I’m sure many of you have heard the term “happy warrior” before. For those who haven’t, it’s an expression of flattery thrown around in Washington far too often than it deserves to be.
I Googled the term recently and found, to my surprise, that it’s often used to describe our vice president. Though in his case, I think it’s probably more of a veiled insult than a compliment.
In any case, as best as I can tell—from sifting through the array of articles about Joe Biden—the term comes from a poem by William Wordsworth, written in 1806, called “Character of the Happy Warrior.”
In the poem Wordsworth describes the essential attributes of the happy warrior—“he that every man in arms should wish to be.” Many of these traits will serve you well as future leaders of the conservative movement.
The happy warrior is resolute and tenacious, “whose high endeavors are an inward light that makes the path before him always bright.”
Calm and confident, the happy warrior “finds comfort in himself and his cause,” drawing “his breath in confidence of Heaven’s applause.”
Never one to cheat or deceive, the happy warrior “owes to virtue every triumph that he knows.”
And even when facing great adversity, the happy warrior always remains in good spirits.
He has “a peculiar grace” and is “attired with sudden brightness, like a Man inspired.”
I know that not all of you will spend your entire career working in public policy. And that’s okay. Because the conservative alternative to the liberal welfare state is not a welfare state run by conservatives.
We don’t simply want to replace big government with smaller government. Our policies are merely the means to an end. The real goal—the real alternative to big government—is a dynamic economy and a thriving civil society, made up of close-knit communities, strong families, and heroic citizens. So there’s much work to be done outside of government in building this society together.
Whatever path you choose, I guarantee there will be some front in the fight for freedom that will need the help of happy warriors like you.
Mike Lee represents Utah in the United States Senate. This is an excerpt of a speech delivered at an America’s Future Foundation Leadership Dinner on June 25, 2014 in Washington, D.C. To read more about Mike Lee, please visit his website.