(Pictured above: Rep. Jon Jacobsen with Holly Heston, daughter of Charlton Heston)
As the Second Amendment was celebrated in the Capitol Rotunda this past Wednesday, I was reminded of one of the great speeches at the beginning of this century, made by Academy Award-winning actor, author, 1960s civil rights marcher, and NRA President—the late, great movie legend Charlton Heston.
Heston had long been an iconic hero of mine—his larger-than-life portrayals in epics such as Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, El Cid, A Man For All Seasons, to name but a few, were inspiring. His marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., exhibited leadership and courage.
In 2003, shortly after his personal announcement of his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, I wrote to him, at his home residential address, wishing him well, thanked him for his cinematic and stage contributions, and told him our entire family, including my educator-wife Debra and children, were excited to screen his then-new animated motion picture version of Ben-Hur, a joint project developed with his son, Fraser Heston.
It was a surprise and delight to receive in return a correspondence postmarked April 3, 2003, on his personal stationery—no form letter, and autographed in fountain pen, Heston responded to several of my particular references, including his delight that Deb may be screening his new venture for students.
Heston wrote: “I’m also pleased to know you’ve enjoyed my films, and now the DVD of BEN-HUR: it was good of you to tell me. The thought of your entire family gathered together to watch it is even more gratifying.”
He continued: “I’ll be sure to tell my son that your wife’s 4th grade class may be interested in seeing it. That makes all the work involved worthwhile.”
What impressed me most was Heston’s faith and optimism. Mr. Heston wrote at the conclusion of his letter:
“I truly feel this is a challenge I can overcome, thanks to my family, my many friends, and God’s grace.”
“As William Shakespeare said, ‘Fear not, all will yet be well!’”
Just three years prior, Heston gave his legendary closing remarks speech at the 2000 NRA annual meeting in Charlotte North Carolina.
“Every time our country stands in the path of danger, an instinct seems to summon her finest first — those who truly understand her.
When freedom shivers in the cold shadow of true peril, it’s always the patriots who first hear the call.
When loss of liberty is looming, as it is now, the siren sounds first in the hearts of freedom’s vanguard. The smoke in the air of our Concord bridges and Pearl Harbors is always smelled first by the farmers, who come from their simple homes to find the fire, and fight, because they know that sacred stuff resides in that wooden stock and blued steel — something that gives the most common man the most uncommon of freedoms.
When ordinary hands can possess such an extraordinary instrument, that symbolizes the full measure of human dignity and liberty. That’s why those five words issue an irresistible call to us all, and we muster. So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed — and especially for you, Mister Gore:
“’From my cold, dead hands!’”