NRA President, Actor Encourages Audience to Challenge Authority

By Tim Sullivan Hoya Staff Writer

Academy Award-winning actor and National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston said Wednesday that Georgetown students are engaged in a “great war” against political correctness for their “hearts and minds, for the freedom to think the way [they] choose, to follow that moral compass that points to what’s right.” According to Heston, political correctness is “nothing more than social fashion, fickle and fleeting.”

Heston said that the proliferation of political correctness has created a generation of people unwilling to question authority or create civil disobedience. “As long as you shrug your shoulders and abide it, then by the standards of your grandfathers, you are cultural cowards,” Heston said.

He encouraged students to become inspired by causes that they believe in and to do whatever is necessary to see them through. “Stand up, speak out, follow your heart, even if it goes against the conventional grain,” he said. “But let me warn you – it ain’t easy.”

Heston said that when he chose to become active in both the civil rights movement and the NRA, he was heavily criticized. “That’s when the bombshells of the cultural war blew up around me. To some, I went straight from Moses to the devil,” he said.

The actor, who has played such notable parts as El Cid and Ben Hur, said that American culture has become obsessed with political and cultural correctness in the 35 years since he was involved in the civil rights movement. In recent speeches, Heston said, he has come under fire for comments that he does not perceive to be offensive. “I recently told an audience that I felt that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or whatever color of pride you prefer. For those words, I was called a racist,” he said. Heston said he has also been labeled a homophobe, an anti-Semite and compared to Timothy McVeigh when he “challenged an audience to resist cultural persecution.”

“To me, political correctness is just tyranny with manners,” Heston said.

Heston also referred to recent events of hatred and intolerance on campus, and questioned the Georgetown community’s response to them. “Something is slipping out of balance here, and it’s time to reset your moral compass through a stronger sense of community,” he said. “But I must ask you this – will you point that compass towards what is culturally and politically correct, or what you know is morally right?”

Speaking before a nearly filled Gaston Hall, Heston questioned what he believes to be common misconceptions about what it is acceptable to think and say. “If you talk about race, it doesn’t make you a racist. If you see distinctions between the genders, its doesn’t make you a sexist,” he said. “If you think critically about a certain denomination, it doesn’t make you anti-religion. If you accept homosexuality but don’t celebrate it, it doesn’t make you a homophobe.”

In the speech, sponsored by the Lecture Fund, he encouraged Georgetown students to fight for changes they consider necessary. “Are you willing to fight hard, and keep on fighting, for that student seat you seek on the university board of directors?”

Heston spoke very little of the NRA or gun control, except as it related to the larger topic of his belief in standing up for what you believe. He also defended Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, who drew national heat for his attack on Bill Clinton’s (SFS ’68) gun policies. “It was easier to condemn a good man for making a politically incorrect statement than it was to dig out the facts and exonerate a victim of cultural warfare,” he said. “The spectacle of Wayne LaPierre’s media crucifixion appalled me and at the same time energized me to speak out on this cultural cancer that is eating away at our society.”

After speaking from prepared comments for nearly 30 minutes, Heston opened the floor to questions from members of the Georgetown community. Questions focused mainly on Heston’s affiliation with the NRA, and Heston, despite disagreeing with most student’s comments, was more than willing to listen. After one student questioned the importance of the 2nd amendment, Heston said “I must say I feel more comfortable with the opinion of the founding fathers than the last student’s.”

Before Heston spoke, gun control advocates, including Sen. Jack Reed (D.-R.I.) led a gun control rally on Copley Lawn.

Students had mixed feelings about the speech. “I thought he was well spoken. I really liked the speech,” said Dan Wintermantel (MSB ’03).

Peter Denton, public affairs director for the Campus Alliance to End Gun Violence, did not think the speech was as impressive as Wintermantel did. “I thought he was a really good actor. It just didn’t seem like he said anything. He danced around the subject and didn’t really say anything. He was a really good speaker though,” Denton said.

Heston won the 1959 Best Actor Academy Award for his role in Ben Hur. He was elected president of the Screen Actor’s Guild six times before becoming NRA president. He has appeared in over 70 films, including The Ten Commandments, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and more recently, Hamlet. He is married with two children and two grandchildren. His wife Lydia was present for the speech.

Heston closed the speech with a response to a student comment in which the student said he would fight to the death for Heston’s right to shoot him. Responding to the comment, Heston turned the veiled insult into a platform to sum up his view on political correctness. “Don’t forget,” he said. “This is a country where you can shoot your mouth off whenever you want.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.