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A City on a Hill…

By David Stockman  |  December 27, 2018

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

– Jesus, Matthew 5:14

Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, and Happy New Year.

During the last few days, as my holiday “gift,” I’ve shared some reminders of what American leadership can be, via messages tailored for the season by presidents past.

These words reflect, of course, the world as presidents saw and experienced it – a rapidly changing world.

At this time of reflection, take a moment to see how others led through adversity.

Today, I’d like to conclude the series by expanding the scope a bit beyond “messages tailored for the season” to focus on a vison of America revived by my friend and mentor Ronald Reagan right when we needed it…

The “Great Communicator” delivered his famous “City on a Hill” speech in January 1974. It was a theme he emphasized on his way to the White House in November 1980 and as he exited history’s main stage in January 1989.

It’s become fashionable of late to invoke the imagery in condemnation. Let’s remember its original, constructive purpose.

Here’s how Reagan invoked chapter five, verse 14 of the Book of Matthew on his way to and from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue…

California Governor Ronald Reagan, Speech at the First Conservative Political Action Conference, January 25, 1974:

You can call it mysticism if you want to, but I have always believed that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage…

The course that you have chosen is far more in tune with the hopes and aspirations of our people than are those who would sacrifice freedom for some fancied security…

Standing on the tiny deck of the Arabella in 1630 off the Massachusetts coast, John Winthrop said, “We will be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.” Well, we have not dealt falsely with our God, even if He is temporarily suspended from the classroom…

Somehow America has bred a kindliness into our people unmatched anywhere, as has been pointed out in that best-selling record by a Canadian journalist. We are not a sick society. A sick society could not produce the men that set foot on the moon, or who are now circling the earth above us in the Skylab. A sick society bereft of morality and courage did not produce the men who went through those year of torture and captivity in Vietnam. Where did we find such men? They are typical of this land as the Founding Fathers were typical. We found them in our streets, in the offices, the shops and the working places of our country and on the farms.

We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, “The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.”

We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth.

Republican Presidential Candidate Ronald Reagan, Election Eve Address: “A Vision for America,” November 3, 1980:

I have quoted John Winthrop’s words more than once on the campaign trail this year – for I believe that Americans in 1980 are every bit as committed to that vision of a shining “city on a hill,” as were those long-ago settlers…

These visitors to that city on the Potomac do not come as white or black, red or yellow; they are not Jews or Christians; conservatives or liberals; or Democrats or Republicans. They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still… a shining city on a hill.

President Ronald Reagan, Farewell Address, January 11, 1989:

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But, in my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity.

And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

A Model for All Seasons

Desperate times call for… “common sense” measures.

Folks, that Steve Mnuchin stunt over the weekend preceding Christmas Eve – calling together the “Plunge Protection Team” – is a sign of an administration on the brink…

“Political risk” is rising, as we saw on Monday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed almost 700 points. Secretary Mnuchin’s intervention has only exacerbated the effect it was calibrated to stem…

The Dow surged at the open today, climbing 280 points on a little Christmas afterburn. It was back in the red before “Elevensies.” And then it swung positive again, rising by 300 points by lunchtime…

Markets are corrupted by monetary central planning. They’re confused. And the road back to “normal” is going to be treacherous.

We’re looking at a major re-pricing for all financial assets. And thousand-point intraday or day-to-day swings are part of that equation. Those can be frightening… for “buy and hold” investors.

I have a different approach, one that combines strategy and tactics into a plan flexible enough for you to survive and thrive amid the coming chaos. It’s called “The Stockman Model.”

All we’re after is a little stability, perhaps a chance to pocket a windfall when opportunity presents…


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David Stockman

David Stockman is the ultimate Washington insider turned iconoclast. He began his career in Washington as a young man and quickly rose through the ranks of the Republican Party to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street.MORE FROM AUTHOR