Note: this transcript is unedited and can not be used for any other purpose except those specifically authorized by the Progress and Freedom Foundation
Renewing American Civilization
The historic lessons of American History January 14, 1995
The following is a special program produced by RCTV, Reinhardt College television in Waleska, Georgia. From Reinhardt College in Waleska, Georgia, this is "Renewing American Civilization." In this, the second of 10 class presentations, Congressman Newt Gingrich, an adjunct professor at Reinhardt College, will continue his course which presents the foundational principles necessary to the Renewal of American Civilization. This week's lesson, pillar one: the historic lessons of American Civilization, focuses on the lessons of American history and the use of history for analysis and problem solving.
Good morning. Let me say that it's a little bit rainy here in Waleska this morning, but I want to welcome what I hope are the dry students of Mind Extension University all over the country and report to all of you that my sister-in-law found me by channel surfing last Saturday, ended up taking at least the television part of the course.
Now, just as a very brief overview, remember, the assertion of the course is that there are five pillars of American Civilization. That they are the historic lessons of American Civilization, is the first pillar. Personal strength is the second pillar. Entrepreneurial free enterprise is the third pillar. The spirit of invention and discovery is the fourth pillar. And quality as defined by Deming is the fifth pillar. And we're going to take one class for each of these five, and then there are four areas to which we will apply these pillars. They are, first of all, looking at the third wave in American Civilization, so we'll spend two hours looking at the concept of the information revolution in American Civilization. Then creating American jobs in the world market. And then we will spend two hours looking at replacing the culture of violence and poverty with a culture of productivity and safety. And finally, we will close the course with two hours on citizenship and community in 21st century America, which in a sense ought to be the final culmination of what we're trying to teach.
Now, today's topic is the historic lessons of American Civilization. And I want to use this to accomplish three different things, if I can, just for a second, so you'll understand where I'm going and what my biases are and what I'm trying to accomplish. First of all, I want to get you to think about history. I am a historian as a vocational degree. Because I think if you want to understand human beings, you ought to study history, because history helps you. In other words, I didn't study history to become a historian. I studied history in order to understand how people function, how people do things. Because the most powerful predictor of possible future behaviors is history. So one thing I want you to do is learn a fair amount about how to use history, how to make it work for you. So you actually look at it and people say, "oh, that's history." And it's common in our current culture that that means it's irrelevant, it's past, it's gone. I would argue just the opposite. Every major figure, when you go back through the last 300 years, when you read Napoleon's quotes or you look at Washington, look at FDR, look at Harry Truman, again and again you find people who read history for a practical reason.
So I want to -- part of the purpose of today's two hours is to try to begin to convince you that history can be the most practical of disciplines, because it is teaching you about what you want to do. So I don't really care what history you read. If you want to get rich, then read the history, the biographies of people who got rich. You want to be a famous entertainer, then read the biographies of people who became famous entertainers. You want to be a successful political leader, then read the biographies of successful political leaders. But studying how others have done things not only enriches you in the sense of, oh, you know a lot more and you sound a lot better at cocktail parties, it also gives you a wider menu of solutions than people have who don't read history. So I regard immersing yourself in history as the most practical of applications.
The second point we want to make is that history is a great place to begin to really reemphasize American exceptionalism. And I want to talk a lot about that today, and it reinforces our argument that America is a civilization. That it's multi-ethnic, but one civilization. And you'll see that as we start talking about American history.
The third thing I want to do with today's looking at history is to get you to realize how aberrational the current moment is. And in a sense, the core argument of this course is that from the arrival of the English-speaking peoples, which is a period of around 1607 to 1620 in Virginia and in Massachusetts, that you had a culture which began to wash up on the North American continent. That culture, going all the way back to the Magna Carta, had a deep passion for liberty. That it had learned lessons in the English Civil War, and that it had, with John Locke and others, created an argument about how humans are free. And that that culture actually gradually emerges, becomes modern America, and that you can see from 1760 to 1789 a big argument about whether or not, in fact, being American is different than being British.
There's a famous story of Franklin going to Britain sent by the colony of Pennsylvania as their representative, arriving in Britain as a loyal English subject and leaving Britain as an American, because in his exposure to the British political system, he had come to realize how far apart we were and that they were not us. And there are a number of quotes, and I remember the one who said -- somebody who said during this period, I think it was John Adams, who says that we entered this argument with Britain thinking we were British, and in our minds learned that we were American, and then decided we had to have a revolution. And then after the revolution, they have to invent a system.
And one of the things which liberated me and got me going was Gordon Wood's two great works on "the Origins of the American Revolution," which covers this period, and "the Radicalism of the American Revolution" in which Wood argues that a second great breakthrough occurs. This is our political breakthrough. We become America politically, we become a free country, we adopt the constitution. And that's why we have, as some of your assignments, "the Federalist Papers," the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution. They're out of this period. Then there's a second break point which is: now that we're no longer bound by a king and we're no longer bound by aristocracy, we become a remarkably democratic, capitalist, entrepreneurial society of enormous freedom. And that is codified in 1830, '30, and '31 by de Tocqueville. And by this point, we have become America.
Now, the central argument of this course intellectually is that this system, to a remarkable degree, survived to about 1965. And that you could have had a dialogue between American leaders, the American elite, normal, everyday Americans, you know, people have all kinds of backgrounds could have gotten together up to this point and there would have been a continuity from here to here, and you'll see it today. In fact, I was shocked last night preparing today's class. We're going to share with you something I have never -- did not hear till last night, which is Franklin Delano Roosevelt's radio address to the country. It's a real experiment -- I'll say to the people watching us on mind extension university, this is a real experiment, because we're going to ask you to listen to a radio speech for eight and a half minutes, which in the age of television is unthinkable.
But when you listen to it and you think about it, this is -- and Drucker wrote a book on this called a discontinuity. It's called "the age of discontinuities," and his point is that every once in a while things break, and you know what is on this side of the discontinuity. You don't really know what's on the other side, by definition. That's why it's a discontinuity. It's discontinuous. When you listen to the Roosevelt radio speech, anyone from here back to here would have understood the speech. And I want to ask you when we get to it to take notes, because it is inconceivable that the elite would have accepted from here to the present.
I think this discontinuity ended in 1994. But it's inconceivable to anybody in the discontinuity that you could have had that speech. It would have been ridiculed and it would have been unthinkable, and you'll see what I'm talking about when you hear the speech. And yet my assertion is that because of -- see, America is a collection of solutions. American civilization is the conscious effort of human beings to collect solutions to the question: how do human beings live together and function? And because I believe it is the highest value collection of solutions in human history, I believe that having now gone through the discontinuity, what we're about to do is come out as America again. But that there was a very serious argument for a 30-year period over America was essentially a racist, sexist, repressive society of greedy people who rip off the rest of the nation and exploit the poor, and that if you engage in an act of violence, it was probably because you were psychologically dispossessed and a victim, and therefore you had an obligation to shoot up people because after all, this racist, sexist, exploitive capitalist culture had forced you to do that.
Now, in a sense -- but I can find you the articles, the speeches, the analysis, the courses that make this argument. And that therefore -- and it's basically two simple arguments. The theory here is very simple. All of these people believed that America is a great country filled with good people. Now, they were not simplistic. Everybody in this period believed in the original sin. That is, all of them believed: of course you have evil occasionally. Smush it. And evil can be: you have to train your child. You have to have discipline. You have to learn all sorts of -- you have to learn habits that are good. You have to say, "don't do that." But everybody in this period believed it. Over here, you suddenly end up in a -- you end up in an argument: is, in fact, America a country where the people are so incorrect that you need to use the coercive power of government to reshape the people? And that the duty of government -- the argument here that was offered was that the government must intervene on behalf of the ideal and reorganize the average American because they are not thinking and doing the right things. Okay? And that's part of what we're going to discuss as we go through this.
