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Patrick Henry properly accredited the rational and theological virtue of hope to “the vigilant, the active, the brave.”
Chairman’s Column
October 2009

The Delusive Phantom of Hope
By: Bob Schaffer, LPR Chairman

Beware the leader who substitutes hope for vision for he will betray you every time.

Hopelessness is commonly equated to unhappiness. If that is true, does having hope mean being happy? Of course not, yet that’s what many of today’s political class would have others believe.

On the whole, Americans seem to be buying it. Hope properly understood, however, is a much narrower construction than that which is implied by the popular political usage.

True hope always adheres to logic. Hope is fundamentally a theological virtue, not a summary of happy wishes or whimsical desires (despite numerous dictionary applications).

Hoping a fortune falls into one’s lap is not really hope at all. That is fantasy. And though fantasy pays on rare occasion, such as in winning the lottery, it is no basis for rational hope.

Neither is expecting someone else to pay for your healthcare, housing and comforts. Working, saving, helping, preparing and building relationships are firmer bases for hope.

Freedom requires wholesome efforts predicated upon noble vision. Hope of baseless entitlement ultimately becomes justification for legal plunder – which is immoral.

Patrick Henry exposed false hope in his famous Give Me Liberty speech. He scoffed at “the delusive phantom of hope.” He warned, “In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope.”

Instead, Henry properly accredited the rational and theological virtue of hope to “the vigilant, the active, the brave.” True hope compelled effort and inspired the colonists to fight.

Hope is a beautiful, empowering virtue. Good leaders should embrace real hope and appeal to its authenticity in others. True hope, properly understood, fortifies strenuous liberty.

But just as the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math, banking on irrational and misplaced hope inevitably leads, with ease, to voluntary servitude.

Bob Schaffer is the Chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education. He is a former US Congressman and Colorado State Senator. He is also the Chairman of the Leadership Program of the Rockies. His monthly columns appear in the organization's newsletters. For more information and to subscribe, please visit

More information about Schaffer at

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