Americans must choose whether they will continue to allow government to erode liberty, or reclaim the first principles that have made America great. Heritage’s longtime president, Ed Feulner, who retired this week, succeeded in leaving the nation a legacy of arming citizens to defend those principles. Now, Americans must renew their defense of liberty.

That’s the message Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College and trustee of The Heritage Foundation, delivered at Heritage’s 40th Anniversary Leadership Celebration this week.

“Ed is a lover,” said Arnn. “Things move him. He fights for them every day, all day.”

Arnn said America has a negative balance sheet, meaning Americans owe more in public and private debt than the whole nation’s economic output. Now, the government might soon exceed the 45 percent of gross domestic product that it currently consumes, threatening the American peoples’ ability to govern themselves.

Arnn urged a return to the same constitutional principles Heritage upholds — the same truths he taught me in two classes as a senior at Hillsdale College: self-government, personal responsibility, and liberty under the rule of laws based in “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

“When people make choices and the choices make a difference, it is a vindication of human responsibility,” said Arnn. “In this country, it is arranged that the governed are in charge of the government.”

He concluded by exhorting the audience to honor these principles by recovering what Feulner defended his whole career:

“We will do what we must do to recover the faith of our fathers. And if we do that, we will find that a weapon for us, as it was a weapon for them in making this magical and unbelievable place. And if we don’t manage to restore it, and make it what it’s supposed to be, we can in any case have the honor of dying in the attempt.”