The Free Congress Foundation 
Charlton Heston's Speech December 20, 1998 
 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 a bad directive for Mr. Clinton. Anyway.  

I like it when the party of Lincoln honors our free heritage. This nation has been blessed by the minds and mettle of many good people, and indeed Abe was among the best. A man of great moral characterÖa trait often lacking among our leaders. This is disturbing, but not without remedy. One good election can correct such ills.  

Above all, I hope those of us gathered here tonight have more in common with Mr. Lincoln than just party affiliation. Better that we grasp a common vision that simply wear the cloak. Even our President pretends to be a conservative when it suits him. We must be more than that.  

I know itís not easy. Imagine being point man for the National Rifle Association, preserving the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serveÖas a moving target for pundits whoíve called me everything from "ridiculous" and  
"duped" to a "brain-injured, senile and crazy old man."  

Maybe that comes with the territory. But as I have stood in the crosshairs of those who aim at Second Amendment freedom, I have realized that guns are not the only issue, and I am not the only target. It is much, much bigger than that Ė which is what I want to talk to you about today.  

I have come to realize that a cultural war raging across our land storming our values, assaulting our freedoms, killing our self-confidence in who we are a 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 raise your hand? How many of you considered revealing your conviction about a constitutional right, but then thought better of it?  

Then you are a victim of the cultural war.. You are a casualty of the cultural warfare being waged against traditional American freedom of beliefs and ideas. Now maybe you donít care one way or the other about owning a gun. But I couldíve asked for a show of hands of Pentecostal Christians, or pro-lifers, or right-to-workers, or Promise Keepers, or school vouchers-ers, and the result would be the same. What if the same question were asked at your PTA meeting? Would you raise your hand if Dan Rather were in the back 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, ransacked and plundered. It may be a war without bullet or bloodshed, but with just as much liberty lost: You and your country are less free.  

And you are not inconsequential people! You in this room, whom many would say are among the most powerful people on earth, you are shamed into silence! Because you choose to own guns Ė affirmed by no less than the Bill 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 only ask the gravely obvious question: Whatíll become of the right itself? Or other rights not deemed acceptable by the thought police? What other truth in your heart will you disavow with your hand?  

I remember when European Jews feared to admit their faith. The Nazis forced them to wear yellow stars as identity badges. It worked. So Ė what color star will they pin on gun ownersí chests? How will the self-styled elite 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 or the NRA, but the gun issue clearly brings into focus the warfare thatís going on. 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 hyping tattooed sex-slaves on the next Rikki Lake, enough gun-glutted movies and tabloid shows, enough revisionist history books and prime-time ridicule of religion, enough of the TV anchor who cocks her head, clucks her tongue and sighs about guns causing crime and finally the message gets through: Heaven help the God-fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle class, Protestant, or even worse admitted heterosexual, gun-owning or even worse NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff, or even worse male working stiff, because not only donít you count,  
youíre a downright obstacle to social progress. Your tax dollars may be just as delightfully green as you hand them over, but your voice deserves a lower decibel level, your opinion is less enlightened, your media access is insignificant, and frankly mister, you need to wake up, wise up and learn a little something about your new AmericaÖand until you do, would you mind shutting up?  

Thatís why you didnít raise your hand. Thatís how cultural war works. And you are losing.  

Thatís what happens when a generation of media, educators, entertainers and politicians, led by a willing president, decide the America they were born into isnít good enough any more. So they contrive to change it through the cultural warfare of class distinction. Ask the Romans if powerful nations have ever fallen as a result of cultural division. There are ruins around the 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, we may succumb to a divided culture.  

Although my years are long, I was not on hand to help pen the Bill of Rights. And popular assumptions aside, the same goes for the Ten Commandments. Yet as an American and as a man who believes in Godís almighty presence, I treasure both.  

The Constitution was handed down to guide us by a bunch of wise old dead white guys who invented our country. Now some flinch when I say that. Why? Itís trueÖthey were white guys. So were most of the guys that died in Lincolnís name opposing slavery in the 1860s. So why should I be ashamed of white guys? Why is "Hispanic pride" or "black pride" a good thing, while "white pride" conjures shaved heads and white hoods? Why was the Million Man March on Washington celebrated as progress, while the Promise Keepers March on Washington was greeted with suspicion and ridicule? Iíll tell you why: Cultural  

Now, Chuck Heston can get away with saying Iím proud of those wise old dead white guys because Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan know I fought in their cultural war. I was one of the first white soldiers in the civil rights movement, long before it was  
fashionable. In 1963 I marched on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King to uphold the Bill of Rights. As vice-president of the NRA I am doing the same thing.  

