Thank you for that very kind introduction. Some day I'll show up at one of these events in a chariot just to live up to your expectations. But only if some of you guys will volunteer to clean up after the horses. After all, you've been cleaning up after the Democrats for a long time.
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 cultures, several kings, three American presidents, a French cardinal, and two geniuses, including Michelangelo. If you want the ceiling repainted I'll do my best. I don't mean to boast, please understand. It's just that there always seems to be a lot of different fellows up here, and I'm not sure which one of them gets to talk.
Thinking about our visit today it struck me; If my Creator endowed me with a talent to entertain you, to connect you somehow with the hearts and minds of these great men, then I want to use that same gift now, to re-connect you with a great purpose, a compass for what is right that already lives in your heart.
Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg more than a century ago, 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." Lincoln was right. Friends, let me tell you: you are engaged again in a great Civil War, a cultural war that's about to hijack your birthright. And I fear that you no longer trust the pulsing life blood inside you that made this country rise from mud and valor into the miracle that it still is.
Let me back up here. About a year ago I became President of the National Rifle Association, which defines and 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.
Standing in the crosshairs of those aiming to shoot down our Second Amendment freedom, I've realized that firearms are not the only issue. I'm not the only target. It's much, much bigger than that. I've come to realize that a cultural war is indeed raging across our land, storming our values, assaulting our freedoms, killing our self-confidence in who we are and what we believe.
How many of you here own a gun?
How many own a bunch of guns?
I wonder, how many of you own guns but choose not to raise your hand? How many almost revealed your conviction about a constitutional right, but then thought better of it? Then you are a victim of the cultural war. You're a casualty of the cultural battle being waged against the traditional American freedom of beliefs and ideas.
Now maybe, you don't care much one way or the other about owning a gun. But I could have 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. Would you raise your hand if Dan Rather were in the back of the room with a film crew?
You have been assaulted and robbed of the courage of your own convictions. Your pride in who you are, and what you believe, has been ridiculed, ransacked, and plundered. It may be a war without bullet or bloodshed, but there is just as much liberty lost: You and your country are less free. And you are not inconsequential people! You in this room, are respected, many of you are powerful, yet you are shamed into silence! So what other beliefs in your heart will you disavow with your hand?
Rank-and-file Americans wake up every morning increasingly bewildered and confused at why their views make them lesser citizens. After enough breakfast-table TV promos hyping tattooed sex slaves on the next Jerry Springer Show, enough gun-glutted movies and tabloid talk shows, enough revisionist history books and prime-time ridicule of religion, enough of the TV news anchor who cocks her head, clucks her tongue and sighs about guns causing crime, and finally the message begins to get through.
Heaven help the God-fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle class, protestant, or, even worse, evangelical Christian, midwest or southern or, even worse, rural, apparently straight, or even worse, admitted heterosexual, gun-owning, or even worse, NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff, or even worst of all, a male working stiff. Because then, not only don't you count, you're a downright obstacle to social progress, pal. Your tax dollars may be just as green as you hand them over, but your voice better be quiet. Your opinion is less enlightened, your media access is silenced, and frankly mister, you need to wake up, wise up, and learn a little something about your new America, and meantime, why don't you just sit down and shut up!
That's why you didn't raise your hand. That's how cultural war works. And we are losing.
That's why I formed ARENA PAC, my own political action committee, and that's why, though I'm physically and financially comfortable, and have a wonderful family and grandchildren I cherish, between films I go on the road catching red-eye flights, speaking at rallies in Seattle and eating pancakes in Peoria, rubber chicken in Des Moines. Yes, indeed, Chuck Heston can find less strenuous and more glamorous things to do with his time than stump for conservative candidates out there in Anytown, U.S.A., but it's a job I can do better than most, because most can't.
You don't see many other Hollywood luminaries speaking out for conservative cauaes, do you? It's not because there aren't any. It's because they won't take the heat. They dare not speak up for fear of ABC or CBS or CNN and worst of all, the IRS.
Cultural war saps the strength of our country because the personal price is simply too high to stand up for what you believe in. Today, speaking with the courage of your conviction can be so costly, the price of principle so great, that legislators won't lead, so citizens can't follow, and so there is no army to fight back. That's cultural warfare.
For instance: It's plain that cur Constitution guarantees law-abiding citizens the right to own firearms. But if I stand up and say so, why does the media assault me with such slashing derision?
Because Bill Clinton's cultural warriors want a penitential cleaning of all firearms. Millions of lawful gun owners must feel guilty for the crimes of others and seek absolution by surrendering their guns. That's what has already happened in England and Australia. Lines of submissive citizens, threatened with imprisonment, are bitterly surrendering family heirlooms, guns that won their freedom, to the blast furnace. If that fact doesn't unsettle you, then you are already anesthetized, you are a ready victim of the cultural war.
So how do we get out of this mess? Moses led his people through the wilderness, but he never made it to the promised land, not even when I played him. But he did do his job, he pointed his people in the right direction.
Unlike the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights wasn't cut into stone tablets. But the text surely has that same righteous feel to it. It is as if you can sense the unseen hand of the almighty God guiding those rebellious old white guys, sweating out the birth of a nation. Jefferson, Adams, Paine, they pointed the way and we made it to this promised land, the one our immigrant ancestors dreamed of, the land Abe Lincoln called, "Man's last, best hope on earth."
