Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shutting the Door to the City on a Hill

In his farewell address to the nation on January 11, 1989, President Ronald Reagan turned one last time to an image he frequently referred to over his long career in public office:

"I've spoken of the 'shining city [upon a hill]' 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, windswept, 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."

I was reminded of President Reagan's farewell address when reading about the draconian state budget proposed by Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), Chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee.

After the jump, how we've lost sight of Reagan's vision.

The proposed Texas budget slashes spending on education at all levels -- pre-kindergarten, local public schools, higher education. The Richardson school district budget will have to be cut $40 million all by itself. The budget slashes spending on health care for the poor. It slashes spending on mental health services. It slashes spending on public safety. Then, there's this:

"There's just one area where budget-writers tried to avoid any cuts at all: border security."
-- The Texas Tribune, January 19, 2011

The one area of the budget that Rep. Pitts and Gov. Rick Perry want to protect is that part of the budget devoted to building walls and to slamming shut the doors that Reagan wanted "open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here." That "shining city upon a hill" was a beacon of opportunity to the pilgrims of the world, not a fortress shut tight against them. There's irony in watching Ronald Reagan's heirs extinguish the shining light of Reagan's most inspirational vision. It's like Reagan's heirs memorized all of Reagan's lines while stripping out all of the spirit that gave them life. Reagan's legacy and the state of Texas are now in the hands of much lesser actors.

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