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Speech
National Federation of Republican Assemblies
Alan Keyes
August 31, 2004
New York City

Good evening, and thank you for that wonderful and warm welcome.

I have to tell you that in the course of the last several weeks I've obviously seen a tremendous change in my life. I had thought that I was going to spend this election cycle in the comfortable position of spectator, watching others dance on the hot coals of American politics.

But unfortunately I think that, as is often the case, just when we think we know what our plans are, God reveals what his plans are, and He upsets the apple cart. In this particular case it took a series of, sequence of events that I think were highly improbable, including the coming together of elements from my own life, and from the life and history of the Republican party of Illinois, to bring us to a moment where I stand before you in what would have been, even a month ago, still the improbable position of Illinois' nominee for the United States Senate.

The folks who are in the media, as is their usual wont, have made much of the fact that I have come from Maryland to Illinois. And they have made much of the fact that, well, that I haven't lived in Illinois, and I don't have this in Illinois, and that in Illinois, that they perceive as the prerequisites of community. But at least in part I think that this is based on their sad and anemic understanding of what community is all about.

For I have gone to Illinois and I have found there people who believe that this country was founded on the principle that we are, all of us, created equal, and that that principle implies that we have the right to name and respect the authority of God. I have found them in Illinois.

I have gone to Illinois and I have found there people who believe that, in order to sustain the strength of our family and communities, we must respect the fact that marriage exists for child-bearing and child-rearing, and involves the responsibility not to seek pleasure for ourselves, but to lay the strong foundation for the future of our community and our nation. I have found them there.

I have found there people who understand that if in fact we are to claim our rights from the authority of God, then we have no right to deny to our children in the womb the same respect for life that we demand for ourselves. I have found there people, all over the state, who therefore understand as I do that if we are to uphold the banner of American life and American principle then we must reject those who are embracing gay marriage, reject those who are practicing abortion against our children in the womb, reject those who believe that we must kow-tow to the courts when they tell us that we cannot in public places and in political life invoke and seek the name and help of our Almighty God.

I have found all of these folks in Illinois, and I knew that I would find them there, because I have been in and out of the state many times to work with them. As they were building, in their efforts, to create the organizations and associations that would promote these beliefs, in the politics and public policy of the state.

Of course, it wasn't only on account of this community of principle in heart and faith, that I decided to pull up stakes and make a new home in Illinois. It was also because I found, in their crisis, a challenge to my own good faith.

For the longest time, I have gone about the country, in the last decade and more, talking to people about the great moral crisis that this nation faces. I believe that that crisis is the number one challenge that we face as a people. And I think that the events that we have witnessed over the last several years have, in every respect, justified that statement.

We can look, for instance, even at the great crisis of our national security in which we face and confront a war against the terrible scourge of terror and terrorism. What's that about, at the end of the day?

Oh, I know, the terrorists struck us on September 11th, 2001. They took lives. They brought down buildings that were the great symbols of our economic strength and power. They assaulted the building that is the symbol of our great military might. But we all know, I think, that the evil that they perpetrated that day was not in any sense exhausted in its truth by the damage that they did. Not even by the lives that they took. Terrible as the grief was, deep as the void was that was left in the families and in the hearts of the American people, we know that the evil of that day consisted especially not just in the damage that was done by their violence, but in the fact that that violence was directed, in violation of every principle of decent human conscience, against innocent, unarmed civilians.

And that means that at the heart of the war against terror is this evil: a willingness to disregard the claims of innocent human life.

Every time I say that to an audience, though, I hope people realize that there is a terrible and terrifying irony in it. Because even as we confronted on September 11th the consequences of Osama Bin Laden and his ilk bringing against us and against our fellow citizens, this terrible scourge of violence, directing it against innocent life, even as we rose up to challenge the conscience of the world, to make clear that in this war against terror, the evil was so deep, was so repugnant to the decent conscience of all humanity, that every nation and every government had to choose; that they could not stand idly by, that they could not claim neutrality in this battle against terror. Our President declared it, and in our hearts we all know that it's true.