Now, the first place I'm going to start is the use of history for analysis and problem solving. Remember back to my point that I believe history is the most practical of disciplines and the most -- and worth looking at, because it strengthens your ability to analyze and to solve problems. And I believe that there are five reasons for studying the lessons of American history. First of all, history is a collective memory. That is, history is how you think about and learn about yourself as a people. Second, American history is the history of our civilization, and I'm going to go back to each of these in a minute. Third, there is an American exceptionalism that can be best understood through history. Fourth, history is a resource to be learned from and used. And, fifth, there are techniques that can help you learn problem solving from historic experience. So we're going to walk through all five.
Let me start off with this notion: history is a collective memory. I mean, how do you learn how to be an American? Part of it is you develop common language. I mean, why does the statue of the marines on MT. Suribachi raising the flag really matter? Because it is a collective reminder of the heroic cost of freedom. And it's useful to remember. I mean, if you don't know where Iwo Jima was, who fought in world war ii, who the marines are, or why it mattered, then having a picture of that is irrelevant. And one of the frightening things about the elimination of historic memory, the creation of cultural amnesia in the last 30 years, is that it's harder to know what it means to be an American if you don't know the history of the American people. And so it's very important in part to immerse people.
Remember, my Ph.D.'s in European history. I'm not arguing against learning about the rest of the world. I'm arguing that first you immerse yourself in America. First you thoroughly understand how you came to be American. Then you learn about the rest of the world. And I think you should do both. I think you should learn about the rest of the world. But I think unless you ground yourself in an understanding -- and this is, by the way, a very multi-cultural history in the sense of who came here, but it's a history of one civilization. So you can't understand America without understanding the contribution of Chinese laborers in building the railroad. And, for that matter, Irish laborers. You can't understand the U.S. cavalry in the 1870s and '80s without understanding the influx of immigrants and the degree to which it was largely an immigrant service at the enlisted ranks. You can't understand the nature of our relationship with the north American Indian who was here first who were actually Asians.
I mean, they're not native Americans. They're Asians. They came across the Bering strait. In that sense, everybody born here is a native American, but you can't understand their relationship unless you go back and look at them just before the arrival of the Europeans and you look at it in contextual terms. You know, why did the Apaches end up being driven out? They get driven out because the Comanches get guns first. There's a huge war fought in the 1750s over who's going to trade with the French traders. Who's going to have weapons?
And you have to look at this -- see, you need to understand all of this. What's the role of the Aztecs? What's the role of the Spanish, who are, after all, in the southern part of north America much, much earlier. It gives you a real sense of perspective, by the way, to look sometime at how long the Spanish were in and how brief a time we've been in as a United States, as an American Civilization. And then what does that say? And you go to a place like Santa Fe. What's the richness of Santa Fe and how early was Santa Fe a major city with major intellectual sources, compared, say, to Boston? And you begin to see a whole -- a much more complex history, but the totality of it is American Civilization.
Second, it's the history of our civilization. And this is one of the assertions that I think is maybe most controversial in the course. We need to learn about us so we can renew our sense of us-ness. That is, American history is useful for everybody. It's particularly useful for us. And you need to learn how to be an American, because as George Santayana said, quote, to be an American is of itself almost a moral condition, an education, and a career. Notice how he's describing it. It's an education, it's a career.
What does he mean by "career"? He means that to live out being American is a full-time job. That it's a way of being. It's not an inheritance. It's not, "oh, I'm an American" -- you know, "I'm German." "why are you German?" "because my parents are German. We lived in Germany." Or, "I'm Japanese." "why are you Japanese?" "well, because I'm genetically Japanese." You're not genetically American. To be an American is literally an act of the mind.
Third, there is an American exceptionalism that can best be understood through history. And this -- I'm going to come back later to Everett Carl Ladd's concept of American exceptionalism, but I want to make a particular point here that is again going to be very controversial with people who are overly rational. Much of life is lived and experienced. It's not neat lines on a chalkboard. It's not a monograph. It's not intellectual. All of you, I think, now know that. There are things you can experience that you can read about forever, but until you have experienced them, they don't exist. You sort of think you know. I mean, I'm living this now in terms of becoming speaker. I mean, whatever I thought it would be like, this is different. Well, being an American is best experienced by reading about people who have been American. Because American Civilization is too complex to reduce to a series of seven principles, three rules. It's a way of being. It's like Zen.
Now, there's a great book for those of you who want to pursue it called "Zen and the art of archery" by Hergrove, who's a German, which gives you a sense of what I'm trying to talk about. It's a way of -- you have to be an American. And one of the best ways to study being an American is to read the history of people who have been American. Because it's too dynamic and too complex to reduce to just a set of cookbook terms.
Fourth, as I said earlier, we're going to look at history as a resource to be learned from and used. When -- and this is my challenge. When you run into a problem, the first thing you should ask is: who else has had this problem and how did they solve it? And then go study people who solved it, because it's cheaper to imitate than to invent. A basic rule, and it's one of the reasons I ended up as speaker of the house, is that every time I bounce into a problem, I try to stop and say: okay, now who already has solved this somewhere in history? I then go read their solution. I then ask: will that one work here? Does it have a good idea? Is it worth doing?
Fifth, there are techniques that can help you learn problem solving from historic experience. There's a way of practicing immersing yourself in this. Now, one of them I just gave you. Every time you run into a new -- I mean, you don't do this for everything. But every time you run into a significant problem, stop and say: who solved this somewhere else? Go to the library and ask them: what books do you have on this topic? Who has already done it? And start from there. But you also realize history is not just written. Go find somebody you know personally who's already solved it, and ask them to teach you. I mean, a large part of my life beginning when I was very young, maybe 4 or 5 years old, is an instinctive, automatic search for people I can apprentice myself to. What are you doing when you apprentice yourself to somebody? You're getting them to give you the oral tradition of their history. You're successful. Why are you successful?
And I'm trying to remember the great leader of coca-cola for many, many years, Woodruff. I saw Herman Cain, who's the head of godfather pizza, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska. He's an African-American, born in Atlanta. His father was Woodruff's chauffeur. So he has great lineage intellectually, because Woodruff talked around his father, and then Woodruff and his father talked around him. And so while his dad was -- we could say, "well, your dad's only a chauffeur." Yeah, he's a chauffeur in one of the most successful business leaders in American history. So guess what the quality of Herman Cain's education was before he was 18? Okay. And that's what I mean, is -- but you're learning the history of what Woodruff did. Why did Woodruff know it was right? Because he spent 50 years of his life practicing.
Now you get to learn either this is how he did it and you copy it down and you skip the 50 years, so history's not just written, it's also oral. Now, we want to focus on actively listening and reading. And you want to ask yourself -- by that, I mean, don't be passive. Ask yourself first: what are the hidden lessons in what I'm experiencing? Second, how does it apply to me? And, third, what additional questions does it lead to? Now, by hidden lessons -- and you'll see this. We're going to do an experiment in a minute. By hidden lessons, I mean the fact is that everybody has a tendency to be passive. You receive it, but you need to actively be in the TV when you watch it. You need to actively be in the book. You need to actively be in the conversation, probing, asking questions. Think about it. What does this mean? What can I learn here? But second, and this is the key to all real learning: how does it apply to me?
Now, I'll just guarantee you, if you're learning for you, you will learn 30 or 40 times more intensely than if you're learning for the teacher. And if you get in the habit of learning for you, you'll learn all your life. If you get in the habit of learning for teacher, you'll learn till the test. It's a totally different model of what learning's about. And then lastly, as soon as you learn this batch, you ought to say to yourself: now, what does that lead me to ask? What additional questions does it lead me to?
Now, here's what I want you to do: I want you to actively watch, ask questions of yourself, make notes, as we watch two minutes on Gettysburg. Then we're going to stop and I'm going to ask you: what did you learn and what questions might this lead you to out of Gettysburg? Okay, so let's take a look, if we could, at Will Wright on Gettysburg, and I think you can watch it on the monitors.
On November 19th, Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to dedicate the new union cemetery. The featured speaker was Edward Everett of Massachusetts, a diplomat, clergyman and celebrated orator. The president had been invited almost as an afterthought to offer a few appropriate remarks. Everett spoke for not quite two hours, then Lincoln rose. The local photographer took his time focusing. Presumably the president could be counted on to go on for a while. But he spoke just 269 words. He started off by reminding his audience that just 87 years had passed since the founding of the nation, and then he went on to embolden the union cause with some of the most stirring words ever spoken. Lincoln was heading back to his seat before the photographer could open the shutter.
