Client News

Florida Voices: Let’s Again Be “A City Upon A Hill”

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Let’s Again Be “A City Upon A Hill”

Every four years we embrace an activity that is the most important governmental thing we do as Americans, the selection of our president.

During my life there have been 12 presidents selected. Some soared while others foundered. Some led purposefully, while others appeared lost. We have suffered through wars, weak economies, world tensions and domestic tribulations. Through all we have experienced both the grandeur that is America, and the times when we did not glisten as gold. But every four years we select the one we believe will best lead us forward.

In 1630 John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, called for us to aspire to be “as a city upon a hill.” This phrase was later cited by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1974, as he honored American heroes.

Who can make us once again believe in our country and in ourselves? Who will paint the picture that lets us believe fully in the majesty of the United States? We have spent four years hearing from both parties about what can’t be done and why. We need a leader now as much as we have ever needed one, who can inspire us to build pathways to success and roadways to that city upon a hill.

America has long been an aspirational society. We have not envied success, but have wanted to emulate success. We did not covet our neighbor’s goods, but sought to earn our own. I, like many, grew up in humble, hardworking surroundings. But never once did I think I was destined to remain among the working poor. I was encouraged at all times, at home, in school, in church, to do better, be better, work hard and dream big. We grew up thinking anything was possible. We aspired to be that One Percent so often disparaged today, as if success is a poisonous fruit to be avoided rather than the tallest flower to be admired. This needs to change in the public discourse.

W.H. Auden wrote, “All poets adore explosions, thunderstorms, tornadoes, conflagrations, ruins, scenes of spectacular carnage. The poetic imagination is therefore not at all a desirable quality in a chief of state.” I disagree. Often it is the poet, the orator, the artist, who paints a picture of a future that is better than people know now. Reagan often said it is morning in America and by doing so, he offered a picture of opportunity.

We are blessed to live in the most successful free society in history. Reagan knew this and through his faith in America, he offered inspiration to people around the world to pursue the path of freedom. He knew that our country was different than anything ever known. However, we risk giving our freedoms away by accepting a standard far below what we have been given.

Every four years we get to decide where we are going and how to get there. This is why my selections in the coming elections will be driven less by media “gotchas,” and more by the character of the candidates, the vision of leadership they propose and the inspiration they offer to shine a brighter light upon a city on a hill.

We need visionary leadership badly, perhaps desperately. Who will be the one to inspire us to greater things? Who will be the one to embrace the greatness of our constitutional past while pointing the way for a new century of American greatness? This is the one I seek.

Dr. Ed H. Moore, a frequent commentator on public policy and Florida politics, is the president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida. He can be reached at


« Return to News