“You cannot have the moral right to do what is wrong.”
Presidential candidate Alan Keyes, an African-American radio talk show host and former UN ambassador, recently participated in a panel discussion with the other Republican candidates in New Hampshire in a campaign preview of next year’s first presidential primary. After hearing Republicans waffle on moral issues, Keyes stepped to the podium and delivered a speech which challenged the core beliefs of his party. Republicans have recently shifted away from moral issues toward matters of tax relief, crime and welfare reform. Alan Keyes reminded his fellow Republicans and all Americans that they cannot barter the moral Law of God for a larger constituency. In a speech reminiscent of the oratory of Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and Patrick Henry, Alan Keyes warned his party not to be silent on the great issues of principle which confront our nation.
The following is the full text of the speech by Alan Keyes:
I am from the great state of Maryland where my ancestors have lived for the last two hundred years – sometimes as free men and women and sometimes slaves. And I realized as I was listening to the speakers who came before me that I come at an important juncture in this program. Because I think that the great alternatives have been laid before you tonight. And we as Republicans are going to have to decide again, as we have decided in the past, whether we shall only speak of justice and speak of principles or whether we shall stand and fight for them – whether we shall quote from the words of the Declaration of Independence with real conviction - or whether we shall take that document and throw it on the ash heap of history as we adopt some methods of those who say that we can stand silent in the face of injustice.
When it comes to deciding whether we shall stand by the great principle that declares that all human beings are created equal and endowed by their Creator with the right to life, there is no choice for silence. There is no choice for silence! I can tell you right now that those who are recommending that we pull the pro-life plank out of the Republican party platform are recommending that, as some people decided in the Whig party in the years before the Civil War that they would be silent on the great issue of principle that faced this nation, we shall be silent. The Republican party grew up as a party aimed at dealing with that moral irresponsibility – as standing on the principle that Lincoln articulated that you cannot have the right to do what is wrong.
And I’ll tell you, we have heard a lot of people tonight. They talk about the money and they talk the budget but you and I both know, if we are willing to look ourselves in the eye, what the truth is. Why is it that we spend so much money on welfare and illegitimacy? Why is it that we spend so much money on crime and violence in our streets? Why is it even that we spend so much money dealing with the problems of irresponsible behavior that contributes to the decline of the health of this nation? I think you all know in your hearts what the real answer is. We don’t have money problems; we have moral problems! And it’s time we stood up and faced that truth.
And I don’t know how we’re going to face that truth. Because what is suggested here today – we can look our daughters in the eye and tell them that it is somehow consistent with freedom for them to trample on the human rights of their unborn offspring. We’re going to have to find the courage one of these days to tell people that freedom is not an easy discipline. Freedom is not a choice for those who are lazy in their hearts and in their respect for their own moral capacity. Freedom requires that at the end of the day you accept the constraint that is required - the respect for the laws of nature and nature’s God that say unequivocally that your daughters do not have the right to do what is wrong – that our sons do not have the right to do what is wrong. They do not have the right to steal bread from the mouths of the innocent. They do not have the right to steal life from the womb – from the unborn.
And I’ll tell you, some people may say that if we stand up and we speak out and we fight for that principle, we’ll be dividing the Republican party. But I don’t think so. This party was born on a clear commitment to principle. This party was born of those who had the courage to stand before the American people and, in the face of the threat of a greater division than we’ll ever face, insist that we had to respect the principles that make us great, the principles that make us strong, the principles that make us free. Look at what is happening in the streets of our cities. Look at what is happening to our families today. Do you think that the decline of marriage and the moral disolution of the family is a money problem? Or do you think it’s a problem that comes from putting the self first from deciding that there are no obligations that have to be respected? And at the end of the day, freedom is just another kind of empty licensciousness.
We know better and our founders knew better and it’s time that we get back to the truth. They did not tell us that freedom would be an easy road. They offered up a true vision of the future of America. It was not a vision of licenscious freedom and stupid self-indulgence. It was a vision of freedom based upon the fear of God and the respect for law. And why is it that out of the mouth of all our statesmen we hear all these great emotional words, but they won’t speak the simple truths that our founders from Washington to Jefferson to Lincoln and every president spoke until we got to our own cowardly times? We are not going to remain a free people if we insist on being a corrupt and licenscious people. We are not going to remain a free people if we arrogate to ourselves the right to destroy the rights of others. And that’s exactly what we are doing when we embrace the so-called “pro-choice,” the truly pro-abortion agenda.
My friends, I think it’s empty to praise the courage of the men and women who have died in the service of this country’s freedom and its principles and yet decide that we shall lack the courage to stand up for those principles, many or few, or even alone if we must, because that is in fact the courage that built America. This nation was not, as some would have us believe, a dream of material progress and prosperity and great cities and mountains of money. I’m glad that we have achieved that prosperity even though it came at much expense to some of my forbearers – those who toiled in the depths of slavery. They had an understanding of the real dream of American freedom. It’s the dream of moral dignity that comes from respecting our true moral capacity. It’s the dream of self-government that comes from respecting the fact that in the end, freedom is not just a choice, it is not just an opportunity. It can be a burden and a sacrifice and an obligation. And above all it is the obligation to respect the truth of our moral identity. That moral identity can unite us across every line of race and color and creed, so long as we have the courage to stand for it.
Now I think you know by now looking at the Clinton Administration that if we as Republicans abandon that line of principle, it will surely be abandoned in America. But I can also tell you this in warning, that if you abandon that line of principle, there are Americans who will fight, few or many, alone if we must, to make sure that it prevails. And at every point in our history when we had the choice between right and wrong, in the end this country chose what was right and we can be grateful for it. And I think we shall do it again because we know that the real heroes in America are those who, in their families and in their daily lives, respect the truth – that we must meet the obligations and sacrifices of freedom before we claim its privileges and benefits.
And if that means as well, that come what may, even if it means that we must sacrifice in our personal lives, we have to stand where our founders stood – on the belief that you cannot have the right to do what is wrong, but that if we built self-government on a true adherence to the principles of justice, then we shall hold up a beacon of right and hope for all of humankind to understand the true destiny of mankind. Thank you.