But you donít see many other Hollywood luminaries speaking out on this, do you? Itís not because there arenít any. Itís because they canít afford the heat. They dare not speak up for fear of CNN or the IRS or SAG or ATF or NBC or even W-J-C. It spas the strength of our country when 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 can be so high, that legislators wonít lead and citizens canít follow, and so there is no army to fight back. Thatís cultural warfare.  

For instance: Itís plain that our Constitution guarantees law-abiding citizens the right to own a firearm. But if I stand up and say so, why is the media assault on me such a slashing, sinister brand of derision filled with hate?  

Because Bill Clintonís cultural warriors want a penitent cleansing of firearms, as if millions of lawful gun owners should genuflect in shame and seek absolution by surrendering their guns. Thatís what is now literally underway 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 does not unsettle you, then you are already anesthetized, a ready victim of the cultural war.  

You know that I stand first in line in defense for free speech. But those who speak against the perverted and profane should be given as much due 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 seams that secure the fabric of our society.  

Iíve earned a fine and rewarding living in the motion picture industry, yet increasingly I find myself embarrassed by the dearth of conscience that drives the worldís most influential artform. And I am an example of what a lonely undertaking it can be.  

Nobody opposed the obscene rapper Ice-T until I stood at Time-Warnerís stockholders meeting and was ridiculed by its president for wanting to take the floor to read Ice-Tís lyrics. Since I held several hundred shares of stock he had no choice, though the media were barred. I read those lyrics to a stunned audience of average American peopleÖ shocked at lyrics that advocating killing cops, sexually abusing women, and raping the nieces of our Vice-President. The good guys won that time: Time-Warner fired Ice-T.  

The gay and lesbian movement is another good example. Many homosexuals are hugely talented artists and executivesÖalso dear friends. I donít despise their lifestyle, though I donít share it. As long as gay and lesbian Americans are as productive, law abiding and private as the rest of us, I think America owes them absolute tolerance. Itís the right thing to do.  

On the other hand, I find my blood pressure rising when Clintonís cultural shock troops participate in gay-rights fundraisers but boycott gun-rights fundraisersÖand then claim itís time to place homosexual men in tents with Boy Scouts, and suggest that sperm donor babies born into lesbian relationships are somehow better served and more loved.  

Such demands have nothing to do with equality. Theyíre about the currency of cultural war money and votes and the Clinton camp will let anyone in the tent if thereís a donkey on the hat, a check in the mail or some yen in the fortune cookie.  

Mainstream America is counting on you to draw your sword and fight for them. These people have precious little time and resources to battle misguided Cinderella 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 preference with the other, and all the New-Age apologists for juvenile crime, who see roving gangs as a means of youthful expression, sex as a means of adolescent merchandizing, violence as a form of entertainment for impressionable minds, and gun bans as a means to lord-knows-what. We have reached that point in time when our national social policy originates on Oprah. I say itís time 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 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 Ė where you could pray without feeling naïve, love without being kinky, sing without profanity, be white without feeling guilty, own a gun without shame, andraise you hand without apology. They are the critical masses who find themselves under siege and long for you to get some guts, stand on principle and lead them to victory in this cultural war.  

Now if this all sounds a little Mosaic, the punchline of my sermon is as elementary as the Golden Rule: In a cultural war, triumph belongs to those who arm themselves with pride in who they are and then do the right thing. Not the most expedient thing, not whatíll sell, not the politically correct 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. Itís easy. You say wait a minute, you take a long look in the mirror, then into the eyes of your kids or grandkids, and youíll know whatís right.  

Donít run for cover when the cultural cannons roar. Remember who you are and what you believe, and then raise you hand, stand up, and speak out. Donít be shamed or startled into lockstep conformity by seemingly powerful people. The maintenance of a free nation is a long, slow, steady process. And itís in your hands.  

Yes, we can have rules and still have rebels Ė thatís democracy. But as leaders you must do as Lincoln would do, confronted with the stench of cultural war: Do whatís right. As Mr. Lincoln said, "With firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are inÖand 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-appointed social engineers whose relentless arrogance fuels this vicious war against so much we hold so dear. Do not yield, do not divide, do not call truce. Be fair, but fight back.  

Itís the same blueprint our founding fathers left to guide us. Our enemies see it as the senile prattle of an archaic society. I still honor it as the United States Constitution, and that timeless document we call the Bill of Rights.  

Freedom is our fortune and honor is our saving grace.  

Thank you.  

Return to NRA Speech Menu