50 years, the Harvard Law School Forum has been sponsoring
speeches by luminaries ranging from Fidel Castro to
Gerald Ford to Dr. Ruth. Sometimes the speeches have
generated a bit of media coverage, sometimes not. But
one given last month by Charlton Heston has taken on
a life of its own.
Heston, the actor and conservative activist, delivered
to about 200 listeners about "a cultural war that's
about to hijack
your birthright to think and say what resides in your
"He knew he was coming to a liberal environment,
and clearly a group
of his listeners was conservative and another was more
said David Christopherson, president of the forum. "About
respectfully challenged him during the questions. It
generated a lot
of debate around the campus. But what happened caught
What happened was Rush Limbaugh's radio talk show.
On March 15,
Limbaugh read the entire speech on the air, only to
bombarded with thousands of requests for a copy of it.
thing happened at Harvard Law.
"We couldn't keep up with all the requests,"
said Mike Chmura at
Harvard. "It really didn't have legs and might
have been forgotten
if Mr. Limbaugh hadn't decided to deliver it."
'Winning the Cultural War' - Charlton Heston's
Speech to the Harvard Law School Forum, Feb 16, 1999
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 repainted 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
men, then I want to use that same gift now to reconnect
your own sense of liberty of your own freedom of thought
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
Amendment freedoms, I've realized that firearms are
not the only
issue. No, it's much, much bigger than that. I've come
that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which,
Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech
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
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 gayrights should extend
no further than
your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe.
I served in
World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech,
drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and
innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite. Everyone
I would never raise a closed fist against my country.
But when I
asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution,
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 authorized 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
that "blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly
being established as
the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There
seem to be
new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories
foisted on us from every direction. Underneath, the
roiling. Americans know something without a name is
nation, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating
from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don't
Let me read a few examples. At Antioch college in Ohio,
seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission
at each step
of the process from kissing to petting to final copulation
clearly spelled out in a printed college directive.
In New Jersey,
despite the death of several patients nationwide who
infected by dentists who had concealed their AIDs -
commissioner announced that health providers who are
need not ... need not ... tell their patients that they
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
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
placed in bilingual classes to learn their three R's
solely because their last names sound Hispanic.
At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where
at Gettysburg opposing slavery, the president of that
officially set up segregated dormitory space for black
Yeah, I know ... that's out of bounds now. Dr. King
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
Miniconjou Sioux. On my wife's side, my grandson is
generation native American ... with a capital letter
Finally, just last month ... David Howard, head of
D.C. Office of Public Advocate, used the word "niggardly"
talking to colleagues about budgetary matters. Of
course, "niggardly" means stingy or scanty.
But within days Howard
was forced to publicly apologize and resign. As columnist
wrote: "David Howard got fired because some people
in public employ
were morons who (a) didn't know the meaning of niggardly,
know how to use a dictionary to discover the meaning,
actually demanded that he apologize 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
thought, tell me: Why did political correctness originate
America's campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate
it? Why do
you, who're supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their
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 reason. 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
Second Amendment scholars and researchers are being
told to shut up
about their findings or they'll lose their jobs. Why?
research findings would undermine big-city mayor's pending
that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars
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
unfettered ideas, if not you? Who will defend the core
academia, if you supposed soldiers of free thought and
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 anti-
religion. If you accept but don't celebrate homosexuality,
not make you a homophobe. Don't let America's universities
to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of
But what can you do? How can anyone prevail against
social subjugation? The answer's been here all along.
I learned it
36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in
DC, standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred
people. You simply ... disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully,
course. Nonviolently, 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 stigmatizes 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 manwho led those in the right against those with
Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship
disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor,
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
authority, social directives and onerous laws that weaken
But be careful ... it hurts. Disobedience demands that
yourself at risk. Dr. King stood on lots of balconies.
You must be
willing to be humiliated ... to endure the modern-day
the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons
at Selma. You
must be willing to experience discomfort. I'm not complaining,
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,
biggest entertainment conglomerate in the world. Police
country were outraged. Rightfully so-at least one had
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
Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at the time, so I
What I did there was against the advice of my family
I asked for the floor. To a hushed room of a thousand
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
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 fantasizes
about sodomizing two 12-year old nieces of Al and Tipper
"SHE PUSHED HER BUTT AGAINST MY ...."
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
waiting press corps, one of them said "We can't
"I know," I replied, "but Time/Warner's
selling it." Two months
later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T's contract. I'll
offered another film by Warner's, or get a good review
magazine. But disobedience means you must be willing
to act, not
When a mugger sues his elderly victim for defending
herself ... jam
the switchboard of the district attorney's office.
When your university is pressured to lower standards
until 80% of
the students graduate with honors ... choke the halls
of the board
When an 8-year-old boy pecks a girl's cheek on the
gets hauled into court for sexual harassment ... march
school and block its doorways.
When someone you elected is seduced by political power
and betrays you... petition them, oust them, banish
When Time magazine's cover portrays millennium nuts
crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last month
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 disobedience's of history
exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes,
in the hands
of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by
built this country.
If Dr. King were here, I think he would agree. Thank