>> he felt that he had failed, that it was a poor speech, that the people didn't like it, it was so brief, less than two minutes. He felt that he had failed. Lehman, his friend Ward Lehman, was sitting next to him on the stand, and when he sat down, there was just a sprinkling of applause, and he said, "Lehman, that speech won't scour." That's what you say about a plow in the prairies when the mud doesn't come off it.
>> the cheek of every American was tingled with shame as he reads the silly, flat, dish-watery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the president of the united states. Chicago times.
>> dear Mr.. President: I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes. Edward everett. >>
Okay. So what do you think? What do you get out of that? What lessons, if any, can you pull out of that, or what questions?
>> doesn't take a long time to say a lot.
>> okay. I'm going to shorten it. Say a lot briefly. What else?
>> sometimes initial response by witnesses or media witnesses is not really relevant.
>> initial response can be misleading. I'm going to take the teacher's prerogative a second and pull a second thing out of what you said. The media can be wrong.
>> this, by the way -- you want to understand how important history is, at least to me? Nothing which has ever been said about me is comparable to what was said about Lincoln or what Jefferson and Hamilton said about each other through papers that they subsidized. This is a tough business. And it has always in America -- that's why American history is useful. This isn't Russia, this isn't china, this isn't a controlled press. This country is the most rough and tumble, brutal political system in the world. Except we don't kill each other. So we don't have secret police. You don't get assassinated. You don't have the knight of the long knives in which Hitler wiped out hundreds of people. But verbally we sublimate our violence by just being unbelievable to each other.
And there's a long tradition -- I mean, you can actually do a paper on what Lincoln -- what was said about Lincoln after the speech, and it's just -- about half the newspapers were just devastated. What else? What else did you pick up?
>> even if you think that you've failed, you might have been succeeding the whole time.
>> that's right. This is very important, by the way. Because a lot of time people get very insecure. What does it tell you, by the way, that he commented on his speech to his friend as soon as he made it? But what does it tell you about Lincoln?
>> that he's humble.
Not genuine, he's insecure. All politicians are insecure. At least all the ones I've ever known except people who are just out of touch with reality, I mean, because you're in a very public environment and you're trying do something very public, and you want to do it well. There's a wonderful scene in "the Wind and the Llion," which I really recommend to all of you. It's a magnificent movie about Theodore Roosevelt and a great way to learn about that era. And there's a wonderful scene. He's campaigning for re-election in 1904. He's on the back of a train and he has a huge crowd, and the band is playing and people are screaming and a cowboy on a horse for the rough riders is firing a pistol in the air, and there's just a -- it's a mob scene. And as it's pulling out of the station with these people running after the train, he turns to the secretary of state, who's next to him, and he says, "they do like it, John, don't you think? They do like it?"
And I thought it was such a wonderful capturing of the core insecurity that, I mean, he's surrounded by a mob which has gone crazy, and he's still not quite believing it, because at this level -- I mean, Lincoln, after all, other than Washington, Lincoln has the hardest problem: how do you hold together the union? And if you want to, by the way -- and it's interesting, if you want to read a really interesting novel about Lincoln, it's gore Vidal's "Lincoln." I was astonished he could write it, I mean, because I'm not a great fan of Vidal's, although I like some of his stuff. But it is tremendous and well worth looking at.
Okay, one or two last comments. What questions might -- now that you've seen two minutes, what questions might it lead you to?
>>well, the timing, or how it was brought across at the time, how the two minutes was brought across, for me it's so effective, I think. I mean, if he may have said it a month from then, it probably would have been totally devastating because of the deaths at the time.
>> that's right, but the context changes things. I mean, I think -- and again, this goes back to why history matters. If you don't know what Gettysburg was, if you don't realize how many people died, if you don't understand it's the middle of a Civil War, the Gettysburg Address loses its meaning. This is a speech given by the President over the graves dedicating the cemetery, and heard in that context, it is a very different thing than heard in the abstract. Now, let's go back now, and I want you to watch this again, having raised some questions and having thought about it, watch the same two minutes and see if you can put into it as you begin to think about what you're seeing. Again, this is something people need to do. If you're not really good at this yet, do it three or four times. Take the same thing and practice on it until you see that there are many things occurring, many things being said in a short two minutes. Let's roll that, if we could.
On November 19th, Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to dedicate the new union cemetery. The featured speaker was Edward everett of Massachusetts, a diplomat, clergyman and celebrated orator. The President had been invited almost as an afterthought to offer a few appropriate remarks. Everett spoke for not quite two hours. Then Lincoln rose. The local photographer took his time focusing. Presumably the president could be counted on to go on for a while. But he spoke just 269 words. He started off by reminding his audience that just 87 years had passed since the founding of the nation. And then he went on to embolden the union cause with some of the most stirring words ever spoken. Lincoln was heading back to his seat before the photographer could open the shutter.
>> he felt that he had failed, that it was a poor speech, that the people didn't like it. It was so brief, less than two minutes. He felt that he had failed. Lehman, his friend Ward Lehman, who was sitting next to him on the stand, when he sat down, there was just a sprinkling of applause, and he said, "Lehman, that speech won't scour." That's what you say about a plow in the prairies when the mud doesn't come off it.
>> the cheek of every American was tingled with shame as he reads the silly, flat, dish-watery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States. Chicago Times.
>> dear Mr.. President: I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes. Edward Everett.
Now, did you get any more on the second round?
>> I watched him again, and length means more than -- I mean, length doesn't mean as much as presentation does. That you can learn a lot from a short message than you can remember from a longer one.
>> let's test it for a second, okay? Let me just ask: how many of you found new things the second time around, just out of curiosity? About half of you, all right. Let's now look at the 269 words. See if we can actually play the Gettysburg address for you.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that their nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate -- we cannot consecrate -- we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us --that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion --that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Did you notice what the pictures were of? Who were they?
>> civil war veterans.
>> civil war veterans gathered at Gettysburg after 40 years after, I think, which should remind you of what recent event you've seen?
>> it's almost exactly the same time frame. Actually, it's 10 years longer now. Let's also remind you that countries are saved by the young and reminded by the old. And that that's just the nature of the way life occurs. Now, he talks about a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. And in his -- and clearly in a time when there were still kings and czars and emperors, in Lincoln's mind, the core value of the civil war is the test for the human race of whether or not this kind of government of the people, by the people, and for the people, can survive. This is literally a test of whether or not it's possible. This was still a radical experiment in the 1860s. Probably the person who has best captured all of this is everett Carl Ladd. He has a new little book out called "The American Ideology: An Exploration Of The Origins, Meaning And Roles Of American Political Ideas." It's from the Roper Center in Connecticut, and it only runs to about 80 pages, but the essence of what he says is that the underlying core values for most Americans are still remarkably what they have been for 300 years. That despite the best efforts of the elite, it is astonishing -- and we'll come back to this -- it is astonishing how much classic America has survived.
Now, Ladd argues that there is an American Exceptionalism. That it is a uniquely insistent and far-reaching individualism. That it's a view of the individual person which gives unprecedented weight to his or her choices, interests, and claims. That in America, more than any other society in history, you matter. Who you are, what you want to do, what your rights are, what your claims are on each other and on the society at large. And Ladd breaks it down into a series of key values. He talks about private property in the economic sphere. Democracy and freedom from government control in the political sphere. Advancement on one's merits, the absence of rank, and moral equality in the larger society. Let me just very briefly walk you through each of these.
First of all, private property in the economic sphere. They originally wrote, "we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of property." The reason was if you don't have the sanctity of property, the state can expropriate you. If the state can expropriate you, your only means of survival is the state. If you have to depend on the state for your survival, you have no freedom. So in their minds, the old term "your home is your castle" was very deeply felt, and it went back to the English civil war and to experiences they'd had with monarchical government. These were not idle consents. That's why, for example, the right to bear arms is a much more complex issue than people think it is in 9-second sound bites. These guys wrote the stuff in for very deliberate historic reasons, and they valued property rights as a core of freedom.
