May 1999

Heston Speaks Out At Harvard

Charlton Heston, president of the National Rifle Association, spoke at the Harvard Law School Forum on Tuesday, February 16. Though his speech, “Winning The Cultural War, ” didn’t exclusively focus on gun topics, he made some points about liberty and fighting for our rights—including gun rights—that made me say, “Yes!” as I read his text. Herewith, then, are a few points from Heston’s speech we should all consider, especially in light of continuing efforts to demonize gun owners and gun ownership, and to strip our gun rights from us.

-Todd Woodard

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 realized that firearms are not the only issues. 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 fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated.…

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?…

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 manufacturers. 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?…

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. 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 man who led those in the right against those with the might… Disobedience is in our DNA.…

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.