Daschle: We must inspire our country

Daschle: We must inspire our country Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle speaks Tuesday night at a banquet held in his honor at the Al Neuharth Media Center on the USD campus. Seated next to the podium is Neuharth, founder of USA Today. (Photo by Aaron Packard) By David Lias America, long known as the land of the free, may someday lose that standing as its citizens face future challenges.

That�s according to former Sen. Tom Daschle, who spoke Tuesday afternoon in Slagle Auditorium on the USD campus.

�Freedom must be more than the freedom to fail,� he said to an audience of 1,000 young, middle-aged and senior citizens. �For choice to be meaningful, for freedom to be real, it must offer Americans the ability to control their own lives.�

Daschle�s speech in Vermillion, titled �The Politics of Freedom: A Progressive Vision of American Liberty,� marked his first public appearance since losing his U.S. Senate office to challenger John Thune in November.

The event was sponsored by USD�s W.O. Farber Center, the Freedom Forum and the Al Neuharth Media Center.

Later that night, at a banquet held at the media center, the former U.S. Senate minority leader was praised by the politically and culturally elite in South Dakota, including former Sen. George McGovern, Ruth Ziolkowski of the Crazy Horse Foundation, former Gov. and Rep. William Janklow, USA TODAY founder Al Neuharth and USD President James Abbott.

The former senator�s afternoon speech reaffirmed the basic philosophies he�s followed throughout his career in public service.

�The true American tradition of liberty has not been about the freedom from government, but the freedom to shape our own destiny,� Daschle said.

He believes that Franklin Roosevelt led the most important of American�s idea of freedom since the Civil War.

�It�s easy to forget how precarious freedom was during Roosevelt�s presidency,� Daschle said. �Throughout the Great Depression, desperate Americans wondered whether democracy just wasn�t sturdy enough to survive the challenges of the 20th century.

�Roosevelt knew that for freedom to survive, he needed to present an authentically American vision of freedom that could rally a nation,� he said. �Americans would need a version of freedom worthy of sacrifice. He felt the need to define freedom.�

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Daschle told the Slagle Auditorium audience that he fears the U.S. has allowed its notion of freedom to degrade.

�In an age of such remarkable wealth and affluence, could we not as a nation work together to revitalize the idea of freedom to include economic security that makes freedom real?� Daschle asked. �Could we not re-commit ourselves to establishing Americans� rights to health care, to a good education, to work with dignity and fair wages, and a secure retirement?�

Such rights, he said, are simply the means to an end � a truer, fuller, more expansive vision of freedom, and to make the most of one�s own life.

That evening, following the banquet meal, McGovern, Ziolkowski, Abbott and Janklow heaped praise on the former senator.

Neuharth used his time at the podium to express his disappointment in the decisions South Dakota voters have made at the polls, noting that the state refused to support two of its native sons � Hubert Humphrey and McGovern � in their presidential bids.

He was also critical of the tone of last November�s Senate campaign.

�I say in that election, shame on those selfish, special-interest out-of-staters who pumped large money and bigger lies into South Dakota,� Neuharth said, �to mislead voters and defeat Tom.�

Thune may be a good senator, he added, �but it will be a long time before he reaps the rewards for South Dakota people took for granted from Tom.�

Daschle said their are countless people in the United State and throughout the world who look to America�s leaders for hope.

�If we are to take a meaningful step forward and expand the boundaries of freedom, then we must first inspire our country once again with a true idea of what freedom means,� he said. �Then, and maybe only then, will all Americans be able to sacrifice for freedom.�

Daschle said Americans have a responsibility to fight for freedom.

�And if we aren�t called upon to defend it, then I think our other responsibility is to work at it, if democracy and this republic is to survive,� he said. �It will only survive if we all share in the responsibility to give back.�

Daschle, responding to a question from the audience, said his November defeat, in large measure, was due to Republicans doing a better job of voter turnout state-wide.

�I also can�t ignore the ramifications of having a very popular Republican president on the top of the ticket,� he said. �It was John Kerry�s decision not to campaign in South Dakota, to concede the state, because he didn�t think he could win here.�

Daschle said national candidates need to understand that there is a liability that comes with such a decision.

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