Here is the transcript of the speech that I gave on the steps of the Capitol in Austin at a Memorial Day Rally hosted by Texas Surround Them.
Memorial Day Rally – Austin
May 25, 2009
For the past three days I have watched the live video feed from the chambers inside our venerated capitol. I have watched the proceedings from gavel-to-gavel for three days. Three days. Three very very long days.
I can personally attest to the fact that rallies like this are needed. As a good friend and colleague of mine used to say “Inspect what you expect.” And the message that is being sent to the Texas Legislature today is “Your inspection sticker needs to be renewed and we’re here to do it.”
But no matter how clogged the pipes are here in Austin, it is much worse. The United States Congress with the aid of the President and the Supreme Court are passing bills to restrict your freedom at a break-neck pace and spending your money, your children’s money, your grandchildren’s money and your great-grandchildren’s money faster than the printing presses can keep up. This is the very reason that we are all here today.
There are some that have seen my name and the name of my organization on the schedule today and have prejudged what I am going to say before I have even opened my mouth and uttered the first syllable. Some of you may even think that I am here to deliver an impassioned plea for the support of Texas independence. While this would be an easy task for me to do and one that I would be honored to do, I am not here for that purpose. It was a journey for me to arrive at the conclusion that Texas would be better off as an independent nation, a position supported by over one-third of the likely voters in Texas and one-half of the Republicans. It was a journey that cannot be encapsulated in one speech in twenty minutes on one day.
Rather than climb the steps of the Texas Capitol and shout “independence”, rather than cry out “action”, “protest” or “change”, I will instead reverently and respectfully utter the strongest of words – remember.
I cannot think of a day more fitting to talk about remembering than today.
Today is Memorial Day. It is a day set aside to remember the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice. To remember the ones that they left behind and the principles that they fought and died for.
Ironically enough people fail to remember the origin of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5th, 1868 by General John Logan who was the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Many of you here may know them by other names such as the Union, the North or Yankees.
It was first observed on May 30th of that same year when flowers were placed on the graves on Union AND Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
General Logan’s General Order Number 11 left no doubt as to his intention and reverence for both Union and Confederate soldiers alike.
“…gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of springtime….let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude – the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”
General Logan knew that no matter what side these soldier’s stood on, that their sacrifice was one that should be remembered. Memorial Day is a time for us to reflect on the men and women who have left us and those that were left behind for principles that are so important, that they lived and died for them.
Texans are no strangers to remembering our honored dead even long before May 5, 1868. Just 80 miles south of here stands a shrine to men who stood, fought and died for firmly held principles. And just as 300 Spartans held off the entire Persian army at Thermopylae, 180 volunteers stood against thousands of Mexican soldiers. And just as those 300 Spartans died, so did those 180 Texans.
And the memory of their sacrifice became the rallying cry for the ill-equipped, poorly-trained rag-tag army led by General Sam Houston. On the morning of April 21st, 1836, the Texas Army burned the only bridge that would be a route of escape and charged into Santa Anna’s camp. The battle lasted 19 minutes and ended with a Texas victory.
If you were to ask any solider who fought on that battlefield at San Jacinto what stood out most in their mind, what spurred them on, what challenged them to victory, I believe that to a man they would tell you “Remember the Alamo!” So, on this Memorial Day, I ask you to remember the Alamo.
What is it that we should remember about the Alamo? Christine Smith, a noted blogger who is not from Texas and who has never visited the Alamo, wrote about this very thing.
She said: “Americans like to remember. But to merely remember any event or death is not in itself honoring it; to honor requires a respect and regard which, if present, would manifest itself in upholding the principles for which said honor is expressed. Without implementation and upholding of the principles for which men died, there really is no honor but only empty words. Americans also like to celebrate independence – be it independence from Great Britain, or the story of how Texas gained independence from Mexico – the battles are viewed as examples of heroism. However, each such celebration should give pause to reflect on the principles which were fought for and to look within to determine whether such character traits so grandly and rightly celebrated are within one’s own character?”
We all should know the stories and the facts. We know that the siege lasted 13 days. We know the names of some of the defenders (Travis, Bowie, Crockett). We know that there were approximately 180 defenders. We know that few stood against many. But it is simply not enough.
In her words we see what was so rightly divined by the soldiers at San Jacinto, General John Logan and others, that, in this instance, to remember is more than simply recalling the facts of an event. It is to reflect on those principles which were so important as to give the last measure of devotion.
What were the principles that these men lived, fought and died for? It has been said that the Alamo was fought over the independence of Texas. However, that is not entirely accurate. Starting in the early 1830’s, Texans began to grow uneasy by the usurpation of power by the Mexican Federal Government. They began to demand their rights under the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Attempts by Texas to assert their rights had been met with silence, deference and antagonism. This was made abundantly clear when Stephen F. Austin traveled to Mexico City to implore the Mexican Federal Government to restore the rights granted to the states and to the people and he was unceremoniously thrown into a Mexican jail.
The flag, known by most historians as the Alamo Flag, illustrates their message. It is a Mexican tri-color with the year 1824 in the center. They wanted their rights and were reminding the Mexican Army of the Constitution that embodied those rights.