Second, they wanted democracy and freedom from government control in the political sphere. That didn't mean that they didn't think government should be able to do things. I mean, they're very tough about government. They want a constitution that is a strong but limited government. They didn't want a weak government. They wanted a strong but limited government. But in the political sphere, they wanted you to be free to do virtually anything, and they thought it was essential. That's why the freedom of speech is so important. That's why secret elections are so important. That's why it's so important to have the rule of law, where the laws matter, not the personalities. A very deliberate pattern. They wanted advancement on merit.
This is going to be, I think, an enormous issue in the next decade. Do you do better because you were born and therefore deserve it? You were entitled to it? Or do you do better because you earn it? And the founding fathers had zero doubts about this. Zero. You had every right to advance. But to advance is an active status. You had very few rights to demand that others made you entitled. This is going to be an enormous debate and is at the core of American society. There was a total absence of rank.
I said in my speech accepting the Speakership, I quoted de Tocqueville about the house being made up of vulgar people. Remember, the word "vulgar" in that period meant "not of aristocratic class." It didn't mean you could wear four-letter words on your t-shirt. I mean, we have, in a sense, vulgarized the word "vulgar." And think about this in terms of the breaking down of American culture. In the 19th century, being vulgar as opposed to being an aristocrat made Americans proud. Americans were proud to be commoners. They were proud to have a house of representatives that was the people's house. Their great joy was that they're not aristocrats. But that didn't mean that they wallowed in the mud and tolerated alcoholism and thought that it was all right to be a low life. It meant that being a middle-class, working person, being a person who did the best you could, being without money but not being poor, very important psychological concept.
Because Americans historically always figured they'd have money soon. A country of tremendous striving in the sense of: of course I have every right to be here. I'm an American. I don't have to be a king or a duchess or a duke. I am an American. To be an American is all the rank I need. They also sought moral equality in the larger society. Every American was the moral equal of every other American. Every American had the same standing to go to court. Every American had the same standing to be treated fairly. So a great -- there's a John Wayne quote about -- from one of his movies where he says, "I give every person respect, and I expect them to do the same for me." The second part of that was he then shot them if they didn't. But it's really a remarkably American concept, that we are all equals. That the only person, for example, that you need to call by title is the President. That's why I'm "Newt." I'm not "Mr.. Speaker." Because we're all equals. And it's core to being American.
Ladd's argument -- and everett Carl Ladd really has educated me a great deal on this, and I just think he's done remarkable work. I think he understands the core of America. Ladd's argument is that the -- that you've got to look at these values, and that the essential distinguishing American values all reflect a pervasive underlying individualism. That this is just a remarkably free society. But part of this comes down, and this is a -- this, for me, has been a work in progress. A society of individuals, if it's going to have a limited government, has to have a strong culture. If there's enormous freedom and no police state, then one of the ways we make sure we don't attack each other is we imprint in the culture tremendous respect for each other. If there's enormous freedom and we're not going to have a huge government circuses and bread process of taking care of the poor, then you have to imprint a work ethic of tremendous proportions, where people say: well, of course I work. I'm an American. And it becomes an identity. So that in a very real sense, if you want a society which is very free from government and bureaucracy, you have to have a society which has -- which is very strong in what it teaches itself and it teaches its children and it teaches immigrants who become American. And so we have to rethink: what is this -- what's the context of those individuals? And I think it's ironic, in a sense, if you think about it, that the very -- here we are on the one hand saying: boy, are we really a free society. I can do my thing. And yet I would argue -- and this is a lot of evolution of my own thinking over the last 10 or 15 years.
One of my favorite movies is "the Last of the Mohicans," which I commend to all of you. It's a great film about the French and Indian war. Wonderful scene where the American who was the deerslayer is standing there and the British officer says, "aren't you going to Fort William Henry?" And he says, "no, I'm going to Kentucky." And he says, "how can you go to Kentucky in the middle of a war?" And he says, "you face north, turn left, and walk. It's west of here." It's a very American response. And the officer says, "but you're a British subject and you have to come and fight." And he says, "no, I am an American."
Now, he ends up going to fight. Why? Because of the girl, which is also classically American. It's a very romantic country. It really, historically, is a very romantic country. You can't be American without having romance in your heart. I mean, if you grow up as a cynic, it's very hard to sustain the magic that's American. But part of the conclusion I reached, oh, maybe 22 years ago, reading Daniel Boorstin's work on the Americans, is that as important as the mountain man is -- and you remember "Jeremiah Johnson," which is a great film, and again, a very useful introduction to a real authentic American -- there were very few mountain men. There were very few people who went out on their own in the woods. The most common American pattern was the wagon train. Wagon trains are collective enterprises. They are us getting together. A wonderful scene in "Witness" where they have the barn-raising. The community comes together. America is about individualism, but it's about an individualism which then voluntarily creates communities, which is the thing de Tocqueville is stunned by, that here you have this enormous freedom. D
oes the freedom lead to anarchy? No. The freedom leads everybody to get together. But they get together voluntarily and they create the community they want, and now in the electronic age, you can live geographically next to 60 different people, not know many of them, and then you can reach out to the people you want to create an electronic community with by telephone, by fax, by computer, and you suddenly have an extended family of lots of people, some of whom you've never even met, but you were really excited knowing each other. So it's the individual then merging into community. And one of the characteristics of it is that idealism in the community draws the individuals together. It's not rampant individualism. It is individualism lived out idealistically within a community.
And I'm now going to show you what I think is one of the most powerful things in the whole course where we have to thank, frankly, Ted turner for giving us the right to use this. We actually had this before it even -- it was available commercially. It is a speech, it's a true speech, given by a college professor who volunteers in the Civil War. And he is talking to a brigade which has rebelled. It has mutinied, and he is explaining to them why he needs their help. And I want you to watch this. You can take notes if you want to, but I don't think you're going to want to make notes. I think you're just going to want to absorb this and then I'm going to talk briefly. Think about the idealism, think about what you heard earlier about Gettysburg, and then watch this.
I've been talking with private Bucklin. He's told me about your problem. There's nothing I can do today. We're moving out in a few minutes. We'll be moving all day. I've been ordered to take you men with me. I'm told that -- that if you don't come, I can shoot you. Well, you know I won't do that. Maybe somebody else will, but I won't, so that here's the situation. The whole Reb army is up that road a ways waiting for us, so this is no time for an argument like this, I tell you. We could surely use you fellows. We're now well below half strength. Whether you fight or not, that's -- that's up to you. Whether you come along is -- is, well, you're coming. You know who we are, that we're dying here, but if you're going to fight along side us, there's a few things I want you to know. This regiment was formed last summer, in May. There were 1,000 of us then. There are less than 300 of us now. All of us volunteered to fight for the Union, just as you did. Some came mainly because we were bored at home, thought this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do. All of us have seen men die. This is a different kind of army. If you look back through history, you will see men fighting for pay, for women, for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, because a king leads them, or just because they like killing. But we are here for something new. This has not happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free. America should be free ground, all of it. Not divided by a line between slave states and free. All the way from here to the pacific ocean. No man has to bow, no man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here you can be something. Here is the place to build a home. But it's not the land. There's always more land. It's the idea that we all have value, you and me. What we're fighting for in the end, we're fighting for each other. Sorry. I didn't mean to preach. You go ahead, you talk for a while. If you -- if you choose to join us, you want your muskets back, you can have them. Nothing more will be said by anybody anywhere. If you choose not to join us, well, you can come along under guard, and when this is all over, I will do what I can to see you get a fair treatment, but for now, we're moving out. Gentlemen, I think if we lose this fight, we lose the war. So if you choose to join us, I'll be personally very grateful.