But that means that we make war against an evil that is universal in character, an evil that every heart and every conscience ought to recognize that in spite of every line of race and color and creed and nationality and geography, every human being of decent conscience should be revolted at the acts, even such as those being perpetrated right now against innocent citizens in Israel. When you direct your blows of violence against the unarmed children and the innocent lives, you have done what is repugnant to the conscience of all decent humanity.

Now, of course, that statement is a moral one, isn't it? It's the violation of a moral principle that constitutes the evil of terrorism. And that principle is clear: a willingness to disregard the claims of innocent human life.

And yet, when we think on it, we didn't encounter that principle for the first time on that terrible day, September 11th. Because you and I both know that we could walk down the street of any city, county, or state in this country where there is an abortuary and we could walk through the doors and we could see and witness the practice of the self-same evil. The use of violence against innocent human life. See--this is the chilling and terrifying truth of our time. We are locked in a war against terrorism that is casting a shadow over our ordinary lives, that is changing the characteristics of our institutions, that is even leading us down a road that could end up threatening our most basic liberties. And yet the evil that we fight is but the shadow of the evil that we do.

That means that at the heart of our national security crisis is a manifestation in the world of that moral crisis which continues to beset us. A moral crisis, which is not only in evidence in the violation of conscience that is involved in directing blows of violence against innocent life. It is in evidence as well in the assault against marriage, the very foundational institution of our society, on which, in point of fact, the whole strength of our community, the whole ability of our society to perpetuate itself into the future depends.

And that assault is taking place now, on the basis of the idea that somehow or another we must embrace the concept of gay marriage, and redefine marriage in such a way as to admit the possibility that two individuals who are in principle incapable of procreation can even so enter into a valid married state.

You know what that means, don't you? It means that we will redefine marriage in such a way as to in principle exclude the requirement of procreation. No longer as the essence of marriage will there be the implication of childbearing and child rearing. Instead, we will construct its foundation on the basis of including a relationship that is based at the end of the day on the selfish self-fulfillment of the parties to the relationship.

When are we going to wake up and realize that this debate is not over the characteristics of homosexuality? We know what they are; two individuals involved in a relationship, however you describe it, in which the goal does not transcend their own fulfillment, their own personal contentment and happiness and satisfaction, in which nothing is aimed at, beyond satisfaction of the individuals themselves.

It is not the same with a heterosexual relationship. Not the same when a man and a woman are engaging in the act of procreation. Why? Because their action is haunted, ever haunted, by the possibility of the child; by the possibility of that being who will unite their beings, not in the yearning ecstasies of sexual desire, but in the real manifestation of a physical union that only occurs in the context of conception.

That is the true meaning of the sexual relationship. I often point out to people, just as an aside, that sex itself is only defined in these terms. We don't think about this, but the truth is, you can put all kinds of manifestations out there of what looks like a woman, what looks like a man, but at the end of the day, you only know the truth by "taking a peek." What does that mean? You only know the truth by taking a look at those things which have to do with the function of procreation, and how the body is configured in relation to that function. That means that sex itself only exists in relation to procreation. That's one of the reasons why I sometimes object, and it's just a theoretical objection, but it's worth thinking about, to the whole notion that one calls what people of the same sex do, sexual relations. As a matter of fact, they have precisely turned their back on sexual relations, in order to engage in acts of mutual pleasure that have nothing whatsoever to do with sexuality, even though they incidentally involve the use of the sexual organs.

This is important to think through, because it means that in this very fundamental concept, it is clear that the relationship when man and woman are involved points to the act of procreation and presumes and is haunted by the existence of a child and the life-long responsibility implied by that existence.

When you think it through, then, you are seeing two different foundations. One a foundation based upon self-contentment, self-fulfillment, selfish hedonism; the other, a possibility based upon the existence of a child, that involves a life-long commitment, not just through pleasure, not just through contentment, not just through self-fulfillment, but through what is often grief, and pain, as well as joy, what often involves enormous sacrifice of one's own desires and pleasures, as well as the fulfillment that come from the joys of having children.

