the 2009 Bradley Symposium, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin asked, "What does it mean to be 'people of character'?  It means a people who uphold unchanging standards of good beyond politics, and practice great or noble virtues, in season and out of season, in every field of endeavor from household and economy to culture and the political order."

Hosted by the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civil Renewal at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., the Bradley Symposia annually present -- during the daytime before the celebratory Bradley Prizes ceremony in the evening -- a wide-ranging and substantive discussion of important political and cultural issues facing the country with its most-prominent intellectuals, commentators, activists, and philanthropists.

"'Conservatism' at its best," Ryan continued, "defends the standards and qualities which define 'people of character.'  The original source for these standards is the Western tradition of civilization, rooted in reason and faith, stretching back thousands of years.  The tradition as a whole affirms the high dignity, rights, and obligations of the individual human person.  One of the glories of Western civilization was to break out of the mythological past which saw only groups and classes, ranked and organized by collectivist governments.  Before the Western tradition began in ancient Israel and classical Greece, the individual person as a subject of rights was simply unknown.

"Nowhere was the Western tradition epitomized more memorably than in our Declaration of Independence," the recently named Republican vice-presidential nominee said.  "By 'the laws of nature and of nature's God,' all human beings are created equal, not in height, or skills, or knowledge, or color, or other nonessentials, but equal in certain inalienable rights -- to live, to be free, and to fulfill their best individual potential, including the right to the 'material' such as property needed to do this.

"The great conservative purpose of government is to secure these natural rights under popular consent," Ryan went on.  "Protecting every person's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness should be the great and only mission of legitimate government.

"[T]he struggle between market freedom and a European welfare state socialism is a moral struggle," he concluded.  "My friends in this room, our only real problem is getting the people to hear the facts and explaining the consequences.  You and I must engage ourselves in the saving of Western civilization, the principles of human individuality and greatness.  It falls to the honor of the American people to make this decision for mankind:  either recover human freedom or sink into centuries of darkness only made worse by the pretensions of 'progress.'"
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