The Bonds of Freedom

Delivered by Congressman Tom DeLay on April 3, 2002

President Lamkin, Mayor Craghead, Reverend Shepard, Mrs. Ward, Mr. Travis, members of the faculty, students of the college, ladies and gentlemen, it is a high privilege to receive this degree and I offer all of you my deep and profound gratitude for the honor.

Thank you very much for inviting me to Fulton today and for allowing me to stand before you tonight as the newest member of the Westminster family. I am gratified by the distinction and I will always carry my association with Westminster proudly as a son of the college.

I have always cherished and fought for the most valuable possession any people can obtain. That possession is freedom. And within the freest nation on Earth, Westminster College occupies a special place as a champion of liberty.

Through the Green Lecture series, Westminster offers the free world a gathering place to discuss the events that shape our future and the initiatives that can advance our national life. Your commitment has done our nation and our principles a great service. And I commend you.

When Churchill came to Westminster, he termed our shared values and democratic principles the "title deeds of freedom." The Iron Curtain he warned about has been buried beneath the sands of history. But the essence of his warning has not been diminished. New threats to freedom will always emerge. There will always be people who try to enslave others with the chains of evil and all-controlling ideologies. And tyrants and terrorists will always target America because we are the leading guardian of freedom.

Today, no one can ignore the horrible aggression in the Middle East. A democratic government is fending off an orchestrated onslaught of death. The State of Israel has been targeted by groups committed to her complete elimination.

And on the basis of our shared principles and democratic values, America has an undeniable obligation to stand squarely with our democratic ally against those attempting to end the State of Israel.

Early in life, I saw the consequences of tyranny firsthand. When I was a boy, my family moved to South America. My father took a job as the general manager for an Oklahoma company's oil field operations in Venezuela during the 1950s.

We lived in a small town near the center of the country. It was an incredible place to grow up. The countryside was beautiful. It was flowing ranchland separated by stretches of jungle.

There were very few people living in our little town. It was basically the families of the oil field workers and the caballeros--the cowboys of Venezuela.

My brothers and I rode horses and we would ride off to camp with the caballeros and explore the jungle. It was wild and new and exotic. There were amazing plants, animals and insects to study. It was everything adventurous and curious young boys could have wanted.

Out at their ranches, the caballeros practically had zoos. They had pet monkeys, and parrots and just about every animal that lived in the jungle. And they were friendly to us.

They showed us how to ride like real caballeros. And they taught us to crack whips and rope steers. Generally, they gave us the free run of their cattle ranches.

Venezuela's rural heartland offered adventures that would be the envy of Huck Finn and the DeLay brothers made the most of it. We rode and hiked and explored everything within miles around our little town. In the beginning, it was an innocent, idyllic childhood.

Unfortunately, Venezuela's political structure was unstable and chaotic. When I was only seven, I was exposed to my first revolution. The revolutionaries killed several local politicians and hung them in the town plaza. There were three revolutions in Venezuela during our years in South America.

The worst incident happened when I was eleven. At the time the revolution broke out, I was out visiting a ranch with a friend. My mother was frantic. She looked everywhere and couldn't find me.

When we finally made it home, we saw revolutionaries ransacking houses and rampaging through town. They destroyed my friend's house. Our own house was spared. But we had no idea how close to death we actually came.

Later, we learned that revolutionaries had arrived at the ranch just fifteen minutes after we left. They destroyed the ranch house. They killed all the people and every animal at the ranch. It was total chaos and complete destruction.

It was my introduction to the horrendous acts human beings are capable of committing when they operate with no regard for life. And it was the source of my passion for freedom and my hostility to unaccountable power.

I carried two great lessons home with me from Venezuela and they have stayed with me ever since. In many ways, they are the lessons of the Twentieth Century.

First, every human life is sacred and precious. Second, power unconstrained by principle and unchecked by accountability is an awful and evil force.

Ronald Reagan reminded us of the power of Churchill's warning. He said: "His Fulton speech was a fire bell in the night; a Paul Revere warning that tyranny was once again on the march."

Churchill told us that threats to freedom could not be avoided and they must not be accommodated.

Unfortunately, September 11 reminded us once again of the spirit of Churchill's warning. We saw in tragic detail that evil is far more than an abstract concept. Our borders and our lives are not beyond its grasp. Tyranny is the enemy. Tyranny is on the move. And Tyranny must always be confronted.

In the wake of September 11, we are reminded of two historic truisms. The first is that those who crave power simply for its own sake will always try to crush freedom under the boots of despotism. The second is that freedom cannot be contained indefinitely. Once people taste freedom, they demand it. Despots know this and will do anything to deny freedom to their people.

