From President Reagan’s farewell address on January 11, 1989:
The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the shining city upon a hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. 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. And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.
I know I’m not alone in thinking a lot about President Reagan these days and wishing for a leader like him. I love that he saw our beautiful country this way. We are a shining city on the hill.
Often when I think of this symbolism I think about an experience I had in Israel. The group I was with was visiting the ancient site of Lachish. Lachish and Azekah, 2 cities talked about in Jeremiah, were the last holdouts against the attacking Babylonians. In the mid-1900’s the Lachish Letters were unearthed which brought some detail to the terror the people of the city felt as the enemy neared. On a tablet was a message written by a soldier at an observation post. It basically stated “We no longer see the lights of Azekah.”
Standing there at that site we all looked to the direction of Azekah and I was struck. What must that have been like knowing there was no other protection? The lights were out Lachish knew they were next.
Another scene I think about in relation to that shining city on a hill is from the Lord of the Rings. My favorite part is in the third movie when they light the beacons. One by one the beacons are lit and eventually the message is passed on to the fellow fighters for freedom.
So, America, we know we have been and still are that shining city on the hill. Lately it feels like we are losing some of our shimmer as we are hearing again and again a gloomy outlook on our future. It also seems like some of our freedoms are being challenged. But, what happens if the lights go out? I don’t want to think about it. The world at large may express some distaste (to put it mildly) for America yet most know there is goodness in freedom. The light is something that so many seek for.
If we are to continue to be that light we must turn to the greatest source of light, God. In fact referring again to Lachish, Jeremiah the prophet had warned the people time and time again to return to God or suffer the dire consequences. It’ kind of a depressing story. So, let’s not go there. Let’s focus on what’s good and what our strengths are. Let’s turn to God continually. We are a nation under God and He shines His light on us and then we pass that signal on. Keep the lights on, for us and for the world. We stand for God, faith, freedom, peace and family. Shine on beautiful city, beautiful America.