One of our supposedly great experts on Communism said a year and a half ago, “There is a finality, for better or worse,” about the communist conquest of Eastern Europe. And some of our people believed it, saying “Well, we must be practical and realistic. We must accept facts.” But was it a fact? Fortunately, within a few weeks a lot of common people marched down a street in Poznan, Poland, crying, “Give us bread—and freedom too!” They proved that the man wasn’t really a great expert or a realist. He was just a defeatist, and completely unrealistic. He had lost faith both in man and in God. He didn’t believe, and many others of us haven’t really believed that the urge of man to be free can be and will be stronger than the tyrant’s sword, or even his police state—that is, if only we don’t betray that urge by building up the tyrant in the vain notion that somehow he may give us freedom and peace and security in our time.
The growing surge to be free came to a climax a year ago last fall in Hungary. Foolish? Yes, just as foolish as the country farmers on a green at Lexington who stood up against the finest professional soldiers of the eighteenth century—but it was those farmers on the green and “by the rude bridge that arched the flood” at Concord who fired “the shot heard ‘round the world” and made possible this freedom which we today enjoy without realizing how great a price was paid for it, or what discipline and dedication and willingness to work for it are necessary if our heritage is to be preserved, fulfilled, strengthened, and shared around the world.
The communists understood the significance of what happened in Hungary better than we did. They were scared into near panic, as we’ve learned from several sources since. ...1
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