and Freedom Foundation
PO Box 1310
Herndon, VA 20172
Black Americans for Life Banquet
November 4, 1995
Adam's Mark Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana
Now, you won't mind, will you,
if I allow that it is a special pleasure for me to be here this evening. Just
like a lot of people, I've been long in the pro-life vineyards, and one of
the things that we have, as Rose was saying and noticed there, that you can
go to pro-life gatherings and you really don't see a lot of black Americans.
All right? And down through the years I've, of course, as many people have,
I've wondered why this is. And I'll be talking about the reasons why that's
strange this evening. But I'm especially pleased to be here, as I have been
in several other places, to encourage those who are coming together now to
highlight the participation of black Americans in this sacred cause--a cause
which I think is especially suitable, appropriate, and fitting for black
Americans because of the heritage we represent.
And so, if you'll forgive me this evening, 'cause I don't always get the
opportunity, you know--I do believe strongly, as you have probably heard,
that it's important when we stand up in America and address important issues
of public policy that we not give in to the tendency that seems to exist out
there to pretend that there is no way that we can speak to each other across
barriers of race and creed and kind, that we have nothing in common anymore,
that everything divides us, that we can only get up and speak as black to
black, white to white, Christian to Christian, Jewish to Jewish, [that] there
is no more that we can speak of anymore as Americans.
Well, I don't believe that! [applause]
And so, I spend a lot of my time speaking from the great principles of this
country's heritage to what I believe is still the great heart of this
country's people, a heart that is shaped by our allegiance to those common
principles, an allegiance which gives us the grounds for calling ourselves
one nation, one people.
But I do think, though, that the history and heritage of Black Americans has
a special bearing on the crisis of our time, epitomized by the abortion
issue. I do believe that those of us who look back to that heritage of
bondage and emancipation, of discrimination and liberation, those of us who
look back to that heritage have a special word to speak to America today.
Now, I guess I'm not necessarily in big company perhaps in that belief. I
can't resist the temptation to point out that I was reading not long ago an
account--now, I'm not sure whether it was his memoirs, or just an interview
that the now much-touted Colin Powell had given--in which he had said that he
grew up with a strong sense of self-worth because he did not look back to the
heritage of slavery, being as how he was of Jamaican ancestry.
Now, I've got to tell you that being from that group of Americans who does
look back to the heritage of slavery, I hope nobody will misunderstand it if
I took offense at that statement! And if I looked back on my own upbringing
and the kind of influences that I got from my parents and so forth, you know,
one of the things that I learned during the course of that, from the common
sense of my parents, was that the injustices done to you don't reflect on
your character, but rather on the character of those who perpetrate them; and
that those who are the victims of injustice don't have to sit around worrying
about their self-worth, since it is far more a reflection on the worth of
those who oppress than on the oppressed.
And he may not understand this. Far from looking back on the heritage of
black Americans and getting a sense of concern about my self-worth, I have,
over the years, and especially as my understanding and appreciation of that
heritage has grown and deepened, I have come away with such a sense of pride,
of decent pride, as is hard for me to express.
A sense of decent pride that is, of course, connected with something else
that is very important in that heritage, and that is the faith of black
Americans--their sense that in the midst of all the woes of this world, of
all the deep oppressions and physical brutalities of slavery, and in the
midst of everything that tore people from their families and husbands and
wives apart, and siblings apart, and everything that brutalized, and
everything that denigrated and dehumanized or sought to dehumanize people. In
the midst of all of that, there was always a burning flame and kernel of faith
that kept fast to the belief that whatever disorders and injustices dominated
in this worldly life, there is indeed a God who is a God of all--of master
and slave, of white and black, of oppressor and oppressed. And it is in the
hand of that God, and that God alone, that truth is held, and hope is held,
and justice is held.
