I got around to seeing The King’s Speech last night, the gripping story of King George VI, the accidental king, and his struggle with his stammer. It seemed that there was no way to blog on this wonderful movie, but then my gaze fell on Tony Blankley’s column this morning: It was on the need for private virtue in the preservation of our republic. Blankley quoted another George, George Washington:

“It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”

Blankley comments:

[Washington’s] point was that no matter how well designed our constitutional mechanisms may be, the healthy future of our nation would depend upon the maintenance of private virtue — that self-government is only possible if our national character, made up of each individual character, yearns and acts for a free country.

Two centuries later, Martin Luther King Jr. observed a similar truth when he talked about the “content of their character” being essential to our enduring (and more complete) liberty.

Like me, Blankley is optimistic about the coming year, finding hope for the restoration of (among other things) private virtue and independence through the emergence of the Tea Party movement, which began brandishing the US Constitution-yes, that very document that will be read aloud tomorrow in the House chamber-and which says that our private virtues, not government programs, are what will matter:  

By the millions, tea partiers and so many others responded to the crisis by standing up and beginning to take events into their own hands. In community after community, people have reached out to those who are suffering. And in the election, a majority spoke out for and voted for policies that would stop the theft of our grandchildren’s prosperity and liberty. So I have been elevated in my hopes for our future.

It was three King Georges before King George VI when the original American Tea Party developed. But I see George VI as sort of a Tea Party king in that he realized that one man’s fortitude, discipline, and character could make an enormous difference for his country. He didn’t want to be king, but he became the perfect king for his era. (Here is the background on George VI’s sometimes desperate battle to learn to speak in public–actually actually, in private, too. He worked with an unconventional speech therapist, Lionel Logue, who lacked academic credentials-and, much to his initial discomfort, insisted upon calling the royal by his first name. The scene when George VI, practicing for his coronation in Westminster Abbey, turns around sees Logue perched nonchalantly on King Edward the Confessor’s throne is priceless.)

George VI had little actual power, but he was a force for good during one of the pivotal times in English history, World War II. The 112th Congress, sworn in this week, will have enormous power at a tipping point in our history. Perhaps it would be good for the newly-elected members of Congress to see The King’s Speech to see just how much difference the virtue of one man can make. George VI had a simple, old-fashioned virtue, just the sort we need today. Blankley has the last word:

[The author Hilaire Belloc] observed that when the most profound issue may face a nation, there is the danger that “the lesser should conquer the greater, the viler the more noble, the more changeable the more steadfast, the baser the more noble … We know, upon the analogy of all historical things, small and great, that the less creative, the dullest and the worst elements may destroy, and has frequently attempted to destroy, the vital, the more creative and the best.”

That is what America faces today. For too long, the decent American majority of citizens who are productive and hardworking (and those many millions now sincerely, desperately looking for jobs) have sat by while others have tried to usurp our liberty to enhance the power of government; have taxed and borrowed from those who produce to transfer to those who neither work, nor produce, nor seek to produce, nor maintain their private virtue.

Now all these conflicting interests and passions are funneling into Washington, D.C. These next 24 months — beginning now — are the decisive moment.