Family Research Council President Tony Perkins shared a powerful story at Chapel this morning. A team of climbers successfully ascended Mount Everest. Coming down, however, climber Lincoln Hall suffered a collapse. His teammates, thinking him dead, left him there and continued downward to their base camp. But Lincoln awoke after a day. Hallucinating, he came to the edge of the precipice.

An American team came upon him as they climbed up the mountain. Team Leader Dan Mazur and his fellow climbers took Lincoln back down with them. They missed the summit. They sacrificed their goals and some of their wealth. But they saved a life. Because they were there.

The Hebrew commentaries on Scripture, the Talmud, tell us that “he who saves a single life, it is as if he saved the world entire.” Tony’s message this morning gave us great encouragement after a year of defeat and disappointment. Can we say the cause of unborn life, the cause of marriage (the best protection for new life) have prospered? No. Can we say the flame of religious freedom burns brighter this January than it did last year? No.

But we do not despair. We do not lose hope.

I had a memorable experience working in the U.S. Education Department. Like our boss, President Reagan, I didn’t believe there should even be a federal education department. We worked hard to promote the first federal voucher bill for low income families. It failed. We tried to stop the erasure of all evidence of America’s godly heritage from basal readers. We even commissioned a study by respected NYU psychologist Paul Vitz that showed publishers were censoring all references to God from schoolchildren’s texts. We failed. We tried to “zero out” entire portions of the federal education department, to close down this agency we regarded as unconstitutional and wasteful. We failed.

In one area, however, we saw success. Sec. Bill Bennett testified before a congressional committee calling for reduced federal education spending. The chairman, a liberal, criticized Sec. Bennett for not demanding more money. Then, he launched into an appeal for Bennett to back federally subsidized child care.

He said: “Why even the Soviet Union has a national system of subsidized child care, Mr. Secretary.”

Bennett was ready: “Mr. Chairman: The reason the Soviets have that system can be found in the Ph.D. dissertation written by Raisa Gorbachev. She urged the party leadership to do this because the children on the farms were all being raised by their grandparents, who taught them superstitions.”

To the atheist wife of the Communist Party’s General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, those Russian grandparents’ superstitions were the Christian religion.

On our watch, there was no more push for federal day care. And no demand for national subsidized day care to pull little children out of homes, out of church-based pre-schools, out of those settings their loving parents choose for them.

In another area, home schooling, the Bennett years at USED were a success. He brought into the department Michael Farris, the home school leader. It was the first time this had ever happened.

I had known Michael in Washington State in the Reagan campaign. Now, Michael was presenting the case for home schooling to some very skeptical educrats. In the course of his commanding presentation, he said: “My 7-year old son can read the entire front page of the Washington Post, but my wife and I could still be prosecuted in 40 states for child abuse and neglect.”

Michael Farris provided a powerful defense of home schooling. Later out in the hall, I teased him: “Michael, do you really let your 7-year old boy read the Washington Post?”

Home schooling enjoyed some of its greatest gains in the 1980s, when President Reagan held office. And under Sec. Bennett, the federal education department did not join in the attempts to crush this burgeoning movement.

We wish we could have gotten parental choice in education for millions of low-income parents struggling to break free, but we did make a difference for millions of home schoolers. Because we were there.