It is a vocation, parenting, that is not just all about yourself, because it is all about that future you will never see. It is all about that happiness you will never enjoy. It is all about that person who will grow to a maturity, offering to the world a gift, one element of which may reflect a little contribution from yourself. But long before that gift is finally delivered, you will likely have shuffled off this mortal coil, and not be there to enjoy it. It represents the possibility, which in the end is at the heart of the perpetuation of all our human community. The possibility that we will not live for ourselves alone, but will feel a deep and true connection, with a future we will never see, with a progeny we will never meet, but who, in our hearts' imaginations, we contemplate, with a sense of responsibility and obligation.

Change the understanding of marriage, and you have changed the understanding of our character in such a way as to break our bond with that future, and to undermine that sense of responsibility.

Hereto we encounter the depths of the moral crisis in which we find ourselves. I think these are the issues that first and foremost are going to decide the fate of our society and our civilization. And isn't it ironic that in both cases, the evil that is involved leads to the suppression of our respect for the life of the child, in all of its implications. This is not an accident.

Now, since I entered the race in Illinois I have been chided a good deal because I refused to back off of the priorities that have been my priorities over the course of the last decade and fifteen years and even over the course of my whole political life. But I think we both of us understand, you and I: What good is it to have participated in political life, if you win your victories at the expense of your principles? If you win your successes at the price of your conscience?

One of the reasons why I think it is especially important, and I actually feel that we have been, in a strange and ironic way, blessed this year, because God called to Himself His servant Ronald Reagan. And in doing so, He forced the whole world to focus again on the career not only of this great President but of this great man. And as we face the moral challenges of our time, as we face the need to find the courage and perseverance that will deal with terror, to find the wisdom that will deal with the challenges to our family life, to find the discernment that will understand how we confront security without destroying liberty, we need to remember what I believe his life has taught us.

And I noticed, during the course of all the discussions about Reagan, a few which I participated in, that many of them focused on his presidency. And we had the media people talking about what a great communicator he was, and so forth, and so on, and then other people talking about how everybody supported him, and this one and that one were praising him, because everybody was brought in to agree with them.

And I just sat there chuckling to myself, during some of these discussions, you see, because they were talking about Ronald Reagan the President, and I was remembering the man who made him president. I was remembering the man who had stood up before the Republican convention and in nominating Barry Goldwater had presented a speech that outlined in crystal clear terms his commitment to principle. His commitment to the anti-communism that many criticized him for over the course of his career. I was remembering the man who, in spite of every ridicule and every criticism, walked the walk for twenty years, inspiring a whole new generation of conservatives with his perseverance, with his clarity, with his integrity that he never sacrificed for the sake of false victory in politics. I remembered that man.

And I remembered that the courage that we saw when he was president, the willingness to confront evil with truth and to declare before the world what it was, did not begin when he occupied the White House. It was there in his heart, and in his speeches, and in his actions, every day, and every year, when he walked the walk of truth that actually built the character that had sustained him in the White House.

I remembered that man. And in remembering that man, I realize that we are called, we, ourselves, to be faithful, in a context of an understanding of politics that has been debased and degraded by the understanding that it is "just about power."

If politics was just about power, you realize, don't you, that America would not exist? 'Cause if politics is just about power, then justice is the good of the stronger, and whoever can amass the most power can rule those others without compunction. The notion that people should govern themselves, that there is a limit to what the power of government has the right to do to individuals, that no matter how much force you amass, there is still a kernel of dignity in each and every human being, in each and every child, in each and every family, in each and every community, in each and every state, that tyrants and authoritarians have no right to violate. That is not about power. That is about principle. That is about justice. That is about dignity. That is about standing for the worth of this human life .

And it was that kind of integrity that we all know sustained Ronald Reagan as he inspired this nation to do what is most necessary, and was, against the scourge of communism. One of the great lessons that I take from the way that he confronted the Soviet Empire during his presidency was to remember what sometimes in our political wars we have a tendency to forget. Something that all the great writers on war, including von Clausewitz, pointed out repeatedly. That at the end of the day, war isn't about the clash of physical armies. It is about the clash of moral wills. One does not make war just upon the enemy's army. One makes war upon his mind and upon his spirit. Confuse the mind and break the spirit, and you will win the war.