The history of modern man has been framed largely by the struggle between these incompatible forces: Freedom and tyranny, good and evil. Unfortunately, man's long pathway towards expanded freedom is littered with tragic reminders that this lesson has gone unlearned.

During the last century alone, millions of lives were lost. They fell at the hands of tyrants of fascism, Nazism and Communism. They died before the forces of freedom recognized their unavoidable duty to confront the threat.

When evil gathers force, it is easy to ignore what we know to be true - tyranny's appetite for destruction recedes only after every challenge to its power is eliminated. It is always easier to evade the truth and appease an aggressor than to shoulder the hard obligations of confronting evil.

We must begin by acknowledging that tyranny is inherently evil. There can be no moral equivalence between those seeking to protect freedom and those seeking to deny freedom.

But even after the terror of September 11 many people continue to insist that these distinctions simply cannot be drawn. They maintain we must accept that differences in perspective can dictate different truths to different observers.

Some question whether America's role in the world may have invited the terrorist attacks. They ponder what we did wrong. But democracies don't wage wars by deliberately blowing up innocent civilians.

Free countries don't turn weapons of mass destruction on their own people. Democracies don't systematically deny rights to enforce twisted and brutal ideologies. And free nations don't pay bounties-for-blood by rewarding the families of suicide bombers.

President Reagan challenged us to acknowledge what we knew to be true. He defined the Soviet Union as an evil empire. And by stating the struggle with clarity and conviction he denied everyone the timid confusion of moral equivalence in the struggle between right and wrong.

When we speak the truth boldly, the echoes shape destiny.

Reagan said that we must begin by calling it like it is. He warned that we could not place ourselves above the struggle by naively equating democracy and tyranny as two different, but morally equal systems.

And I urge you, as President Reagan challenged all of us, to draw the moral distinction between two distinct worldviews. We must not let our foreign policy be crippled by the false fear that speaking explicitly about our commitment to freedom and democratic ideals will complicate rather than clarify the conflict.

As creatures of God, we were born with certain universal and inalienable rights. And America's genius was to perfect a governing structure that protects those rights.

The strength and opportunity of American society are a testament to the freedom guaranteed by the protections of our Constitution.
We trust Americans to pursue their varied interests under a document that defines and upholds their essential freedoms. It has been our unique contribution to the world.

Our founders understood the sanctity of life and they knew well the need for checks and balances on the state. They had seen the consequences of religious intolerance and oppression. And their wisdom accounts for the strength of our system.

The foundation of American society rests on a set of enduring, defining values. They are the charter concepts of freedom: Faith in God, the sanctity of human life, the existence of right and wrong, and the certain knowledge that we are all, ultimately, accountable for our actions.

These principles are universal and extend to every man and woman regardless of the land of their birth or the faith of their parents.

And so, from America's commitment to these timeless truths flow the concepts that we define as democratic values: A free press. Free speech. Free elections. The right to petition the government. Freedom of worship. The rule of law. And an ability to change the government through peaceful means.

These values are the bulwarks of liberty. Some nations share them. Some do not. But between these two conditions looms a wide disparity.

Countries that honor basic rights flourish. While repressive regimes that deny them, frequently struggle to meet the bare needs of their citizens.

It is precisely because democracy accommodates our core values that it delivers opportunity, security, and fulfillment. The freedom of self-government develops excellence.

People living under democratic principles lead fuller lives. They share inherent advantages over those trapped within dictatorships and despotic regimes.

We believe that every human being deserves to live under a political system that honors basic rights and respects the dignity of the individual.

For that reason, America has a binding duty to stand with nations that share our universal values and commitment to democracy. We must continuously export freedom to the world.

President Bush led boldly when he declared war against the forces of international terrorism. He put the world on notice that America would not stand idle while groups and rogue regimes threatened our security.

He clearly defined our enemies and our objective: Rooting out and destroying the cancer of international terrorist networks wherever they are found.

And the President gave the world a clear choice: "You are with us, or you are with the terrorists." America responded to his clear, direct, and forceful leadership. And we need to assess other threats with the same moral clarity.

In Asia, the world's most populous nation holds its people hostage beneath a brutal blanket of oppression.

The potential free exchange of ideas, honest elections, and the recognition of basic human rights so frightens the unelected rulers in Beijing, that they quash it at every turn.

They are attempting to suffocate dissent, freedom and choice. Through intimidation, force, and fear, they demand obedience and order to their repressive ideology.

But just across the Taiwan Straits, stands a harbor of freedom. In Beijing, the Communist apparatchiks are angered and confused by the blinding light of freedom that beckons beyond the Straits.

There, on a tiny island, 23 million Taiwanese bravely resist a constant barrage of threats from Communist China. They stand firm against a repressive regime that shackles and silences over a billion people on mainland China.

Through sheer will, and courage, Taiwan has developed into a thriving democracy and a strong ally of the United States.