Now, a couple quick things, because we only have two minutes till we break. One, if you want to read the background of this, it's a book called "Killer Angels," which was a brilliant novel which was used by the Army War College and which I recommend to you as maybe the finest novel about the Civil War, not counting "Gone With the Wind," which was a totally different -- in terms of military novels. Second, Chamberlain himself is a real person, college professor, volunteers, the most decorated officer in the Union army, accepts Kee's sword at Antietam, is picked by Grant to accept Lee's sword, goes back to Maine, president of Bowden college, Governor of Maine, writes his memoirs very late in life, but is a classic American, as you can see. I mean, this is not a guy -- he's not a Prussian military expert. He's just a wonderful human being.
Three last points: this is a romantic war. There's another scene in the movie which I commend to you to go rent in which a Confederate general just before Pickett's charge makes a very similar speech, and it's, I think, one of the reasons that the Civil War grabs us, is that both sides felt passionately that they were idealistically right in their interpretation. Also notice he's asking people to risk everything. And I want you in that context, with what we're going to see later on and everything you've seen here, thinking about the veterans you saw back at Gettysburg -- when I gave my speech as Speaker, I quoted from "the Battle Hymn of the Republic" which, of course, was the song of the Union Army, of the Grant Army of the Potomac. "as he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free." And my point to all of you is: we're not asking you to go to Gettysburg. We're not going to ask you to invade Normandy. We're just asking you to live your life in a way that Chamberlain would have understood so that Lincoln's efforts to make sure that this government and this model and this system survives, in fact, work out.
And that that's the whole point of this, is that if we would simply live in peace at 20% of what we risk in war, this would be an amazingly better country. So we have a quick break, and then we'll come back, all right?
Let me make two corrections. I got so involved between my emotional reaction to that particular passage by Chamberlain and the fact that we were running out of time. Somebody pointed out to me, of course he accepted Lee's sword at the courthouse at Appomattox. I said Antietam, which was obviously wrong. And second, the Union Army at large was called the Grand Army of the Republic. It was not the Army of the Potomac. The third, somebody mentioned to me who'd seen last year, and I'll take just a minute to tell you this -- Chamberlain leads his unit to Gettysburg. He is put at the far left the Union line and is, in fact, holding the position that the confederate army decides they will turn, their theory being that if they can come up around here they can outflank and force the entire Union army to roll back. He's at the top of little round top. And he's there with Confederate forces attacking up the hill. They fight for hours. Unit after unit attacks his unit. And this is all in the movie, it's a remarkably done in the movie. Finally his officers come to him and say: we're down to one or two cartridges per man. We are literally about to run out of ammunition and we have to pull back, and he says but if we pull back, we're going to unhinge the entire Union army. We can't pull back. And they say we don't have any choice. We're literally about to run out of ammunition. And he stops and he says, we're really tired. We've been up here. They've been attacking uphill all day. So I want you to think about this in terms of people who think they have problems. He says, therefore if we're about to run out of ammunition, fix bayonets. We will charge downhill. And they do. And they break the morale of the units that have been fighting uphill all day who're suddenly coming uphill one more time, you know, we're totally exhausted but maybe this time they'll break. They're suddenly faced with a very loud, a very noisy Union regiment charging downhill. You can go out and practice this. It's hard to go uphill. Go to Kennesaw mountain and try it for a little while. And it breaks their morale. They run, the battle at this point in time is ended and saved. The amazing irony is this unit is transferred in order to rest -- because it's been in terrible shape, lots of casualties -- they are transferred to here, which is where Pickett's charge occurs. They're not, by the way, the most badly damaged. The first Minnesota volunteers is the most badly shot up unit in the battle other than Pickett's Virginians.
But I tell you that so you understand: he was asking these men to voluntarily go and then, as history would have it, they end up at the critical point, all but three of the men volunteered. They -- the reason they mutinied, by the way, is they thought they had signed two year papers and they thought they were legally being Americans -- you can all remember the fights you've had with your professors or fights you've had with somebody -- they were legally entitled to go home. It was legally time for them to leave and the army had said no, you can't leave. So they thought they were legally entitled to not be there and they volunteered, all but three of them, and made a huge difference in the survival.
Now, we're going to go back and pick up a part of American exceptionalism which is among the most controversial, the pervasive sense of religion and God. And what we're going to suggest to you is, first of all, again this goes back to why to understand American Civilization, you have to start by understanding American history, that the religious and social tenets of Puritanism are diffused throughout American values today. And again I'm drawing largely on Ladd's work, but it's important to understand this: the Puritans had a very highly developed sophisticated understanding of their relationship to God. They attempted to live that out in this life. Many of their strongest beliefs, the work ethic, for example, are driven into us. We're the most moralistic society on the planet. Doesn't mean that we don't break down in our morality, but that we have a sense of morality and think of it as breaking down. And it's a very intense reform idealism that is at the core of American Civilization and in part goes back to the puritans, then was revived by the great revival of the 1730's, then was revived again by the Wesleyan movement, then was revived in the 19th century by the revivalist movement, and I would argue that in a sense what you are seeing happen now is a reemergence.
I think it's no accident that the Pope's book has been a best seller. I think that there is a tremendous resurgence of interest among all kinds of religious groups, whether Jewish or Islamic or Christian, whether among Christians, whether it's Protestants or Catholic or Orthodox, you see a very deep reassertion which is not uncommon in American history. That what you get in American history is these sort of wave effects, where you'll have a tremendous upsurge of reform religious conviction and that will lead to a lot of changes that will gradually taper off, and then two generations later it will come back again and it almost always leads to a follow on wave of political and social reform.
Now in that context, the fascinating thing about America is that the United States is both highly developed and religious. As a general rule in the modern world, the more industrialized you are, the fewer people go to church, the fewer people who say they believe in god, the fewer people who pray, that it's a great anomaly that in fact we are, by a huge margin, the most explicitly religious society of any industrial nation. We are the aberration, we're not the norm.
Now Steven Carter wrote a book called "the Culture Of Disbelief" which shook up some people the other year because their presumption was that Carter, who is a black professor at an Ivy League school, clearly should not believe what I'm about to read to you. The subtitle of the book, "The Culture Of Disbelief - How American Law And Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion." Very important concept: "How American Law And Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion." And this is what he wrote in the introduction, page 4 of his book: "better than nine out of ten Americans believe in God. "and some four out of five pray regularly. "politically and culturally, however, for those who do pray regularly, indeed those who believe in God are encouraged to keep it a secret and often a shameful one at that. "aside from the ritual appeals to God that are expected of our politicians, for Americans to take their religion seriously, to treat them as ordained rather than chosen, is to risk assignment to the lunatic fringe. "yet religion matters to people. "it matters a lot. 'Surveys' indicate that Americans are far more likely to believe in God and to attend worship services regularly than any other people in the western world. "true, nobody prays in prime time television unless religion is a part of the plot, but strong majorities of citizens tell pollsters that their religious beliefs are of great importance to them in their daily lives. "even though popular history -- some popular history wrongly assert to the contrary. "the best evidence is that this deep religiosity has always been a facet of the American character and that it has grown consistently through the nation's history and today, to the frustration of many opinion leaders in both the legal and political cultures, religion as a moral force and perhaps a political one too was surging. "unfortunately, in our public life, we prefer to pretend that it is not."
Now take that as background from Steven Carter who is a widely respected professor, and it led to a lot of argument when his book came out. What you're now going to hear is Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his radio address to the nation on the day we invaded Europe. Let me set the stage for a minute: we're engaged in the third of our great conflicts for survival. The first was the American Revolution, the second was the Civil War. We believed that evil was on the march, and we believed that we had to defeat Nazi Germany. To do that, we had to launch an invasion of Europe which was the most complicated, single activity ever undertaken by human beings. Landing at Normandy successfully is more complex than anything else we've ever done. It was an enormous risk. The American people were worried. After all, their children were at stake. There were hundreds of thousands of lives involved. It was the great gamble, and we knew it was the great gamble. It is in this context that they turned on the radio to listen to the president of the United States. Now, given modern elite cultures, given the modern cynicism, given the modern anti-religious biases, just listen to this speech and ask yourself, would it be conceivable that a president of the United States could do what Roosevelt does in this speech?
