Charlton Heston's Keynote Address at the Free CongressFoundation's 20th Anniversary Gala
The Free Congress Foundation was honored to have Mr.Charlton Heston as the keynote speaker at its 20th Anniversary Gala onDecember 20, 1997. The address was broadcast live on America's Voice Network,and is available by calling our order line toll free at: 1 (800) 638-0600.For more information on the Free Congress Foundation and it's televisionprogramming and public policy centers, go to our homepage.
What an honor it is to address the Free Congress Foundation. At a glance"Free" reads as a verb rather than an adjective. "Free Congress." Not abad directive for Mr. Clinton. Anyway...
I like it when the party of Lincoln honors our free heritage. This nationhas been blessed by the minds and mettle of many good people, and indeedAbe was among the best. A man of great moral character, a trait often lackingamong our leaders. This is disturbing, but not without remedy. One goodelection can correct such ills.
Above all, I hope those of us gathered here tonight have more in commonwith Mr. Lincoln than just party affiliation. Better that we grasp a commonvision than simply wear the cloak. Even our President pretends to be aconservative when it suits him. We must be more than that.
I know… it’s not easy. Imagine being point man for the National RifleAssociation, preserving the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office,I was elected, and now I serve… as a moving target for pundits who’ve calledme everything from "ridiculous" and "duped" to a "brain-injured, senileand crazy old man."
Maybe that comes with the territory. But as I have stood in the crosshairsof those who aim at Second Amendment freedom, I have realized that gunsare not the only issue, and I am not the only target. It is much, muchbigger than that – which is what I want to talk to you about today.
I have come to realize that a cultural war is raging across our land…stormingour values, assaulting our freedoms, killing our self-confidence in whowe are and what we believe.
How many of you own a gun? A show of hands maybe?
How many own two or more guns?
Thank you. I wonder – how many of you own guns but chose not to raiseyour hand? How many of you considered revealing your conviction about aconstitutional right, but then thought better of it?
Then you are a victim of the cultural war. You are a casualty of thecultural warfare being waged against traditional American freedom of beliefsand ideas. Now maybe you don’t care one way or the other about owning agun. But I could’ve asked for a show of hands of Pentecostal Christians,or pro-lifers, or right-to-workers, or Promise Keepers, or school voucher-ers,and the result would be the same. What if the same question were askedat your PTA meeting? Would you raise your hand if Dan Rather were in theback of the room with a film crew?
See? You have been assaulted and robbed of the courage of your convictions.Your pride in who you are and what you believe, has been ridiculed, ransackedand plundered. It may be a war without bullets or bloodshed, but with justas much liberty lost. You and your country are less free.
And you are not inconsequential people! You in this room, whom manywould say are among the most powerful people on earth, you are shamed intosilence! Because you choose to own guns – affirmed by no less than theBill of Rights. But you embrace a view at odds with the cultural warlords.If that is the outcome of cultural war, and you are victims, I can onlyask the gravely obvious question: What’ll become of the right itself? Orother rights not deemed acceptable by the thought police? What other truthin your heart will you disavow with your hand?
I remember when European Jews feared to admit their faith. The Nazisforced them to wear yellow stars as identity badges. It worked. So – whatcolor star will the pin on gun owners’ chests? How will the self-styledelite tag us? There may not be a Gestapo officer on every street corner,but the influence on our culture is just as pervasive.
Now, I am not really here to talk about the Second Amendment of theNRA, but the gun issue clearly brings into focus the warfare that’s goingon.
Rank-and-file Americans wake up every morning, increasingly bewilderedand confused at why their views make them lesser citizens. After enoughbreakfast-table TV hyping tattooed sex-slaves on the next Rikki Lake, enoughgun-glutted movies and tabloid shows, enough revisionist history booksand prime-time ridicule of religion, enough of the TV anchor who cocksher head, clucks her tongue and sighs about guns causing crime and finallythe message gets through: Heaven help the God-fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian,middle class, Protestant, or—even worse— admitted heterosexual, gun-owningor—even worse—NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff, or—even worse—maleworking stiff, because not only don’t you count, you’re a downright obstacleto social progress. Your tax dollars may be just as delightfully greenas you hand them over, but your voice deserves a lower decibel level, youropinion is less enlightened, your media access is insignificant. And frankly, mister, you need to wake up, wise up and learn a little somethingabout your new America… and until you do, would you mind shutting up?
That’s why you didn’t raise your hand. That’s how cultural war works.And you are losing.
That’s what happens when a generation of media, educators, entertainersand politicians, led by a willing president, decide the America they wereborn into isn’t good enough any more. So they contrive to change it throughthe cultural warfare of class distinction. Ask the Romans if powerful nationshave ever fallen as a result of cultural division. There are ruins aroundthe world that were once the smug centers of small-minded, arrogant elitism.It appears that rather than evaporate in the flash of a split atom, wemay succumb to a divided culture.
Although my years are long, I was not on hand to help pen the Bill ofRights. And popular assumptions aside, the same goes for the Ten Commandments.Yet as an American and as a man who believes in God’s almighty presence,I treasure both.
The Constitution was handed down to guide us by a bunch of wise olddead white guys who invented our country. Now some flinch when I say that.Why? It’s true… they were white guys. So were most of the guys that diedin Lincoln’s name opposing slavery in the 1860s. So why should I be ashamedof white guys? Why is "Hispanic pride" or "black pride" a good thing, while"white pride" conjures shaved heads and white hoods? Why was the MillionMan March on Washington celebrated as progress, while the Promise KeepersMarch on Washington was greeted with suspicion and ridicule? I’ll tellyou why: Cultural warfare.
