December 9, 2002 | WebMemo on Political Thought
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Vice-President Cheney, you pay me particular distinction by your presence here this evening, and I am delighted that you have been allowed to "break cover". Indeed, you remind me of another intrepid warrior for justice. As the verse goes:
"They seek him here, they seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in Heaven? Is he in Hell?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel!"
Tonight Mr. Vice-President, for once, we know exactly where you are.
I am enormously honoured to receive this award. It bears the name of one of the most remarkable Americans of her day; and it has previously been given to other great Americans. It is inspiring to be in such company - and wonderful, as always at Heritage, to be among true friends.
Clare Boothe Luce's generation fought the twin evils of Nazism and communism. She was indeed in the forefront of that fight. Nazism was defeated in her lifetime. Communism was defeated in ours - defeated above all through the efforts of that great American President, my friend Ronald Reagan. His name is remembered in the title of this building. And it will be remembered for as long as there are men and women on this earth who value their liberty and honour those who secure it.
Ronnie's successor in the White House today faces a different but no less mighty challenge. The success in Afghanistan demonstrated that the doubters were wrong: the War Against Terror can be won. But we still confront today a twin-headed monster of terrorism and of proliferating weapons of mass destruction. And both those heads must be removed, if the beast itself is to be destroyed.
Evil, it is true, has always been with us. But evil was never so technically sophisticated, never so elusive, never so devoid of scruple, and never so anxious to inflict civilian casualties. The West must prevail - or else concede a reign of global lawlessness and violence unparalleled in modern times.
I am glad that America's commander-in-chief is made of such stern stuff - glad too that he is assisted by Vice-President Cheney and others in this room. I am also proud that Britain stands where we must always stand - as America's surest and staunchest ally. Prime Minister Blair and I are, as is well-known, political opponents. But in this matter I salute his strong, bold leadership.
My friends: as the life of Clare Boothe Luce demonstrated, something more is required in politics than simple pragmatism. It is, of course, necessary to learn all the facts, to seek the best advice, to reflect on the options before you decide the course to take. But experience shows that if you lack a coherent set of beliefs and principles, you will flounder. You must know already what you want, and why, and broadly how best to attain it, if you are ever to deal effectively with the thousand-and-one crises that face you in government.
That is why think-tanks like The Heritage Foundation are so crucial. Your clarity of vision, based on a wise understanding of what limited government in a free country requires, has allowed Heritage to make an outstanding contribution to America. And not just America. One mark of a country's political development is whether its politicians take seriously the prescriptions offered by Heritage scholars to cure a nation's ills. And I'm sure, Ed, that you would agree?
Heritage is the sworn enemy of over-regulation, over-taxation, social engineering, health fascism and environmentalist hysteria. It is the friend of opportunity, incentives, free trade, an effective rule of law, national sovereignty and strong defence. And so say all of us!
It would be a sad day if conservatives failed to recognise how immensely positive the results of that approach have been. And it would be altogether inexplicable if this happened when our opponents have reluctantly seen the merit of conservative insights and policies. Thankfully, the likelihood of such folly is diminished every time another Heritage Backgrounder lands on a politician's desk. Please keep them landing!
My friends: it is always good to come to America. Whereas other countries remind you of problems, America teaches you possibilities.
America today is the only global super-power. Like it or not - and, on balance, I do like it - that is a fact. Only America has the reach and means to deal with Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or the other wicked psychopaths who will sooner or later step into their shoes. The rest of the world can and should do more. But so often wealthy countries with much to offer and more to lose just cheer - or grumble - on the side-lines.
For those who love liberty, the fortunes of America are even more our preoccupation than in years gone by. So I make my own tonight the words of the poet Longfellow:
"…….Sail on O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate"
Thank you for this wonderful award.