Announcer: ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States. >>President Roosevelt: my fellow Americans, last night when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. And so in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer: almighty God, our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our public, our religion, and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true, give strength to their arms, starkness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong, he may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again, and we know that by thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. They will be so tried by night and by day without rest until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war. For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance, and good will among all thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, father, and receive them thy heroic servants into thy kingdom. And for us at home, fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them, help us, almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in thee, in this hour of great sacrifice. Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer, but because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer as we rise to each new day and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips invoking thy help to our efforts. Give us strength to strengthen our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces, and let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be. And, oh, lord, give us faith, faith in thee, faith in our sons, faith in each other, faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dull. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters are but fleeting moments, let not these deter us in our uncomparable purpose. With thy blessing we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace, a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men, and a peace that will let all men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, almighty God. Amen.
Can you imagine yourself sitting at home listening to a radio? You can. How about the rest of you, what's your reaction to that?
>> you don't hear Presidents pray anymore, not openly. We used the footage for two reasons. One is, we originally thought about just using a radio. You literally are so trained to see things, if we had just shown you 8 and a half minutes of a radio sitting there, we would have lost most of the audience, because people can't -- don't focus that way. That's not how they think. We also want to remind you, this is what was going on while he was speaking and everybody knew it. I mean, everybody understood that literally as he spoke, their brother or their father or their son was in risk of being killed. You can't imagine the intensity of the emotion of it all. And I talked with Sam Gibbens and Bob Dole and Bob Michael and other people who have fought in the European theater, you know there is a sense about -- you know, talking about George Bush being shot down in the Pacific and picked up, he crashed two airplanes, one was shot down, the other had mechanical -- and both times he just went back and flew the next airplane. And it's hard to imagine for us, because in one way it is vivid on our TV screens, it also deadens us. It desensitizes us. And, as you said, can you quite imagine what the reaction would be? Go ahead.
>> the country with only one medium like that, and you are sitting in front of the radio and you know that almost everybody else in the entire country with electricity is doing the same thing.
>> although probably if you had an event this size and it was on TV everybody would be tuned to TV.
>> was anybody questioning his motivation? I mean, was this just a President who, he had been put through the ravages of war and he's turning to God, and if that was the case, then I ask where was he when the percentages agreement was being signed? He was back here campaigning.
>> now you are acting like a modern American. There's nobody in that period who would have said -- if FDR. was somewhere in this box, we are at war, our children are being risked, our young men may die, this is the big crisis, the President comes on and prays, nobody in that period, that day, would have gotten down here or up here and said, oh, gee -- example, Tom Dewey is running against him for the Presidency. I mean, how do you run against a guy who goes on national radio and gives you an 8 and a half minute prayer uniting us as a country? But Tom Dewey would not have said, "this is a political gimmick." It would have been inconceivable. This was the great crisis of the Western World. Nobody would have said, "how dare the President pray in public like that." Because he was within the framework of the culture and the culture would have said, "what else should you do?" I mean, how could you not have a national prayer at a moment like this?
>> what about George bush, because he asked for a day of prayer when we invaded Kuwait.
>> let's think about it. He didn't ask for a day of prayer. He, first of all, led the entire nation for 8 and a half minutes. Then he said, I want you to pray when you get up and I want you to pray when you go to bed every day for the rest of the war. I'm just saying, look at the difference between that and where this would be -- if this is the cultural bounds of his era, then in terms of the discontinuity we're just coming out of, he would have been up here. It would have been weird, abnormal behavior. Yeah, that's right. I mean, he would have been closer to Buchanan than he would have been to the elite vision of reasonable behavior. Or for that matter closer to Farrakhan. Maybe closer to Jesse Jackson. But he would have been behaving in a way that was outside the current elite norms. And I wanted you to see, I wanted you to see that contextual framework to understand that for most of American history what he did was normal. That it's only starting around 1965 that this all begins to really breakdown in a serious kind of way and begins to change what are the elite norms.
But it's much more -- let me also say, because I just can't -- notice the parallel between his explanation of why we fight and Chamberlain's? Notice the idealism in his prayer, we don't come to conquer, this is a crusade. Eisenhower's book is entitled "crusade in Europe." We saw ourselves as liberators, not conquerors.
But in addition, I just want to take one second and thank Kathleen Minnix and bob head here at Reinhardt and John McDowell who's here from "Renewing American Civilization" and Jeff Eisenach from the progress and freedom foundation. We decided about ten o'clock last night that we were going to use this 8 and a half minutes, and they found the video, matched it all up, and got it to work between ten o'clock last night -- again it's an example of modern technology, and also the fact we have a great, great team that are making this all work. I just have to thank them because that was an extraordinary request to suddenly show up at ten o'clock at night and say, hey, tomorrow morning we'd like this to work.
Let's talk about some other characteristics of American exceptionalism. Americans believe that opportunity is generally available to all citizens and as a result support of a private- property-based economy remains strong. I mean, most Americans believe that most Americans have access to opportunity and that, in fact, private property is the best way to have opportunity and that free enterprise works. That's a very deep cultural belief. Americans declare themselves prepared to countenance very substantial economic inequalities, while insisting on the importance of the ideal of equal opportunity. That is Ladd's language. But what he is saying here is very straightforward: Americans are prepared to accept winners and losers economically. Americans are prepared to accept the idea you can be a millionaire or you can go bankrupt. Americans are prepared to accept the idea that nobody's guaranteed being massively successful, but Americans are determined to find a way for everybody to get to the starting line. There's a huge difference between equality of opportunity, which virtually all Americans passionately believe in, and a quality of results which remarkably few Americans believe in.
And it's interesting -- here's one of the places where I think elite is way out of touch with most Americans, because I think the vast majority of Americans think the idea that we should somehow "norm" things so that either for racial or other characteristics, you should somehow have advantages you don't have. It goes against the core of the grain. You'll see us talk about this more of this next week when we get to personal responsibility. Overwhelming numbers of Americans believe we should find ways to help people get to the starting line, but once the starting line starts, everyone should have to actually run the race. Nobody gets to start 15 yards ahead. Now that means you got to find ways to help everybody get to the starting line and that's hard. American policy of social welfare reflects national insistence on a large measure of individual rather than governmental responsibility. Getting very specific: in other words, you are responsible for your fate, the government is not responsible for your fate. It is a direct repudiation of the concept of entitlements.
Southern blacks, when asked two years ago, "do you believe work should be required of welfare recipients including mothers with small children"? Answered -- this is in 11 states -- answered 82% yes, 11% no. It's a deep underlying cultural emphasis on work and on your responsibility to improve yourself. Much deeper than the elite structure and the government structure. In a sense America is about freedom and I think it's best captured by the Declaration of Independence: we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights: among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Notice that the creator comes back in. It's at the core, the sense that your powers come from god, they don't come from the government. God gives you rights which are unalienable. The government can usurp those rights. It can violate those rights. It can strip them from you by force, but it has no moral standings for your rights. Rights go from you to the government. They do not go from the government to you.
And then notice the words: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's an active open sense of who we are. There's no sense of happiness stamps, happiness entitlements, the federal department of happiness. Sounds good. Think about it for a while. It is a very profound point of how the Founding Fathers saw life. Let me go back, because I want to set the stage again. We are using two events as the core examples of American Exceptionalism: the civil war in the first hour and D-Day in the second hour. You've heard the President's prayer. I want you to see the preparations leading up to the day he was praying.
Announcer: the fateful hours that lie beyond the darkness ahead belong to them to do with as they can while the world waits in wonder and hope. They may not see themselves as the sword bearers of a crusade, but they know well enough what depends on their effort and the ultimate preparation is for each man to make himself. One man must make the decision, general Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander. He makes it. The invasion will go as scheduled on the 6th. The men who will actually be the first into France are still back on English soil. Paratroopers of the U. S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and the British 6th Airborne Division are to jump behind enemy lines to secure the flanks of the invasion area. On the eve of the invasion the Supreme Commander visits some of them. "I found them in fine fettle," general Eisenhower is to write later, admonishing me that I had nothing to worry about.
