Date: 23 February 1999 08:27
Subject: Speech by Charlton Heston at Harvard
"Winning The Cultural
Harvard Law School Forum
February 16, 1999
I remember my son when he was five,
explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living. "My
Daddy," he said, "pretends to be people."
There have been quite a few of
them. Prophets from the Old and New Testaments, a couple of Christian saints,
generals of various nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three
American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses, including Michelangelo.
If you want the ceiling re-painted I'll do my best. There always seem to be a
lot of different fellows up here. I'm never sure which one of them gets to talk.
Right now, I guess I'm the guy.
As I pondered our visit tonight it
struck me: If my Creator gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and
minds of those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to re-connect
you with your own sense of liberty ... your own freedom of thought ... your own
compass for what is right.
Dedicating the memorial at
Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said of America, "We are now engaged in a great
Civil War, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so
dedicated can long endure."
Those words are true again. I
believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that's
about to hijack your birthright to think and say what resides in your heart. I
fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you ... the
stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is.
Let me back up. About a year ago I
became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to
keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serve ... I serve
as a moving target for the media who've called me everything from
"ridiculous" and "duped" to a " brain-injured, senile,
crazy old man." I know ... I'm pretty old ... but I sure Lord ain't senile.
As I have stood in the crosshairs
of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I've realised that firearms are
not the only issue. No, it's much, much bigger than that.
I've come to understand that a
cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervour,
certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated.
For example, I marched for civil
rights with Dr. King in 1963 -- long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But
when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black
pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they called me a racist.
I've worked with brilliantly
talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights
should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a
I served in World War II against
the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling
out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an
Everyone I know knows I would never
raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose
this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.
From Time magazine to friends and
colleagues, they're essentially saying, "Chuck, how dare you speak your
mind. You are using language not authorised for public consumption!"
But I am not afraid. If Americans
believed in political correctness, we'd still be King George's boys -- subjects
bound to the British crown.
In his book, "The End of
Sanity," Martin Gross writes that "blatantly irrational behaviour is
rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavour.
There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories
regularly foisted on us from every direction.
Underneath, the nation is roiling.
Americans know something without a name is undermining the nation, turning the
mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from
wrong. And they don't like it."
Let me read a few examples.
_ At Antioch college in Ohio, young
men seeking intimacy with a co-ed must get verbal permission at each step of the
process from kissing to petting to final copulation ... all clearly spelled out
in a printed college directive.
_ In New Jersey, despite the death
of several patients nation-wide who had been infected by dentists who had
concealed their AIDs --- the state commissioner announced that health providers
who are HIV-positive need not ... need not ... tell their patients that they are
_ At William and Mary, students
tried to change the name of the school team "The Tribe" because it was
supposedly insulting to local Indians, only to learn that authentic Virginia
chiefs truly like the name.
_ In San Francisco, city fathers
passed an ordinance protecting the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the
job, and for transsexuals to have separate toilet facilities while undergoing
sex change surgery.
_ In New York City, kids who don't
speak a word of Spanish have been placed in bilingual classes to learn their
three R's in Spanish solely because their last names sound Hispanic.
_ At the University of
Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands died at Gettysburg opposing slavery,
the president of that college officially set up segregated dormitory space for
Yeah, I know ... that's out of
bounds now. Dr. King said "Negroes." Jimmy Baldwin and most of us on
the March said "black." But it's a no-no now. For me, hyphenated
identities are awkward ... particularly "Native-American." I'm a
Native American, for God's sake. I also happen to be a blood-initiated brother
of the Miniconjou Sioux. On my wife's side, my grandson is a thirteenth
generation native American ... with a capital letter on "American."
Finally, just last month ... David
Howard, head of the Washington D.C. Office of Public Advocate, used the word
"niggardly" while talking to colleagues about budgetary matters. Of
course, "niggardly" means stingy or scanty. But within days Howard was
forced to publicly apologise and resign.
As columnist Tony Snow wrote:
"David Howard got fired because some people in public employ were morons
who (a) didn't know the meaning of niggardly,' (b) didn't know how to use a
dictionary to discover the meaning, and (c) actually demanded that he apologise
for their ignorance."
What does all of this mean? It
means that telling us what to think has evolved into telling us what to say , so
telling us what to do can't be far behind.
Before you claim to be a champion
of free thought, tell me: Why did political correctness originate on America's
campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate it? Why do you, who're supposed to
debate ideas, surrender to their suppression?