Just like at this rally today, the Alamo held those who felt that Texas could be preserved as a state of Mexico and those who felt that independence was the only course. This is an issue that could seemingly divide the defenders. But they were made of stronger stuff. They understood that there was room for both viewpoints because no matter which side of the issue they stood, they ALL stood ON the same principles.
These men were fallible human beings (as all of us are), but regardless of their differences and individual stories, they were not going to subject themselves to the tyranny of a dictator taxing them and controlling their lives. Once the Mexican constitution was virtually abandoned and the once federal style republic became a centralist government, the previous agreements regarding property taxes and tariffs were suddenly, and more animosity between the settlers and Santa Anna developed (including conflicts as over choice of crops grown, heavy taxation, etc.). The choice facing the settlers was between surrender to dictatorial rule, without the previous state rights after all their investment in settlements or a fight for independence. Independence was declared during the siege of the Alamo meaning that the defenders probably never knew that independence had been declared.
To understand what the principles are you have to understand where they come from. A few decades prior to the Alamo, the place where many of the Texans came from had to wrestle with issues that were very similar to what they were facing. Although the people of the 13 British Colonies were dealing with a monarch who had no sense of a republic or inherent rights, they did. And when the abuses and usurpations became too much, Thomas Jefferson set pen to paper and declared :
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The Founders of the Republic of Texas found this principle to be so important that it was included in Article 1 Section 2 of the Bill of Rights. The principle which the Founders of the United States, the principle which the Founders of Texas, the principle which the men who fought and died in the American Revolution, the principle which the men who fought and died in the Texas Revolution, the principle which the men who lay in Arlington National Cemetery who General Logan wanted us to remember, the principle which men and women for generations since have lived, fought and died for is simply this:
All political power is inherent in the People, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit; and they have at all times an inalienable right to reform, alter or abolish their government in such manner as they may deem expedient.”
The 180 men who defended the Alamo are gone.
But here you are.
The 350 men of Goliad are gone.
But here you are.
The men of Lexington and Concord are gone.
But here you are.
Sam Houston is gone.
But here you are.
George Washington is gone.
But here you are.
Thomas Jefferson is gone.
But here you are.
The 56 signers of the US Declaration of Independence are gone.
But here you are.
The 48 signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence are gone.
But here you are.
The soldiers and sailors, Union and Confederate, memorialized by General Logan are gone.
But here you are.
The facts, dates, events and some of the names are with us, but these people who spoke great words, who immortalized in writing great principles, who dared take a stand for those principles are gone.
But here you are.
All of these people are gone but here you are.
The words penned by Colonel William Travis from behind those adobe walls during the siege call to you now:
“I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, & of everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all dispatch.”
But the Alamo is not under siege right now. If you were to drive the 80 miles, you would see tourists with their cameras trying to get that perfect shot to post on their social media account. No, the Alamo is not under a military siege. But Colonel Travis is calling on you to stand up for the principles for which they gave their lives.
In the words of Juan Seguin who oversaw the burial of the remains of the Alamo defenders:
“The spirit of liberty appears to be looking out … and pointing to us, saying: ‘There are your brothers, Travis, Bowie, Crockett and others whose valor places them in the rank of my heroes.”
And while all of these people have turned to dust, the principles that they stood for are as solid as they ever were. To properly remember these people, we have to reflect on the principles which drove them in life and unto death. We have to reflect on these principles and their devotion to them and use them, not as trivial facts, but to measure ourselves. Do we have the fortitude, the strength of character, the level of devotion of the people who penned these words:
“When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted; and so far from being a guarantee for their inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their suppression. When the federal republican constitution of their country, which they have sworn to support, no longer has a substantial existence, and the whole nature of their government has been forcibly changed, without their consent, from a restricted federative republic, composed of sovereign states, to a consolidated central military despotism, in which every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the ever ready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants. When, long after the spirit of the constitution has departed, moderation is at length so far lost by those in power, that even the semblance of freedom is removed, and the forms themselves of the constitution discontinued, and so far from their petitions and remonstrances being regarded, the agents who bear them are thrown into dungeons, and mercenary armies sent forth to enforce a new government upon them at the point of the bayonet. When, in consequence of such acts of malfeasance and abduction on the part of the government, anarchy prevails, and civil society is dissolved into its original elements, in such a crisis, the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable right of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right towards themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their welfare and happiness.”
Colonel Travis was not silent on those who ignored the call. His final words echo across the years and speak to the responsibility that we each bear.
“If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country.”
Those of you who have listened to my words bear the burden of remembering. To truly remember is to know at a level that is deeper than the raw facts. It is to embrace these principles and act upon them. As long as you remember and live out these principles then all of these people are never really gone. As long as you act upon the principles for which they sacrificed then they will always be with you, shoulder-to-shoulder, win or lose, stand or fall. Washington, Jefferson, Houston, Travis and countless others whose names you will never know are your army.
On this Memorial Day, I ask you to remember. With the hallowed halls of government as my backdrop, I ask you to remember. With the government in Washington, D.C. out of control, I ask you to remember. With your brothers and sisters in the cause of liberty, I ask you to remember. With the cause of Texas independence in my heart, I ask you to remember. With all of the Founders and the Almighty as my witness, I ask you to remember. For the sake of your children I ask you to remember. For the sake of countless generations yet born, I ask you to remember. For “If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible never forget what is due to his own honor & that of his country.”