The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Ronald Reagan are two of the greatest leaders in American history not only because of the struggles they won but how they won them.
They were great communicators who achieved great victories without violence. And they were able to do this for the same reason: They unapologetically appealed to the ultimate truth.
In 1987, when Reagan spoke at the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the media paid most attention to his direct challenge to the Soviet leader: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
But Reagan spoke even more powerful words at the end of that speech.
"The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship," Reagan said.
"The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront," he said.
"Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexanderplatz," he said. "Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower's one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere — that sphere that towers over all Berlin — the light makes the sign of the cross.
"There in Berlin like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed," said this great American president.
"Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall," Reagan said. "For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth."
And the wall did fall.
Twenty-four years before Reagan delivered that speech, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was locked within the walls of the Birmingham jail for protesting segregation.
The police had arrested King — a Baptist clergyman and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — on Good Friday.
Inside the jail, King wrote a letter explaining his actions and his cause.
He was not an enemy of law and order — quite the opposite.
"Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber," he wrote.
"One may well ask: 'How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?'" he said. "The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all.'
"Now, what is the difference between the two?" King said. "How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in the eternal law and the natural law."
King, an American patriot, understood that despite America's long history of violating this principle through slavery and segregation, it was the guiding principle at the core of our nation's founding.
"One day the South will know," King said, "that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the formation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence."
Reagan and King believed that human freedom depends on faith in God and respect for His laws.
Reagan led America in defeating an evil that threatened us from abroad by standing up for and righteously speaking that truth. King led America in defeating an evil that threatened us from within by using the very same means.
Today, as in other eras, there are forces that would like America to abandon this ultimate truth that King and Reagan embraced and acted upon. To these forces, the principle enshrined in the Declaration of Independence is like the sign of the cross shining off the tower at Alexanderplatz. It needs to be eradicated.
We should teach our children that these forces are wrong, and that King and Reagan were right.
If we seek liberty and justice for all, we must be one nation under God.
Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSnews.com.