Saturday, June 30, 2007

Exceptional Oratory

America has enjoyed its share of exceptional orators. From Jonathan Edwards, the fiery mid-18th century, New England pulpiteer, to Martin Luther King, Jr. the civil rights leader of the 1960's, Americans have been inspired and moved to action by those most gifted in the delivery of words and ideas.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, though only 278 words, far surpassed the two hour oratory of Edward Everett, the most renowned speechmaker of the Civil War era. William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), a three-time candidate for President of the United States who never won, often mesmerized his listeners with his stirring elocutions.

As we have moved into the electronic age, speechmaking has morphed into over-produced political ads, and short sound bites. Rarely do we gather as a community for the sole purpose of hearing a public address.

This past Thursday, I attended a kick-off event for the campaign of Jackson Miller, delegate for Virginia's 50th district. Although I support Jackson, I did not go primarily to hear him. Rather, the draw for me, and I suspect many others, was film producer and director, Ron Maxwell, of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals fame.

I cannot recall, in my fifty-five years, ever hearing a message so eloquent, so inspiring, so moving. And in saying this, I intend no disrespect to the many pastors and preachers I have heard through the years. Most of them have been quite gifted.

This night, electricity filled the air. The Fire Department hall overflowed with Jackson's supporters. Earlier that day, Americans had triumphed, compelling the U.S. Senate to cast aside their ill-conceived and grossly expensive "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill." A good and hopeful feeling filled the room as we waited for Mr. Maxwell to take the podium.

Mr. Maxwell is a strong and vocal advocate for securing our nation's borders, and enforcing the current laws regarding illegal aliens in our midst. And we attendees anticipated that he would address this theme.

He did not disappoint.

Beginning with a prosaic portrait of the concept of "home," Mr. Maxwell explained the importance of "place" in our lives. He talked about roots, generations, and the very natural and normal human connection to specific pieces of real estate.

He spoke of two types of people: one dimensional, and three dimensional.

One dimensional people, he explained, think of life only in the present tense. All that matters to these folks is getting the most out of life today. This generally means acquiring things and power with little regard for the past, or for the future. To one dimensional people, "home" or "place" mean very little. Those in this group are primarily consumers, building their stash of money and things.

Three dimensional people on the other hand, think of life as past, present, and future. These folks have a regard for history, tradition, and the ongoing story of life in a particular place. They also consider the future, and how things they do today will impact the generations that follow. People in this group are less consumed with the material, and more concerned with character, integrity, sacrifice, and leaving the world a better place than it was when they arrived.

One of the many factors contributing to America's historic exceptionalism, is our commitment to both the past and the future. Sadly, in our day, there is less of this kind of feeling or understanding than ever before in our land. We have, in many respects, deteriorated into a "live for the moment" kind of culture. Though certainly not completely consumed by this inferior approach to living, the malady is widespread.

Mr. Maxwell then went on to elaborate to us how and why we have come to this point in our nation's history. He laid out how America has slowly been taken over by globalist corporations, and the greedy politicians in their pockets. For these globalist business people, all that really matters is the bottom line. If producing a product with foreign workers proves cheaper than production with American workers, then outsourcing is done. If Bangladesh workers can do it cheaper than Guatemalan workers, then the work goes to Bangladesh.

I guess it is to be expected that corporations think of profit first. That is after all, their primary reason for existing. (For another perspective on this, see my blog posting on business.) But our elected leaders on the other hand, have been put into their positions to look out for the constituents who voted them in. Sadly, our leaders in Washington have become little more than lap dogs for their corporate and special interest benefactors. Globalist business people, and greedy/power hungry politicians are one dimensional people.

The recent uproar, outrage really, over the Senate immigration bill, awakened many Americans to the reality that those who represent them care little for them. As the drama surrounding this bill unfolded, we came to understand more clearly the utter disconnect between the everyday American, and their representatives in Washington. It angered us.

Mr. Maxwell also explained how the millions who have crossed the border illegally are often doing so because their own countries do not even want them. He tied this element of the story back to his original thoughts of "home" and "place," explaining how many illegals in our country really don't even want to be here. America is not their home.

It became evident, that although an outspoken advocate of a secure border and enforcing the laws regarding illegals, Mr. Maxwell clearly harbored no ill-will toward the new, interloping inhabitants of our communities. He pinned the blame squarely upon our own selfish, one dimensional politicians and business leaders, and their counterparts south of the border.

Throughout the presentation, the crowd responded with applause and even cheering. Mr. Maxwell's address was interrupted numerous times.

Scottish theologian, George Campbell (1719-1796), once penned these thoughts regarding public discourse: "The four ends of discourse are to enlighten the understanding, please the imagination, move the passion, and influence the will." Mr. Maxwell certainly succeeded on all four points.

He concluded his speech by laying out three essential steps that must be taken to restore order out of the chaos we have invited upon ourselves:

  1. Secure the border.
  2. Enforce the existing laws, especially by punishing the greedy American businesses that knowingly use the illegal's cheap labor. He even recommended jail time for those who are the most egregious violators.
  3. Love the illegal foreigners among us, and lovingly help them to find their way back home.
Of his last point, I must say I was quite surprised. His exhortation to love seemed oddly out of place for a political event. So unexpected was it, that I imagine he planned it just that way. For those of us engaged in the struggle to preserve and restore our historic, Christian, American culture, it is indeed important to regularly be reminded that the illegals among us, whether we like it or not, are, for now anyway, our neighbors. And although they have broken the law, and although some are not as well behaved as we would like, and although many take advantage of our national largesse, and although they are not entitled to the same rights and privileges as we American citizens, we do owe them basic respect on a person-to-person basis. We are all fellow members of the human family after all.

I have failed in many ways to capture the feeling and power of that night. Unfortunately, the message was not recorded. However, a text version of the speech can be found here.


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