The audience for Rightside Radio is amazing. Recently a guy named Justin, who said he was 19, called in and asked me on the air, “If hard times create strong men, where are the strong men to lead us out of these hard times?” What a great question!

I believe he was alluding to a quote from a book by Author G. Michael Hopf called “Those Who Remain.” The full quote would be, “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And weak men create hard times.” The essence of that quotation is that we often see a cycle in culture and history of a circular turn of events in which hard times, whether induced by war, famine, cultural decline, tyranny, or some natural disaster, mount up against the people of a given society and, by necessity, it causes harder, stronger leadership to rise up out of the ashes.

But mankind, being fickle and prone to reinvent the wheel too often, allows the good times that come about because of that strong leadership to make them fat, happy and generally weak. That weakness, that flaccid and often craven lack of strength, allows for the onset of difficulties that bring about the next round of hard times. And so, the circular motion of events starts over.

That same night, my adult son called to talk about Justin’s question. My son is 33 and I’m telling you, my wife Charlene and I have remarked several times that we raised kids who are better than we are. That night was my son’s turn to impress, and he did not fail. He brought up the question from Justin and the quote from Hopf and what he said next was so good I asked him if he wouldn’t mind sending me his thoughts in an email so I could mull over them.

He pointed out that the second half of the 20th century - especially after the fall of the Soviet Union - has seen an unprecedented level of peace and prosperity across the world. He made note that he did not use the word “unprecedented” lightly and, in his words, the world has literally never seen so little actual war and such a generally high standard of living. He went on to say that European history has often seen Europeans killing each other every few years, but that until recently Europe has been largely free of open warfare for nearly eight decades. To be sure, the Middle East and Southwest Asia have been an on-again, off-again hodgepodge of hotspots, but western society has remained pretty solid and pretty peaceful.

But my son is a student of modern warfare and military doctrine, and he knows what he sees. I agree with him that, generally speaking, much of modern Western society has never faced real crisis, or real problems, an experience which has served to make so many of society’s members weak. These weaklings, in the absence of real problems, must therefore invent their own problems and prove that they have done something to overcome them, however trivial or misplaced.

Critical Race Theory, microaggressions, preferred pronouns, and mean tweets are the result of people who have grown so comfortable that they must invent problems in order to have something to solve.

So let me just stop summarizing and read you a direct quote from my son as he wrapped up his email. He said, and I quote:

Now we face the hard times these weak men have created. Mass inflation, energy crises, supply chain shortages, potential food shortages, and the highest chance of World War Three since the Cuban missile crisis are all happening as the left screams that men can have periods too. So back to Jason's question: where are the strong men? I look around and I don’t see many options. DeSantis readily comes to mind. The list after him is desperately short. The good news is that the 1970's were a hard decade for the USA. But it only took one Reagan to turn the 1980's into arguably the best decade in our country's history. DeSantis may or may not be our next Reagan. But rest assured that hard times do indeed create strong men. 

“Until our strong leaders emerge, everyone can be a strong man or woman in their own sphere of influence. No matter how large or small that may be, it makes a difference. Working hard, treating others as you want to be treated, standing up for what is right in the face of overwhelming pressure, being a source of positivity and hope, refusing to crumble if someone calls you the wrong pronoun and teaching younger generations how to also do those things make ALL the difference. So go be a local strong man and hold out hope until the national level strong men arrive on the scene.”

First of all, on a personal note, yes, I am a proud Dad! I always have been, but it never hurts to have one more reason. Second, I hope that ya’ll are taking note that the basis for that discussion and much of its content came from a call from a 19-year-old and an email from a 33-year-old, which indicates that there is truly hope for our future.

But next, and back to the point, these are weird, difficult and often distressing times. We as a nation have it good and have become soft in our approach to the world around us. Too many in our nation, and our culture, have grown soft and as a result they are inventing problems from thin air with the result being that while they stay distracted and chase unicorns and absurdities, real issues are mounting up around them.

My son is right, and Justin’s question was well timed: we need the strong to get on their feet, raise their voices, and say “follow me.” So much of the so-called leadership that we see right now is either reckless, feckless, or respect-less … or all three.

When I look at President Biden, I don’t envision that he has ever had a callus on his hands in his whole life. When I see Governor Ivey at the helm of our state, right next door to Governor DeSantis, the phrase that comes to mind is: “go along to get along.” I can count on one hand the local and state leaders who inspire me and give me confidence. But yet I know that they are out there, and we need them.

We need that person who is battle born and heavy tested - willing to lean into the wind, set their face like flint, and dare to oppose enemies while also mentoring those that they lead. Someone who, like Andrew Jackson, can say, “I was born for the storm and a calm does not suit me.

I’ve said it before: “It took a Carter to bring us a Reagan.” Who’s in? Who’s up for it? To answer Justin’s question: “Where are the strong men?” They are all around us and thay just need to know that they are needed. And to recall a quote again from my own son: “So go be a local strong man and hold out hope until the national level strong men arrive on the scene.”

Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5 pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement, go to www.rightsideradio.orgThe views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.