And I still remember that at the end of the nineteen-seventies, during the midst of the Carter era, do you remember that era? We were a mighty nation, we were still Number One, we had the strongest economy, we had the mightiest army, we were up against a paper tiger that could not sustain its own economic production, whose military might was in fact, a myth, whose science could not master the real complexities of modern technology, and you do remember, don't you, in the late seventies, we cowered 'neath the shadow of that tyranny as if it was real.

And, for all our strength, we were hesitant, and we were timid, until finally, under Jimmy Carter, we were brought low in the deserts of the Middle East, made to stand hostage before the world. And it was not just our diplomats who were hostage. It was our will, it was our confidence, it was our understanding of ourselves.

And you know the greatest triumph of Ronald Reagan?

The greatest triumph of Ronald Reagan was to free the mind of America from the shadow of that paralysis. The greatest achievement of Ronald Reagan was to wake up again and liberate the great spirit of this country, to restore our confidence, so that our physical strength would be matched by a coherence and strength of will that did not flag or fail until the Soviet Union was no more. That was his contribution.

We need to remember this, and I'm especially remembering it, at a very practical level in my present race in Illinois. And if you don't mind, I'm going to digress just for a moment, to give you a sense of the flavor of this, because it's directly relevant to what I've just said.

I am locked in a race with someone who is continually described almost in Homeric fashion. The reason I say that is because Homer had this way of attaching epithets to all the characters, so he would never say Achilles, it would always have to be "Valorous, Brave Achilles" or something, or "Swift Footed Achilles" and things of this kind. He would never say Odysseus, it was always "Manly Wild Odysseus" or something; he would always have a little name in front.

And you've noticed that my opponent Barack Obama, the media always puts a little epithet in front of him. "The Democrat Rising Star, Barack Obama," "Rising Star Barack Obama." And they tell me that they are not biased.

I'm locked in a little battle with the Illinois media right now, because I've had the nerve to identify them as minions of the Democrat party. And they are all upset with me about this--but I have this bad habit of opening my eyes and seeing what's in front of them.

But there we are, with the "Rising Star Barack Obama." Who is this guy?

I was, like everybody else in the country, taken in this whole business, before I got the call from the folks in Illinois, to come and take a look and go with it. And as a lot of you probably know, you've heard the story that I said no, of course, because I was living in Maryland. First time I got the phone call, from an old friend of mine, saying, would you think about running for U.S. Senate in Illinois? I said, well no, I wouldn't, because this is going to be a problem--I live in Maryland. This makes quite a difficulty.

And so they called, and called, and finally he arrested my attention in one very important way. Because he said, if you take a look at this man, you'll find that he is so hard-lined-radical-left, that in twenty years you will sit down, and if he's waltzing into the White House, you will ask yourself why you didn't take the chance to stop him twenty years before when you might have done it.

And that was the basis, by the way. That was the basis. That arresting question is the reason I decided, okay, I had better stop and take a look. It doesn't feel comfortable to me, I don't know if it's right, but I'll look.

And you know what I found? I found an individual who did not at all correspond to the impression I had received from that speech he gave at the Democratic National Convention. A speech, by the way, if you go through and read it carefully, is a masterful work of non-presentation. It's kind of the un-speech. One of those speeches in which many words are put together, and they sound really good, and then when you read them through, they say nothing.

There was not a single, substantive thought, policy recommendation, consequence, principle, anywhere in his speech. It was a truly masterful work of disguise, in which he spun out a great deal of verbiage that was intended by his nice and affable manner, to make everybody think, "Oh, that's a moderate guy."

But then I looked at his record. And the first thing that jumped out at me, as a lot of you would guess, is that here is a man--now think about this. Remember we had a big debate about partial birth abortion? Well, here is a guy, who, in the Senate of Illinois, voted against a bill that was aimed at making sure that hospitals could no longer take babies who were born alive after a botched abortion--these are living babies, wholly separate from the mother, and are there in a nurse's arms, and in a case that I know of, the nurse is begging the doctors to please help, to do something for this child. And she is told to put the child aside, and let it die. That's not abortion. That is infanticide. That is the taking of a child's life. That is simply murder, by neglect.

And there was a bill to stop it. And the United States Senate, in a similar bill, passed ninety-eight to zero. Even Teddy Kennedy and Barbara Mikulski, could not find it in their abortion-seared consciences to vote for this practice.

