This New Year’s Day is a particularly special day for Arizonans. It marks the 100th birthday of a public servant who made his mark on Arizona and the country.
One century ago, on January 1, 1909, Barry Goldwater was born in the Arizona Territory. The boy who helped his family run its trading post on the Navajo Reservation would go on to serve five terms in the United States Senate and mount an historic run for the U.S. presidency.
Arizona has a proud history of producing fine public servants, but Goldwater stood above the others. He was easily the most influential Arizonan of the 20th century, and his influence continues to inspire.
Goldwater’s legacy has endured because of the power of the ideas and principles he espoused during his career. For much of his political life, his views were not popular, as evidenced by his landslide defeat to Lyndon Johnson in 1964. At that time, the conservative cause seemed to be in decline, but Goldwater, even in his defeat, animated the cause by clearly and colorfully describing what he believed, and the principles that underpinned those beliefs.
His confidence in limited government and commitment to defending America’s promise came at a time when the “progressive” view was that we needed “new and modern” solutions — that is, a bigger and more centralized government. Eventually, however, the scales tipped in Goldwater’s favor when Americans elected a conservative, Ronald Reagan, in Goldwater’s mold to the presidency.
When facing new challenges, there are always those who believe that what has worked in the past isn’t adequate for the present. Goldwater, however, understood that progress does not replace tradition. When he accepted the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, he urged, “We must, and we shall, return to proven ways — not because they are old, but because they are true.”
In the New Year, we should resolve to pay special respect to those proven ways that have served us so well over time.
We should also be mindful of the principles Goldwater advocated during his long career. Goldwater sincerely believed in these principles, which included upholding the dignity of every person and, most dear to him, freedom.
He summarized his career in these words: “Freedom has been the watchword of my political life. I rose from a dusty little frontier town and preached freedom across the land all my days. It is democracy’s ultimate power and assures its eventual triumph over communism. I believe in faith, hope, and charity. But none of these is possible without freedom.”
During this centennial year we should resolve to do our best to preserve both freedom and human dignity from the threats they face. This task, to which Goldwater devoted his life, requires constant vigilance.
In 2008, the state legislature honored Barry Goldwater by approving legislation to begin the process of placing a statue of Arizona’s great senator in the United States Capitol’s Statuary Hall. In 2009, let us honor Barry Goldwater by ensuring that the principles to which he dedicated his life continue to have a place in the Capitol.
U.S. Senator Jon Kyl is the Assistant Republican Leader and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees. Visit his Web site at www.kyl.senate.gov.