I am going to read you Eisenhower's message. Let me say I regard Eisenhower along with George Marshall and Franklin Roosevelt as one of the three greatest Americans of the 20th century. In some ways Ike is most unique. I keep a picture of him standing in front of a -- it's -- we're borrowing the painting, but it's a picture of a painting of him standing in front of a picture of Omaha beach, and I keep it for a lot of reasons. Here's a Kansas farm boy who gets to go to West Point almost by accident, graduates, does all right, rises in the system, and suddenly finds himself faced with the decision: do I launch all of the allied forces at Normandy or not? Sits on the end of a couch at five o'clock in the morning, they've already canceled it once, all the ships are out there, everybody is out there, they've got to go or no-go. They've canceled it for one day. The weatherman comes in, they practiced it for months, the weatherman comes in and says you have a three-day window. If you land in these three days, you have three days of good weather before another storm hits. He sits on the end of the couch, looks up and says "go."
Two things: one, a month later when they would have tried to land, the worst storm -- the worst summer storm in 40 years hits the beaches, actually destroys one of the beaches. Two, he carries in his pocket, and you've seen pictures of him talking to the paratroopers, he carries in his pocket for two days a message saying that the landing has failed, and that despite the best efforts, we've been thrown off with tremendous casualties and that the responsibility is his. Now the idea you can take a Kansas farm boy, train him well enough that he can launch the largest most complex operation in history, and that he has the moral responsibility to bear that weight, and then later in life of course becomes the President of Columbia university and President of the united states, I think it's a remarkable story and well worth studying.
Here is what was read to every unit, because back then because they didn't have -- this was all secret -- they literally would gather everybody on the ship together and they would read them this just before landing. This was Eisenhower's message: "you are about to embark upon the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. "the eyes of the world are upon you. "the hopes and the prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. "in company with our brave allies and brothers in arms in other fronts will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in the free world. "I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. "we will accept nothing less than full victory. "good luck and let all of us beseech the blessing of almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking. "before embarking on this operation, I have a personal message for you as to your own individual responsibility in relation to the inhabitants of our allied countries. "as a representative of this country, you'll be welcomed with deep gratitude by the liberated people, who for years have longed for this deliverance. "it is of the utmost importance that this feeling of friendliness and good will be in no way impaired by careless or indifferent behavior on your own part. "by a courteous and considerate demeanor, you can, on the other hand, do much to strengthen that feeling. "the rights of individuals as to their persons and property must be scrupulously respected as though in your own country. "you must remember always that these people are our friends and allies. "I urge each of you to bear constantly in mind, that by your actions, not only you as an individual, but your country as well will be judged. "by establishing a relationship with the liberated people based on mutual understanding and respect, we shall enlist their whole-hearted assistance in the defeat of our common enemy. "thus shall we lay the foundations for an everlasting peace without which our great effort will have been in vain."
Now imagine you are soldier, you have been trained, you are about to risk getting killed, you are going into France. Your last instruction from your commander is to treat the as you would treat your own relatives, and this is the part of the basis of NATO and the whole modern world. Now in that context, again in the language of the time and the way they saw it, let's look for a minute at what actually happened.
Announcer: but for every man there the new world of Normandy is a world of private agony and chaos and no man can see the broad design beyond it. On a scale so epic that words written long ago by William Shakespeare could have been composed for the 6th of June 1944: "he that outlives this day and comes safe home will stand to tiptoe when this day is named." Three hours after the invasion begins, it is clear that the allies have their foothold however precarious. The news comes to America on this June day of 1944, bringing a swell of hope and pride and anxiety, too. For great victories in war must always be fought dearly. And the price paid this day for the allied hold on the beaches of Normandy is not cheap. But although the cost is steep, the results are incalculable to the plan of battle. The beachhead soon expands from foothold to lodgement. Men and weapons and equipment pour ashore. Within 12 days, almost 600,000 men and 90,000 vehicles are on the beaches, masked for the drive inland. Many men yet will fall. Many reverses will be suffered. Many triumphs recorded. (artillery gunfire) but in the main, the progress of battle will follow the bold plan conceived in allied councils and brought to flaming life by the men who stormed the Normandy beaches on the day which will forever be known as D-Day, who unlocked the gates of fortress Europe so that a monstrous evil could be pursued and destroyed.
Again, just as with the Civil War, I think you have to see these things in context. Now that's part of why I advocate history, because when you see what was at risk, how hard it was, how many people were killed or hurt, then you see, and I think you hear in the Roosevelt speech, you begin to sense the fullness of what was going on and that's part of why I recommend that you look at it. Now, I also want to emphasize, while we used two wars to communicate part of this, that's because they are the most intense point of decision. Had we lost those two wars, we'd live in a different world.
And people need to understand this. It's not like you want to be war-like, although Washington said if you want peace, prepare for war. You want to be so strong, you don't need to do this, you want to be so capable that nobody challenges your capacity, but if you're challenged, you literally do at times face situations where you win or die. The New Hampshire state slogan is "live free or die." It's not "live free or complain," or "live free or whine." And I don't say that so people run around saying can I enlist tomorrow morning. I say that to say to you when you then measure what you are asked to do in peace time, and when you measure what we're requesting of Americans in peace time, it is trivial compared to what we've asked in order to be who we are and that our generation has to be prepared in peace to give at least some small measure of what they gave in war. Or it doesn't work. You can't have freedom on the cheap. You can't have freedom without courage, and as we'll discuss next week you can't have freedom without personal responsibility. Now in that context, the spirit is still potentially there.
Let me -- one of the speeches which overwhelmed me was sitting -- I was just in my sophomore year in congress, rather my -- excuse me, my sophomore term, and I was sitting for my first inaugural as a member of congress, and this is from Reagan's first inaugural. In terms of American Exceptionalism, Everett Carl Ladd's comment, listen to this part of the inaugural in the context of American Exceptionalists. This is 1981, January. "we have every right to dream heroic dreams. "those who say we're in a time when they're no heroes, just don't know where to look. "you can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. "others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. "you meet heroes across a counter and they're on both sides of the counter. "there are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth, and opportunity. "there are individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art and education. "their patriotism is quiet but deep. "their values sustain our national life. "I have used the words 'they' and 'their' when speaking of these heroes, I could say 'you' and 'yours' because I'm addressing those heroes of whom I speak, you the citizens of this blessed land. "your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes and the goals of this administration, so help me god. "we shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup. "how can we love our country and not love our countrymen and loving them reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick, and provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they'll be equal in fact and not just in theory. "beyond these monuments to heroism is the Potomac river and on the far shore of the sloping hills of Arlington national cemetery with its row and row of simple white markers bearing crosses or stars of David. "they add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom. "each one of these markers is a monument to the kinds of hero that I spoke of earlier. "their lives ended in places called Belleau wood, the argon, Omaha beach, Solerno and half way around the world in Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop hill, the chosen reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles in a place called Vietnam. "under one such marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed rainbow division. "there, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire. "we are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf, under the heading 'my pledge,' he had written these words: quote, America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone, close quote. "this crisis that we're facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that martin Treptow and so many thousands of others are called upon to make. "it does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds. "to believe that together with god's help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. "and after all, why shouldn't we believe that? "we are Americans. "God bless you and thank you." Now, a couple quick things, very same sense of exceptionalism. Very same sense of god's intervention, very same sense of freedom, very same sense of sacrifice and a commentary on the modern world. Some in the press found one fact about this more important than the idealism, the patriotism, the courage or the sacrifice. Reagan said, quote, under one such marker, close quote. Martin Treptow was buried in Wisconsin. He was not buried at Arlington cemetery. Which became proof that Reagan didn't have his facts right. It's worth your reading in Mike Deaver's memoirs. It's just a very interesting minor point and, in fact, Reagan knew that. But he consciously wanted to build the emotional bond, and while he technically covered himself, you can go back and pull it out, that became a story. Just an interesting aside on the current culture.
