Chris Stewart, Co-author of the New York Times bestseller, The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World, has set out to help us understand the history of democracy, and to see that many historical events that led us to the freedom we enjoy today are inextricably linked.
The long march to freedom revolves around pivotal events spanning over thousands of years, which Stewart explores in his book, and discussed with us in the following Q&A:
Chris Stewart: It’s about the long and incredibly hazardous road that the world had to march in order to get to the day when many of us are able to enjoy the blessing of freedom. It’s about the long string that runs through word history that ties all of these events together, as if there was a sense of purpose to it all. It’s about the amazing conflicts and sacrifices that had to take place in order for freedom to develop and survive. It is an exploration of some of the most important events in world history – epic and world-changing events – which were indispensable stepping-stones toward the expanded freedom and democracy that we have today.
MC: Your bestselling book is now being released in paperback. Are you surprised at all of the positive attention your book has thus received?
CS: I don’t know if I’m surprised, but I’m certainly honored. At its core, this book is about freedom. It’s about the incredibly long and dangerous road that the world had to march in order to get to this point where so many people enjoy the miracle of freedom. That’s something that, on a gut level, many people understand and relate to. I think that helps explain why the book has done so well.
MC: When you originally published it a few years ago, you were not a member of Congress at the time. What inspired your recent run for office?
CS: People ask me that all the time. I was an air force pilot, successful writer and business owner. I’d never thought about running for office. But I felt like our nation was in trouble and I wanted to get into the fight. Writing this book reminded me of what an incredible blessing freedom is and how fragile that blessing is. That led me to want to get involved in a way that I hadn’t been before. It’s much like what happened to me when I was younger. As a senior in college, I was on my way to law school when I suddenly decided that I wanted to serve in the military instead. I decided to run for congress for much the same reason. I thought I could help and I wanted to try.
MC: So what were some of those key tipping points and why do you believe they were so significant?
CS: The defeat of the Assyrians in their quest to destroy the kingdom of Judah. The victory of the Greeks over the Persians at Thermopylae. Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. The failure of the Mongols in their efforts to conquer Europe. The defeat of the armies of Islam at Poitiers. Discovery of the New World. The Battle of Britain. All of these were absolutely essential to the long march of freedom. If any one of them had not happened, or if any of them had turned out differently, the world would be very different that it is today.
MC: Why is it important that Americans understand the history of democracy around the world?
CS: For one thing, as the book points out, it’s important to understand how incredibly rare freedom is. Only a tiny fraction of the people have lived in the world have ever been able to enjoy it. For another, it’s important to get a sense of the string that runs through history. All of these incredible world events, from the Assyrian assault on Judah down to the modern Battle of Britain, were tied together. And all of them were essential for the freedoms that we have today.
MC: You note that only two dozen or so countries – out of nearly 200 in the world – have had a democratic government in place for at least the past 50 years. Why aren’t more countries free?
CS: Because it’s hard. Because there is always opposition to freedom and human dignity. Because the battle to maintain our freedoms never ends. Some nations lose that battle. Others grow weary and give up. There are many, many examples of nations losing their freedom. Eventually, most do.
MC: Why do you say freedom is fragile?
CS: History has proven it is. There are so many examples, even in the last generation, where nations earn a degree of freedom, then lose it, either through neglect, malicious leadership, or simply by choosing another way. Some of the former Soviet republics, parts of the Middle East, nations in Central America…there are plenty of examples in the world right now where nations are turning their back on freedom.
MC: How can we help fledgling democracies stay on the right path and not fall back into a dictatorship?
CS: First, I would say we have to recognize that we can’t do it for them. They have to be willing to pay the price. But for those nations who cherish freedom and want to claim it for themselves, we can be the light and example that they need to know it is possible. We can provide support. We can help to lead them. I believe we are, as Abraham Lincoln said, the last best hope on earth. Millions of people around the world still believe that. We can help them to succeed.