Within our own hemisphere, just 90 miles off our coast, the Cuban people are enslaved by a brutal tyrant. Fidel Castro has dragged his people through hardships, despair and servitude to satisfy his own depraved interests.

He robs Cubans of the fruits of their labor while enriching himself and his cronies. He imprisons or kills anyone questioning his government.

And Castro denies anyone seeking the promise of a better life the right to flee his island prison. Despite the risks, countless Cubans risk death to escape his tyrannical regime. And untold thousands have been murdered as they fled. Castro is a man lacking any respect for life. When Castro's agents caught a boatload of Cuban women and children floating at sea, his orders redefined evil. These refugees were simply seeking the free shores of America.

Castro didn't want them back. He wanted them dead. And on Castro's command, his agents used fire hoses to force women and tiny children off their boat and into the ocean to drown. Their only offense had been a passion for freedom.

In each of these countries, our choice is clear. We must support those who stand for freedom. We need to remind the world, at every opportunity, that these regimes are not morally equivalent and America sides with liberty. Our clarity speaks volumes to both friends and adversaries.

The strongest collision between liberty and terror is occurring in the Middle East. On the eastern edge of the Mediterranean sits an oasis of freedom and democracy surrounded by mobilized hostility.

The State of Israel has fought five major wars to defend its right to exist since 1948.

A quick comparison tells us that Israel and the United States differ greatly in size, population, and natural resources. But in the things that truly matter, our countries are strikingly similar.

The fundamental measures that test our spirit, ideals, and aspirations show that Israel and America are kindred nations.

The founders of both countries were profoundly influenced by faith. Both countries drafted governments that practice religious tolerance. Both countries are filled with immigrants summoned by dreams. For people fleeing the storms of persecution, both countries have been safe harbors.

We respect freedom and honor the rights of the individual. We tolerate a vigorous public debate through unfettered speech and a free press. We welcome the conflict of contested elections.

We are committed to thoroughly educating our citizens. We live under the rule of law. And the United States and Israel share a concern for human rights.

We both support free markets and will trade with any responsible partner. We seek peace and good relations with any country that also seeks the same goals.

America has found that freedom, as it is provided by our democratic system, improves life in all its spheres. Self-government allows every citizen greater opportunity, responsibility, and accountability.

These translate into individual excellence, economic strength, and the broadest chance to realize potential and achievement.

That being the case, the benefits of freedom should show themselves in objective measures of a country's economic performance and the fabric of its society.

To prove the point, another comparison would also be useful. How does Israel measure up to neighboring countries? The differences are stark.

Throughout the Middle East the climate is arid and, with the exception of oil, resources are scarce. Economic progress is a challenge for any country.

But given these common limitations, there exists within the Middle East, a vast difference between those living in freedom and those living in undemocratic regimes. Israel exceeds its neighbors by wide margins in every significant way that we measure quality of life and standards of living.

Since its Independence in 1948, Israel has absorbed millions of immigrants, including almost one million from the former Soviet Union. It began without the infrastructure needed to support a modern society.

Israel had to spend large sums constructing the roads, utilities, ports, schools, and hospitals that support modern life. At the same time it was building this infrastructure, Israel fought five major wars.

Israel built a pluralistic society that is predominantly Jewish, but also has Muslims, Druze, and Christians living together and serving together in its military.

Israel is unique in that it serves as the permanent homeland for Jews everywhere, but it is also a home for people of other religions. Women and people of all faiths vote and hold office.

A simple measurement of Middle East economies shows that the benefits of self-government are obvious.

Taking the year 2000 as an example, Israel's Gross Domestic Product was $17,700 per person. In Lebanon it was $5,000, in Syria $1,000, in Jordan $1,500, in Egypt $1,420, and in the West Bank controlled by Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat, it was $1,500.

Within Israel, people are educated longer and more successfully. Israel has produced almost universal literacy. With the exception of Jordan, only between half and three-quarters of the people in neighboring countries can read.

The health of people in the region also reflects democracy's strength. Infant mortality rates in Israel are between five and eight times lower than in neighboring countries. People in Israel also tend to live at least ten years longer than those living in the undemocratic regimes that surround it.

Clearly, life under democratic principles empowers men and women to achieve tremendous progress. And just as obviously, the absence of freedom consigns people living in undemocratic regimes to difficult lives.

Another important factor is the vitality of Israel's democracy compared to the dictatorships and non-democratic regimes that surround it.

Since 1970, the voters of Israel have changed their elected leader ten times. Control of government has swung between different parties and philosophical approaches. Democracy is alive, robust, and thriving in Jerusalem.

But for people living in neighboring countries over the same three decades, self-government has been unknown.

Regime changes among Israel's neighbors are an accident of fate. The people within these countries don't shape their own destinies.