And you see, that is a heritage that speaks deeply, deeply to what I think is
the real disease of our time. It's a word we Americans need to hear, because
we've come to that point in our history when we've really started to
misunderstand ourselves--to believe that somehow or another we are a people
whose greatness consists in the things that the world most admires about us;
it consists in the mighty armies and military power and missiles and the
mighty technological and scientific advances and the wonderful economic boons
and prosperity that we have witnessed. All of that is the greatness of
America. And you have people who go around and say, "Well, that's the
American Dream." And they talk about it in terms of dollars and cents,
and what kind of house you live in, and what kind of car you drive, and how
much you make at your job. And that's supposed to be the measure of your
success and this nation's greatness.
And they get it all wrong. Because, all of those things which the world
admires did not come about because we are a people founded upon the principle
that the be-all and end-all life is material prosperity. That's not our
principle at all. Indeed, if we stand together as Americans, we do it on the
basis of those principles that were laid down by our Founders at the
beginning--principles that made it clear that the aim and end of justice and
of human social life was not something that could be measured in dollars and
cents or any other material terms. The foundation of it all was the firm
belief that Jefferson put down in that great Declaration of Independence,
when he said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
Interesting, isn't it, the premise of America is, itself, a premise that puts
first and foremost, not the desire for power or money or any other material
thing; it puts first and foremost our faith in God and in the power of God,
and in the creation of God, who is presented in that great Declaration as the
foundation of all justice and freedom and right in this land. And that truth
which we rest on as a people corresponds, doesn't it, to that truth which, in
the midst of all the oppression in slavery, black Americans held on to.
That's why--and I don't usually talk about this, but I wrote this book,
"Masters of the Dream," and the title may strike some people as
strange. When it first started out, it had a different title, I think it was
something like "Liberal Slavery," or whatever--that was the
outlook, you know, that was sort of getting a part of the idea, anyway. And
yet, as I became more engrossed in the work and research that I had to do on
it, and it got to be clearer and clearer to me what one really had to say as
you looked over the broad scope of the history of black Americans.
I was more and more put in mind of the Biblical story: the Biblical story
that was, of course, such an important inspiration and such an important
symbol of hope for Black people in America. The story of the Israelites in
bondage. The story of the Israelites delivered from slavery in Egypt, which
became the foundation of so many wonderful spirituals, and so much of the
folklore even of black Americans.
But we often forget where that story begins. That story begins in Genesis as
the story of Joseph. And it is from Joseph, of course, that the title of the
book is taken--where, just before he is sold into bondage by his brothers,
there is that wonderful phrase in the Bible (which, I also noticed recently,
was inscribed on the memorial in Tennessee where Martin Luther King was
killed), and it reads, "Behold the dreamer cometh." Or to translate
it more literally, "Look, here comes the Master of Dreams." And
that was Joseph. The Master of Dreams. The one who, in the midst of slavery
and bondage, could still see more clearly than others the real significance
of our human dreams.
And so, it seems to me that out of the depth of slavery and bondage, black
Americans have been able to see, if they will only look, more clearly the
real meaning of freedom.
For, you see, when all is said and done, freedom isn't that which you lose
when someone fastens chains around your ankles and your wrists. It is that which
you retain when you hold fast to those chains that bind you to the God of
all. And that's a freedom that none can take away.
And so, in the midst of everything oppressive, in the midst of being stripped
down of all the things this world admires and thinks of as so important,
somehow black Americans held on to a kernel of human dignity that wasn't just
an abstraction, either. It was a kernel that allowed people in the midst of
slavery still to hold fast to idea of family, to still to hold fast to the sense
that whatever else was going on, people could respect one another, and can
reach out their hands to one another as brother to brother, sister to
brother, brother to sister as one large family in oppression.
That led to the kind of results one saw when folks marveled during the Civil
War; all the people who were involved in philanthropy who had expected to see
all sorts of starving ex-slave children in the South, and they got there, and
they found instead that recently freed ex-slaves, who had nothing, had
nonetheless taken in the orphans, and were caring for them as their
own--proving again, doesn't it, that charity comes not from the riches of our
wallets, but from the riches of our heart.
And so does freedom.
And that's why I think, in fact, that Colin Powell is especially wrong.