Now, this -- and this is part of what makes this course I think different than it might have been 30 years ago, this course is not about a celebration of the fact that we're neat, that this is the best civilization in history, and that everything's fine. This course is an argument that we have to reassert and renew American Exceptionalism, that it is a struggle for our generation, that our Gettysburg and our Normandy may be inside us as a people and may be inside our own country and does not require warfare, but requires as much discipline, as much focus, as much courage as warfare, and that in order for us to reassert and renew American Civilization, that we have a big job to do. Nobody has said that better, nobody has explained that the challenge of American exceptionalism is not yet completed better than something you are going to see in just a minute and it's particularly appropriate on this weekend to see this. But the fact is, what I'm trying to wrestle with intellectually is that every American has a right to be American, that to be American is to have access to opportunity, to safety, to the chance to start at the starting line, to pursue happiness at levels that all of us know in our heart are not currently available to every American. And so there's an enormous job to do. And on the weekend when we celebrate his birthday nothing could be more appropriate as a way of refocusing of that job than to listen to what may be the single greatest passage of martin Luther king, jr.'s career in which he talks about the America that we could be.
Dr. King: we must conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force, the marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers as evidenced by their presence here today have come to realize that their destiny is our destiny. (cheering and applause) so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
Notice the moral force, notice the use of the Declaration of Independence. Remember, I talked about that you have to be immersed in your own history. If you don't know that that is a shot of Lincoln, and you don't know who Lincoln is, where Lincoln relates back to the rest of this, it makes no sense. If you don't understand -- if I said to you some day remember Freedom Summer, which is actually a summer of civil rights activism in Mississippi, if you don't know anything about the context of what he just said, you can't quite understand where the Freedom Summer ride -- where it came from or how it started. You've got to put in -- and remember also the moral force of what he says, one of the points we're going to come to next week is using Shelby Steele's book, "the Content of Our Character" which comes directly out of this speech: "the world in which my children will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," what does that mean? And how do we live it out? And how do we recognize that for everything, everyone, and this is particularly poignant for the baby Boomers -- for every idealistic hope we had in 1963, that the end of segregation would be the end of misery. What do we now have to do to reinvest ourselves, to reassert ourselves, to regain idealism, to come back and say, all right, Dr. King was right, we got a part of the way there, we ended segregation but we haven't solved it. Now what do we have to do in our generation? And that's part of what we'll be picking up with next week.
But let me carry you back again, at the vision level, America is exceptional in and its history teaches us how exceptional. That's the core message of this course in terms of this particular two hours. There are strategies for understanding it. Teaching American history is one. Every child should know it. Learning to find solutions in American history is another. Refocusing on the symbols and the reminders, and then studying successes. One of the great differences between the modern era and classic America is for that the last 30 years we've been fascinated by pathologists, and the last place left in American news media where we focus on success is the sports page. And sometime, as an experiment, read the sports page for three days and then read the rest of the paper. I mean, if the sports page resembled the rest of the paper, the worst coach in America would be the lead story. Victimization among football coaches, you know. The guy who recruited worst would be there talking about the psychological trauma of failing. Instead, the sports page is the last stand of classic American news. What's working, who's exciting, who's successful, what's worth learning? Totally different way of thinking about it. Among the projects I think the people that are worth looking at, how did people learn American Civilization in the past? Look at the McGuffey reader sometime and then look at the path that is used in schools today. How were the poor helped in the past? And there Marvin Olasky's book is fabulous. What American policies created rapid economic growth? And there were periods when we grew very fast. What incentives and controls have worked and what has failed in the past?
We've been a very successful culture at shaping behavior. We've almost never done it successfully through bureaucracy. We've done it by shaping the incentives and the symbols, the way we reward people psychologically and financially, and we've had enormous impact doing that. Then on a tactical level when faced with a problem or opportunity or when beginning to plan, ask: how have others done the same thing? And as soon as you know what you want to do, if you ask yourself that question and you go study it, you will literally save years of time. Now, when you think you know what you're doing, remember to go back and practice: listen, learn, help and lead. And when you think you know what you're doing, go listen to everybody else for a while and see if it makes as much sense to them as it did to you. Okay. Now, remember I talked to you last week about your rules for immigrants? Somebody arrives in America, they walk up to you and say, so what should I do?
We did have somebody who in fact -- this is interesting -- we had a letter or fax, I guess, from Scott angel over in Tallapoosa who's married to an immigrant. They each sent their set of rules over to us. He said -- this is his five rules: one, learn to speak English. Two, learn to drive and get a car. Three, learn the civil and criminal law that may apply to you and your family and abide by them. Four, societal standing in local communities still depend on your adherence to the work ethic, learn it and live it. Five, there is actually no free lunch. Every benefit offered by every program by any organization, be it government or private, requires that you relinquish part of the freedom and privacy which is the only true benefit of American civilization. Then this is what his wife said: the five rules I would like to tell an immigrant would be thus: if I am a self-sufficient, hard-working, honorable citizen I would advise, one, learn the language of the land. This will encompass reading, writing and speaking. Two, reading for the importance of being able to read an ad in the newspaper to find jobs. Being able to read and interpret symbols and signs in streets to navigate around a big or small city. Writing for the importance of being able to fill out job applications. Speaking for the importance of being able to communicate what skills you have to offer to a prospective employer. Two -- again this is his wife, the immigrant, who's writing this. Two, depending on the area and the availability of mass transportation, learn to drive a car. This is important because we are a car-driven society whether we need it or not. This is one of many expressions of privacy that we as Americans treasure, that is, to enjoy going places without the hassle of being stuck with strangers in a moving vehicle. This also gives us the feeling of self-security and control and that our fate is in our hands. Three, learn the economic system of the country. For example, learn how banks and lending institutions operate and how you can use them to your advantage without appearing naive and felt you were taken advantage of when payments for principal and interest are due. Learn not to be taken in with advertisements that seem all are free. Simple rule to remember is nothing is absolutely free. Four, learn what limitations and freedoms you can do with your native culture you are bringing in with you. Respect the prevailing customs here as you expect them to respect yours. Five, last, if desperate, know where you can get emergency help. She then wrote five nasty rules which is what she says the professionals teach that I'm not going to spend time on that are all destructive.
Okay. Now, what were yours? We have a couple minutes real quickly. Who has some rules - what would you teach
>>student: I had read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. >> student: I said ask questions of elected officials and hold them accountable. >> okay. >> student: learn the history of the United States. >> learn the history. What else? At a practical level what would you do? >>don't watch the evening news. >> don't watch the news. >> student: but these are the first five things. >> what are the first five things? I walk up. I can barely speak English. I just arrived in America, what are the first five the things I should do? >> student: you know I changed mine, too. I threw religion in. I went back and changed mine and I threw religion in and I did because so much of what we have done and where we have come from is based on the belief that there is a god. A copy of the Ten Commandments hangs in the Supreme Ccourt. >> so do they learn your religion or what? >> I'm not talking about religious doctrine, I'm talking the stories. >> faith, the belief. >> the history. >> you said you did too. >>find out their affiliation. >> so one of the things they should do as an immigrant is go to a place they -- that believes in what they believe in. Yes, sir. >> be outgoing and don't isolate yourself. >> okay. The Americans are to an amazing degree, sociable. Yes. >> student: I said build up a network, in that I included religion; find out what other people from their country are doing, whether or not there is a civic group that they're involved with, where they might be worshipping and that sort of thing. I think to connect themselves with a network of like people -- and then learn from them would be an ideal first thing to do. >> okay. One last one. Yes, ma'am. >> student: learn about the money and monetary units here because everything is almost always driven by money. Quite a few things are, so -- >> student: one modification of speaking English. Learn to speak English on the telephone.
I am told we're about to run out of time, so let me just say next week's topic will be pillar two: personal strength. It's going to come right back to these ideas, the key pillar of American Civilization and we're going to use Drucker's "Effective Executive." I think this is the key as to how America operates is the concept of personal strength. And we're going to look at the next week, the reading assignment is to read "the effective executive" which is available on paperback -- I will say it to anybody who's watching us on TV -- and to look at chapter 8, read chapter 8 of "building a community of citizens."
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Renewing American Civilization Table of Contents