His Legacy: Freedom to Speak
By Evelyn Pyburn
Several times my husband mentioned that I needed to listen to this guy on the radio but I didn’t listen much to the radio except when traveling in the car, so that’s when it happened. I even remember what street we were on when I first heard Rush Limbaugh. We were on Central Avenue near the bowling alley. He took my breath away, so astounded I was. It was a burst of sunshine in what I had not fully realized was a gray and cloudy day.
I was astounded that this guy was speaking so forthrightly, right out loud in public! My first reaction was to be concerned for his safety and I said as much to my husband.
The fact is, politically correct speech was in full sway even in the 80s – and suddenly here was someone loudly speaking truth. What he was saying was little more than the common sense most people already knew, but the fact he was speaking it— so publically – that was the greatness that everyone immediately recognized – – most especially those who disagreed.
During the week after hearing about Rush’s death, over and over we heard or read stories as people recalled exactly where they were when they first heard Rush Limbaugh. Think about that. It wasn’t like an earthshaking event such as the assassination of the President or landing on the moon, this was a guy talking on the radio. It was Rush shaking things up.
So phenomenal was he that tens of millions of people immediately took note upon first hearing him. Why would that be? As brilliant as he was or as talented as he was, that wouldn’t have been so evident in just a few minutes – what people heard was a brave man speaking his mind. So rare was that, that it was profoundly noteworthy.
For all of Rush Limbaugh’s talent and innovation and brilliance, what always impressed me most was his courage. It’s become clear to me over the years that more so than brilliance, talent or hard work, by far the most rare human attribute is courage – to have the internal strength and integrity to speak the truth as you see it.
Such is a very sad and disturbing reality to have to concede, because of course, in a supposedly free country, everyone should feel comfortable speaking their minds. But, over the years, silencing of free expression, especially of conservative or freedom-oriented ideas, has escalated. But for 32 years, Rush Limbaugh was never daunted. He never faltered in speaking ever louder, every day.
Rush very seldom had a guest. While he often gave reasons for that, one reason we all knew was that most guests would only dilute the program. Seldom could any guest put forth more compelling, interesting and knowledgeable conversation than could Rush. Whenever I was listening I was always waiting for some unique bit of insight about events of the day, and he usually had it.
One of the most profound insights— about which he came to frequently remind us— was that he was not really the target of those who attacked him and hated him. He was a proxy for all of us in his audience, and for all who dared to have a point view that differed from the politically correct. Over the years the truth of that insight only broadened as it has become more and more inherent in most political opposition from the establishment, Left or Right.
The fact that there are tens of millions of people who loved him and appreciated him is why the Left hated Rush and why they could never admit his greatness, as they can seldom admit any great achievements. Over the last few months, Rush reiterated many times that the political establishment is well aware of those millions and that they fear us.
Given the amazing political events we have seen unfold over the past couple of years, including the wide ranging efforts to disrupt and end public discourse, one can hardly refute the point. There’s only one reason to silence the millions and that is because you cannot intellectually refute their ideas, and because you know that if disseminated those ideas would prevail. For such people the only course of action is to use force to keep people from speaking and thinking.
One of the biggest mistakes the political establishment ever made was to end the “Fairness Doctrine.” That’s what gave us Rush Limbaugh and unleashed free speech and the free reign of ideas within the realm of public broadcasting.
Under the grip of federal regulations radio served little purpose other than listening to music. In requiring radio stations to guarantee opposite points of view, there became no points of view except those considered “settled truths,” which were regularly pushed at us in the news propagated by the only three television networks allowed. No one would take on the financial cost or legal liability of allowing public discourse. Just think where we would be now if it were not for radio, now that most other communication and venues have been shut down.
Many have talked, this past week, about how inspiring Rush was, far more so than to talk about politics. Everything about Rush was a lesson and an inspiration. He was a real live testament to what he believed about free will and the strength of free markets. His passion, innovation, talent and most of all his commitment to his beliefs, not only helped him build a fortune from the bottom up, but he, as many have said, saved the radio industry through that innovation and determination. In forging that path he made way for opportunities and success for the thousands who followed in the industry. This was indeed a free market at work and it is that freedom of choice which stands threatened once again.
Rush was always upbeat and positive, which not only made listening to him a bright spot in the day, but inspired his listeners to persevere. Many times he would advise, “follow your passion,” which at root was what it all was about, most especially the politics. An individual cannot follow their passion unless they have the freedom to do so and that is fundamentally what the US Constitution and free markets are all about – individual freedom to choose and to live. Rush was doing just that every day before our very eyes.
But for all of that, we would know nothing about Rush — there would have been no saving of an industry and no inspiration, knowledge or understanding of politics or of life, if there had not first come the actions of one brave man. That is his legend and the legacy — having the courage to speak.
It is the challenge of each one of us to continue that legacy.