Their voices aren't heard by their rulers. They are simply swept along by the decisions and policies of autocratic regimes.

And there is no question that the absence of accountability between Middle Eastern regimes and their citizens is fueling the climate of violence.

We know that peace and democracy are linked. Democratic rulers are accountable to their citizens and for that reason they avoid unjustified conflicts.

And governments that answer to their citizens don't inflict heinous crimes against their own people without serious consequences. We have learned that dictators and tyrants are not bound by the same moderating accountability.

Freedom is alive in Israel today. We can't allow the lone light of democracy to be extinguished by a wave of hatred. On September 11, we saw the visible hand of evil. In Israel, they are seeing it almost every day.

The so-called "martyrdom operations" that Palestinian suicide bombers carry out against Israel's buses, markets, and restaurants differ from the attacks against America only in scale--the underlying evil that motivates them wells up from the same awful source.

Suicide attacks against innocent civilians violate every principle America upholds. By the way, these are not suicides--they are murder.

For that reason, a strategy that delivers indiscriminate death to coerce political concessions from a free society will always offend our democratic values.

Yet, somehow the media questions Israel's right to self-defense. They criticize the steps taken by a democratically-elected government to block Arafat's evil campaign of death against Israeli civilians.

The identity of the terrorist organizations carrying out violence in Israel is far from a secret. They accept responsibility for their crimes. Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and at least a faction of Palestinian dictator Yasser Arafat's Fatah group are at war with Israel.

What must happen? First, Arab states must accept Israel's fundamental right to exist. The terrorism against Israel must stop.

And the parties must negotiate a comprehensive settlement acknowledging Israel's right to exist, the need for permanent, secure, and internationally-recognized borders, and the guarantee that people of all faiths will have access to Jerusalem's holy places.

We should begin by rejecting the idea that the United States should somehow be a disinterested party mediating between two good-natured nations earnestly striving for peace.

The time has come to drop the empty pretense that we can serve the region as a mere broker. Israel is resisting a campaign of death.

The defense of freedom demands more from us than a value-neutral brokerage. It is time for us to stand squarely against the terrorist organizations which systematically attack Israel.

I commend the President for his principled and determined leadership. Specifically, he is guiding us firmly in two important ways. He is standing solidly with Israel. And he is resisting the constant calls to force Israel back to the negotiating table where they will be pressured to grant concessions to terrorists.

No one should expect the people of Israel to negotiate with groups pursuing the fundamental goal of destroying them. During four decades of terrorism, Yasser Arafat has proven his total contempt for human life. He is completely untrustworthy.

So, we should support Israel as they dismantle the Palestinian leadership that foments violence and fosters hate. Arafat and his Authority have been an impediment to peace and a threat to the emergence of moderate Palestinian voices.

When suicide bombers target families praying over Passover Seder, their objective cannot be peace. Their evil goal is to eliminate anyone who doesn't believe as they do.

We must be absolutely clear: Suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism will never be tolerated by democratic countries. Any group using these evil tactics denies any legitimacy to its underlying cause or grievance.

The free world must never negotiate with terrorists. Suicide bombings specifically, and terrorism generally, are not a form of resistance -- they are cold blooded murder.

This hellish strategy of destruction menaces far more than the State of Israel. It is a threat to the entire civilized world.

If suicide bombers succeeded in intimidating Israel, every free society would eventually face the same evil tactic.

All free men and women must defend Israel by denouncing this vile culture of death. Suicide bombers are consumed by an evil impulse and this message needs to be repeated by every democratic government.

America has a clear duty to stand beside a democratic ally that is besieged by terrorists. I believe that most Americans feel the pull of kinship with the men and women of Israel.

We can't allow the flame of democracy to be extinguished by a wave of aggression. The terrorists attempting to destroy the State of Israel should know that America will never allow that to happen.

Since our founding, the United States has been the world's greatest force for good. And today, our commitment to liberty has never been more vital to the world.

Because when we stand by democracies in peril, we signal to our friends that we mean what we say. We rededicate ourselves to the eternal truth that all men are created equal and are by nature free.

We demonstrate to our children that our values are enduring and unchanging.

And we give comfort, hope, and direction to people fighting for those same rights everywhere in the world.

Our actions reveal that our principles are not flexible. They are not written in sand to be washed away by time and circumstance. Instead, they are etched on our souls by the hand of God.

We are a land and a people acclimated to difficulty and attuned to grand purpose.

If we summon the will to stand firmly for freedom and strive boldly to spread our democratic principles, we can, once again, liberate millions of men and women from the grip of tyranny.

Doing so will mean security and freedom not only for us and our children, but for all those with a God-given yearning for the precious rights they are denied today.

And so, with all humility I ask, God bless America.

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