Now, Chuck Heston can get away with saying I’m proud of those wise olddead white guys because Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan know I foughtin their cultural war. I was one of the first white soldiers in the civilrights movement, long before it was fashionable. In 1963 I marched on Washingtonwith Dr. Martin Luther King to uphold the Bill of Rights. As vice-presidentof the NRA I am doing the same thing.
But you don’t see many other Hollywood luminaries speaking out on this,do you? It’s not because there aren’t any. It’s because they can’t affordthe heat. They dare not speak up for fear of CNN or the IRS or SAG or ATFor NBC or even W-J-C. It saps the strength of our country when the personalprice is simply too high to stand up for what you believe in. Today, speakingwith the courage of your conviction can be so costly, the price of principlecan be so high, that legislators won’t lead and citizens can’t follow,and so there is no army to fight back. That’s cultural warfare.
For instance: It’s plain that our Constitution guarantees law-abidingcitizens the right to own a firearm. But if I stand up and say so, whyis the media assault on me such a slashing, sinister brand of derisionfilled with hate?
Because Bill Clinton’s cultural warriors want a penitent cleansing offirearms, as if millions of lawful gun owners should genuflect in shameand seek absolution by surrendering their guns. That’s what is now literallyunderway in England and Australia. Lines of submissive citizens, threatenedwith imprisonment, are bitterly surrendering family heirlooms, guns thatwon their freedom, to the blast furnace. If that fact does not unsettleyou, then you are already anesthetized, a ready victim of the culturalwar.
You know that I stand first in line in defense for free speech. Butthose who speak against the perverted and profane should be given as muchdue as those who profit by it. You also know I welcome cultural diversity.But those who choose to live on the fringe should not tear apart the seamsthat secure the fabric of our society.
I’ve earned a fine and rewarding living in the motion picture industry,yet increasingly I find myself embarrassed by the dearth of consciencethat drives the world’s most influential art form. And I am an exampleof what a lonely undertaking it can be.
Nobody opposed the obscene rapper Ice-T until I stood at Time-Warner’sstockholders meeting and was ridiculed by its president for wanting totake the floor to read Ice-T’s lyrics. Since I held several hundred sharesof stock he had no choice. Though the media were barred, I read thoselyrics to a stunned audience of average American people… shocked at lyricsthat advocating killing cops, sexually abusing women, and raping the niecesof our Vice-President. The good guys won that time: Time-Warner fired Ice-T.
The gay and lesbian movement is another good example. Many homosexualsare hugely talented artists and executives… also dear friends. I don’tdespise their lifestyle, though I don’t share it. As long as gay and lesbianAmericans are as productive, law-abiding and private as the rest of us,I think America owes them absolute tolerance. It’s the right thing to do.
On the other hand, I find my blood pressure rising when Clinton’s culturalshock troops participate in gay-rights fundraisers but boycott gun-rightsfundraisers… and then claim it’s time to place homosexual men in tentswith Boy Scouts, and suggest that sperm donor babies born into lesbianrelationships are somehow better served and more loved.
Such demands have nothing to do with equality. They’re about the currencyof cultural war – money and votes – and the Clinton camp will let anyonein the tent if there’s a donkey on the hat, a check in the mail or someyen in the fortune cookie.
Mainstream America is counting on you to draw your sword and fight forthem. These people have precious little time and resources to battle misguidedCinderella attitudes, the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition,the feminists who preach that it is a divine duty for women to hate men,blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preferencewith the other, and all the New-Age apologists for juvenile crime, whosee roving gangs as a means of youthful expression, sex as a means of adolescentmerchandizing, violence as a form of entertainment for impressionable minds,and gun bans as a means to Lord-knows-what. We have reached that pointin time when our national social policy originates on Oprah. I say it’stime to pull the plug.
Americans should not have to go to war every morning for their values.They already go to war for their families. They fight to hold down a job,raise responsible kids, make their payments, keep gas in the car, put foodon the table and clothes on their backs, and still save a little to livetheir final days in dignity. They prefer the America they built – whereyou could pray without feeling naïve, love without being kinky, singwithout profanity, be white without feeling guilty, own a gun without shame,and raise your hand without apology. They are the critical masses who findthemselves under siege and long for you to get some guts, stand on principleand lead them to victory in this cultural war.
Now if this all sounds a little Mosaic, the punchline of my sermon isas elementary as the Golden Rule: In a cultural war, triumph belongs tothose who arm themselves with pride in who they are and then do the rightthing. Not the most expedient thing, not what’ll sell, not the politicallycorrect thing, but the right thing.
And you know what? Everybody already knows what the right thing is.You and I and President Clinton, even Ice-T, we all know. It’s easy. Yousay wait a minute, you take a long look in the mirror, then into the eyesof your kids or grandkids, and you’ll know what’s right.
Don’t run for cover when the cultural cannons roar. Remember who youare and what you believe, and then raise you hand, stand up, and speakout. Don’t be shamed or startled into lockstep conformity by seeminglypowerful people. The maintenance of a free nation is a long, slow, steadyprocess. And it’s in your hands.
Yes, we can have rules and still have rebels – that’s democracy. Butas leaders you must do as Lincoln would do, confronted with the stenchof cultural war: Do what’s right. As Mr. Lincoln said, "With firmness inthe right, as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work weare in… and then we shall save our country."
Defeat the criminals and their apologists, oust the biased and bigoted,endure the undisciplined and unprincipled, but disavow the self-appointedsocial engineers whose relentless arrogance fuels this vicious war againstso much we hold so dear. Do not yield, do not divide, do not call truce.Be fair, but fight back.
It’s the same blueprint our founding fathers left to guide us. Our enemiessee it as the senile prattle of an archaic society. I still honor it asthe United States Constitution, and that timeless document we call theBill of Rights.
Freedom is our fortune and honor is our saving grace.