Look at me. Where else but in America could a skinny country boy named Charlton work his way out of the Michigan north woods and find a life that makes a difference? My country put the gift of freedom in my hands and said, "Here kid, see what you can do with this." That is why I so deeply love this great nation, and the Constitution that defines it.
Just about everything good about me — who I am and what I've done — you can trace back to some smoking muskets and a radical Declaration of Independence by those ragtag rebels. Wearing threadbare coats and marching on bleeding feet, they defeated the finest army assembled in that century, and they gave the world hope. Within them flowed an undertow of personal freedom, a relentless sense of what is right, so irresistibly strong that they simply could not abandon it.
But today's cultural warriors are trying. They're revising and rewriting these truths, trying to yank our Bill of Rights right out from under us.
They are trading traditions that are right for trends that tease us with more immediate reward. Self-gratification has displaced honor, greed has erased good taste, the desire of the moment has undermined basic morality. We are fast becoming a self-serving, boorish, and arrogant people given to cultural binges, quick to dismiss anything of substance that stands in the way of our undisciplined desires.
That is the culturally bereft America we see and hear in our movies, television, popular music, even the prime time news hour.
I should have known what to expect when the earth shoe generation skipped into the White House with a paisley suitcase full of social experiments and revisionist history. Bill and Hillary are the product of a cultural revolution that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the power of flowers. It was an adolescent uprising bent on burning bridges, not building them.
Our President's recent troubles are dramatic proof that cultural war is not a clash over the facts, or even between philosophies. It is a clash between the principled, and the unprincipled.
I am not talking about his behavior. I am talking about people who cannot comprehend moral absolutes, and a country that seems to abide it. Here we are again, trapped in the silly spectacle of having our values measured hourly by the polls, as if the definition of the "right thing" changed like a national mood ring.
"What do you think of the President? Well, wait, after his apology, now how do you feel? Oh, wait, after the White House spin, how do you feel? But wait, after the First Lady's interview, now how do you feel?" Behavior is judged and re-judged based not upon what is right, but upon what feels right, and to whom, at the moment.
This is how cultural warriors use sexual crime to destroy their enemies. Sex shatters the career of a senior enlisted man, a sexual infraction wrecks the life of a corporate executive, and sexual gossip impugns the integrity of a supreme court nominee. Yet with the right spin by the right doctor, others are forgiven. Somewhere in this rancid mess we fight to find principle our children can understand.
But 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 food on the table and clothes on their backs, and still save a little to live their final days in dignity.
They prefer the America they built, where you could pray without feeling naive, love without being kinky, sing without profanity, be white without feeling guilty, own a gun without shame, and raise your hand without apology. They are the men and women who long for you to get some guts, stand on principle, and lead them to victory in this cultural war. They are sick and tired of national social policy that originates on Oprah, and they are ready for you to pull the plug.
Now if this all sounds a little Mosaic, my punchline is as elementary as the Golden Rule. There is only one way to win a cultural war: Do the right thing! Triumph belongs to those who arm themselves with pride in who they are and what they believe, and then do the right thing.
And you know what? Everybody already knows what that is. You, and I, we know the right thing. President Clinton, Madonna, Louis Farrakhan, even Marilyn Manson, we all know. It's easy. You say wait a minute, you take a long look in the mirror, then into the eyes of your kids, or grandkids, and you'll know what's right.
I would like to reconnect you with that compass for what is right, that already lives in you. To unleash its power, you need only re-arm yourself with the raw courage of your convictions.
Our ancestors were armed with pride, and bequeathed it to us. I can prove it. If you want to feel the warm breath of freedom upon your neck, if you want to touch the proud pulse of liberty that beat in our Founding Fathers in its purest form, you can do so through the majesty of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Because there, in that wooden stock and blued steel, is what gives the most common of common men the most uncommon of freedoms. When ordinary hands are free to own this extraordinary, symbolic tool standing for the full measure of human dignity and liberty, that is as good as it gets.
It does not matter whether its purpose is to defend our shores or your front door, whether the gun is a rite of passage for a young man or a tool of survival for a young woman, whether it brings meat for the table or trophies for the shelf. Without respect to age, or gender, or race, or class, the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms connects us all with all that is right.
And no amount of oppression, no FBI, no IRS, no big government, no social engineers, no matter what and no matter who, they cannot cleave the genes we share with our Founding Fathers.
Remember: they promised us life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They did not promise us happiness, only the chance to chase it. And being politically correct is not the way to get there. If America believed in political correctness, we would still be King George's boys, subjects enslaved to the British crown. Please, seek to be politically competent, yes, politically confident and politically courageous, yes, but never politically correct.
Don't run for cover when the cultural cannons roar. Remember who you are and what you believe, and then raise your hand, stand up, and speak out. Don't be shamed or startled into lockstep conformity.
Defeat the criminals and their apologists, oust the biased and bigoted, endure the undisciplined and unprincipled. But disavow the self-appointed social puppeteers whose relentless arrogance fuels this vicious war against so much we hold so dear. Do not yield; do not divide; do not call truce. It is your duty to muster with pride and win this cultural war.
As leaders you must do what Abraham Lincoln did, confronted with a perverse version of what America was meant to be: Do the right thing. As Mr. Lincoln said, "With firmness in the right, as God gives us to see right, let us finish the work we are in, and then we shall save our country."
I believe that says it all. Thanks. It has been a pleasure.