Let's be honest. Who here thinks
your professors can say what they really believe?
It scares me to death, and should
scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of
You are the best
and the brightest. You, here in the fertile cradle of American academia, here in
the castle of learning on the Charles River, you are the cream. But I submit
that you, and your counterparts across the land, are the most socially conformed
and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge.
And as long as you validate that
... and abide it ... you are -- by your grandfathers' standards -- cowards.
Here's another example. Right now
at more than one major university, Second Amendment scholars and researchers are
being told to shut up about their findings or they'll lose their jobs. Why?
Because their research findings would undermine big-city mayor's pending
lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from firearm
I don't care what you think about
guns. But if you are not shocked at that, I am shocked at you. Who will guard
the raw material of unfettered ideas, if not you? Who will defend the core value
of academia, if you supposed soldiers of free thought and expression lay down
your arms and plead, "Don't shoot me."
If you talk about race, it does not
make you a racist. If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make
you a sexist. If you think critically about a denomination, it does not make you
If you accept but don't celebrate
homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe.
Don't let America's universities
continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism.
But what can you do? How can anyone
prevail against such pervasive social subjugation?
The answer's been here all along.
I learned it 36 years ago, on the
steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin
Luther King and two hundred thousand people.
You simply ... disobey.
Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of
course. Non-violently, absolutely.
But when told how to think or what
to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey social protocol that stifles and
stigmatises personal freedom.
I learned the awesome power of
disobedience from Dr. King ... who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau, and
Jesus, and every other great man who led those in the right against those with
Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel
innate kinship with that disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbour,
that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that
protested a war in Viet Nam.
In that same spirit, I am asking
you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue
authority, social directives and onerous law that weaken personal freedom.
But be careful ... it hurts.
Disobedience demands that you put
yourself at risk. Dr. King stood on lots of balconies.
You must be willing to be
humiliated ... to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at
Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma.
You must be willing to experience
discomfort. I'm not complaining, but my own decades of social activism have
taken their toll on me. Let me tell you a story.
A few years back I heard about a
rapper named Ice-T who was selling a CD called "Cop Killer"
celebrating ambushing and murdering police officers. It was being marketed by
none other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the
Police across the country were
outraged. Rightfully so -- at least one had been murdered. But Time/Warner was
stonewalling because the CD was a cash cow for them, and the media were
tiptoeing around it because the rapper was black.
I heard Time/Warner had a
stockholders meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at the
time, so I decided to attend.
What I did there was against the
advice of my family and colleagues. I asked for the floor. To a hushed room of a
thousand average American stockholders, I simply read the full lyrics of
"Cop Killer" -- every vicious, vulgar, instructional word.
"I GOT MY 12 GAUGE SAWED OFF
I GOT MY HEADLIGHTS TURNED OFF
I'M ABOUT TO BUST SOME SHOTS OFF
I'M ABOUT TO DUST SOME COPS
It got worse, a lot worse. I won't
read the rest of it to you. But trust me, the room was a sea of shocked, frozen,
blanched faces. The Time/Warner executives squirmed in their chairs and stared
at their shoes. They hated me for that.
Then I delivered another volley of
sick lyric brimming with racist filth, where Ice-T fantasises about sodomizing
two 12-year old nieces of Al and Tipper Gore.
"SHE PUSHED HER BUTT AGAINST
Well, I won't do to you here what I
did to them. Let's just say I left the room in echoing silence. When I read the
lyrics to the waiting press corps, one of them said "We can't print
that." "I know," I replied, "but Time/Warner's selling
Two months later, Time/Warner
terminated Ice-T's contract. I'll never be offered another film by Warners, or
get a good review from Time magazine. But disobedience means you must be willing
to act, not just talk.
When a mugger sues his elderly
victim for defending herself ... jam the switchboard of the district attorney's
When your university is pressured
to lower standards until 80% of the students graduate with honours ... choke the
halls of the board of regents.
When an 8-year-old boy pecks a
girl's cheek on the playground and gets hauled into court for sexual harassment
... march on that school and block its doorways.
When someone you elected is seduced
by political power and betrays you ... petition them, oust them, banish them.
When Time magazine's cover portrays
millennium nuts as deranged, crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last
month ... boycott their magazine and the products it advertises.
So that this nation may long
endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great
disobediences of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants,
and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by God's
grace, built this country.
If Dr. King were here, I think he