But Barack Obama voted to let it continue. I don't care how he smiles; I don't care how he charms; a heart so hard that it can ignore the cries of that child is too hard for Illinois. Too hard for the U.S. Senate. Too hard for America. Too hard for decency. Too hard for me.

And that made me look at the rest of the record. And what I found was a hard-line ideologue, a leftist academic mentality so seared that there was not ever a consolidation of government power that he didn't seem to support. There was no violation of individual rights, especially Second Amendment rights, that he wouldn't tolerate. No common sense involved, no respect even for the right of citizens to defend themselves. I looked at this and I thought, "I've got to do this."

And then I started looking at who he was. Who did he turn out to be? He's an obscure senator from a little district in Illinois, in which he has never faced actually any serious opposition. He lost his only Federal race in the district in which he lives, against a guy named Bobby Rush, seventy to thirty. During the debates that preceded the Democrat primary in which two guys who were ahead of him in the running had self-destructed. If you read the articles, in nowhere in these debates did he distinguish himself.

And I looked at this and said, now, wait a minute. Do you know what we're faced with here? We are faced with a fiction, we are faced with a lie, we are faced with a Democrat media-created masquerade. We are faced with a war on the minds of Illinois Republicans. A war on the minds of Illinois voters. A war, indeed, on the mind of America. To put a mask in front of the record and the reality and get us to accept that somehow, the inevitable coronation of this man whose views correspond to an extremism that is so far out there that even the most extremist Democrats would not vote as he has done.

Think about it. This is one of the most prime examples I've encountered in my life, of a successful war on the mind, leading at least possibly to an easy victory for people who in fact could not have won it in any other way. Because if the truth is known about this man he would be defeated.

And that's the secret, isn't it. I think it's the secret that Ronald Reagan exemplified in so many aspects of his career, when he called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire, when he talked about the need to abolish the Department of Education, when he was willing to look people in the eye and talk about less government, not more, when he was willing to call a Communist a Communist, and to invite Americans to stand tall in defense of liberty against the oppression it represented. All he was doing at every stage in his career was insisting on speaking the simple truth, representing with integrity his sincere beliefs about what was good for America and for his community. I believe, in the end, that is the kind of politics freedom needs--not false choices in which we masquerade in order to gull people into voting for things they don't believe in, but truth, sincerity.

Look at the career of Ronald Reagan--it might take a while--not forging an easy coalition of selfish interests, stitching it together by offering bribes of government programs and patronage and power to this group, and that, until you have enough to grab a seat of power. No, that was not his way. And it should not be ours.

Instead, for all the time it takes, the heart it takes, the heartbreak it can take, in years in the wilderness, facing defeats instead of victories, yet you will move people, one heart at a time, one faith at a time, one intense and fiery commitment at a time, until finally you have put together a community of principle, that will not only stand the test of election, but will stand the test of war, that will stand the challenges even of the greatest evil empire the world has seen, that will stand the test that a nation must stand if it is to survive.

This I believe is what we are challenged to offer to America now. For it faces, now, an insidious challenge that will in the end lead not to our destruction from without but quite possibly to the destruction of our liberty from within, as we surrender to the fears engendered by terror and to the degradation engendered by our own loss of conscience and principle.

I think it is only by recurring to the example of Ronald Reagan, to his statesmanship, to his insistence on a politics of principle, come-what-may, that we shall be able to forge, in ourselves, the character, and in our country the destiny, that will fulfill the great promise America is supposed to represent.

In my mind, it is the survival of this nation, of its freedom; it is the fulfillment of its destiny, that is the only and greatest tribute that we owe to a statesman like Ronald Reagan.

Let us commit ourselves, here and now, that we, though we may seem sometimes to be few in number, yet we are great in heart. Though we may seem sometimes to be obscure in the eyes of the media and the world, yet I believe we are bright in the eyes of the Lord.

His hand shall strengthen us, His strength shall encourage us, His wisdom shall guide us, until together we are able to forge, as Reagan did, that community of hope and principle that will pull this nation back from the brink of its own destruction, and set it again on the path that fulfills the hope, the better dream, the better destiny, that you encounter.

God bless you.

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