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U.S. National Debt:

A Legacy Of Strength And Optimism

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

February 6, 2011, marks the centennial anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's birth. This anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the late President's legacy and his important achievements. The "Great Communicator" left an indelible mark, including a stirring and visionary speech, known as "A Time for Choosing," that he gave long before his presidency. While this speech was given nearly fifty years ago, many of the issues he raised run parallel to the challenges we face today.

In 1964, Reagan spoke about many of our country's major concerns, including our nation's serious debt, war, the problems of unemployment and the importance of protecting our constitutional freedoms. He highlighted how our government was spending beyond its means and failing to balance the budget-unfortunately, this problem has grown worse today. He also spoke of the difficult decisions of war and a needed commitment to success. At that time, our nation faced the threat of the expansion of communism-now, we face a war against terrorism. Reagan spoke about an erosion of the freedoms secured by the Founding Fathers and the specter of over-regulation-today, government takeovers and the ever-increasing encroachment of regulatory activities continue to bloat the federal bureaucracy and stifle our economy. He also touched on the problem of unemployment. Then, the annual unemployment rate was 5.2 percent. At nearly 10 percent, our current unemployment rate is unacceptable.

Throughout his decades of public service, our 40th President confronted great challenges, and he approached these challenges with optimism, conviction and perseverance. He faced difficulties in the Middle East, the bombing of U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, the tragic Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, the height of the Cold War and the encroachment of Soviet influence in the developing world, economic recovery and many more trials. During times of heartbreak and trouble, he reminded the American people to maintain optimism and faith. Additionally, he didn't simply point out problems; he also had many ideas and solutions. Reagan kept focus on progress, and he demonstrated diplomacy with national strength. He pointed out the errors of big government and stressed that "government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy." During his time in office, our nation recovered economic growth, rediscovered national strength and pride and cemented durable diplomatic relationships.

President Reagan's principles and vision still resonate. When he spoke of a time for choosing, he stressed our ability, dignity and right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny. His legacy of strength and hopefulness continues to serve as an example as we face considerable, parallel challenges today. As President Reagan stressed, we continue to have the opportunity to grow, create wealth and build a better life for those who follow. His emphasis on hope and freedom endures.

We can take heart that, through optimism and commitment to our ideals, we can confront and overcome our challenges. With true focus on the creation of lasting private sector jobs, we can tackle the pressing challenge of unemployment. Through unshackling the ingenuity of creative individuals and businesses, we can grow our economy and protect our freedoms. With an understanding that, through enabling our men and women in uniform to effectively accomplish their mission in the war on terror, our legacy of freedom will endure. With recognition that controlling government spending is paramount to economic recovery, we can take bold decisive action to get our nation's fiscal house in order. At this time of choosing, America can take the path of optimism, conviction and perseverance exemplified by President Reagan and create a better world for our children and grandchildren.

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