You've got to know, this is just a parentheses--do you mind if I have a
little digression here? It's just a parentheses, but it was on reading that
and reflecting on some other things, that I decided that even if Colin Powell
wasn't a liberal . . . which he's turning out to be [laughter] . . . I
wouldn't back him.
Because, I refuse to sit still while we elect the first black President of
the United States, and he has no respect for the heritage of Black America. I
won't do it! [applause] I won't do it! [applause]
But it's important right now that we all respect that. Because, you see, what
comes through in all of that is an understanding that the American Dream is
not about the money. And it's not about the material prosperity. It is about
the moral dignity that we as human beings are supposed to have, and that our
Founders said we have--not as a consequence of human will and choice and
action, but as a consequence of God's will and God's choice and God's action,
well beyond human power. [applause] That is what this nation is about.
Now, I go through all of that, because, you see, if that's our essence, if
that's who we are as a people, if we are indeed a people of the Declaration,
a people whose nation is, in fact, dedicated to something that doesn't close
us off from the rest of humankind, but instead opens us, because we usually
symbolize something about the possibilities . . .
What if all human beings were to get together and were to live in cooperation
with each other on the principle that we had to, each and all of us, respect
the basic and intrinsic worth and dignity that God had imparted to each of
us. And what if, living with that sense of mutual respect, we stood in fear
of the will and authority of the Creator from whose hand we derive our rights
and freedoms? Living under such a charter of liberty, and in that fear of
God, we could indeed construct a human society in which, despite all of our
differences, we could some how stand and live and
work together, one human race. Now this is, and has long been, a hope
somewhere hidden in the hearts of humankind.
Now, don't you see, this nation is the manifestation of that hope. In the
course of our history, we have gathered people from every race and creed and kind
to the shores of this land. We have had people come in response to that dream
of human dignity. And we have had people brought in violation of its
principles. But we stand here now like a Noah's ark of nations. A people of
peoples, a nation of nations, a true coat of many colors.
And in that sense, we are like the guardians of human hope. The trustees of
mankind's better destiny. A nation dedicated to the principle that allows
human beings to live together in dignity and liberty and peace.
And that principle of the Declaration, that self-evident truth that our
rights come from God, is the foundation of it all. It is the foundation of
our liberty, the foundation of our rights, the foundation of our right to
vote, and our government by consent. And it is the foundation of our special
mission and destiny before the world.
Now why do I go through all of this? See, I go through it all because I think
it's important that, when we are thinking about the most important issues we
face, we do so in the context of the most important principles we represent.
'Cause I think in the end that's how you define the most important issues,
isn't it? The most important threats, the most important dangers, the most
important problems are those which especially undermine and threaten those
principles which are most important to your existence.
And I believe that's why we're here tonight. I know that's what keeps me
going every day. And I also know that it is the reason why the cause in which
we have gathered must ultimately prevail. For, this is the simple truth of
America's situation. We must reject the destructive logic of abortion, or we
will lose our Republic. There is no middle ground. This Republic rests on the
premise that rights and freedom come from God. The notion of abortion rights
rests on the premise that the humanity and rights of the child come from its
mother's choice. And you can't have it both ways. It's either human choice or
God's choice that is the foundation for our liberty. (long applause) Only
And looking back to the heritage from which, if you'll forgive me, I
especially speak this evening, I have to take this really seriously. Because
when somebody approaches me and says, "OK, it's safe to rely on human
judgment to determine who's free and who's not, who has rights and who
doesn't, who's human and who's not. Don't worry. We'll take care of it. We'll
be really careful in that judgment. You see, we'll have panels of experts
who'll base their decisions, I'm sure, on 'scientific criteria.'"
And then I think back on the history of this country and I say, well, forgive
me, but I remember a time when this was done before. And it wasn't done with
anything like that kind of care. As a matter of fact, people just kind of
looked at folks that were different and darker and they said, "You are
not human! We will enslave and oppress and brutalize you!" And so, the
last time folks took it upon themselves to say that it was popular
sovereignty, and human votes, and human choice, that determine the dignity of
other human beings, and that some have the right to read others out of the
human race for purposes of oppressing and destroying them, black Americans
were on the wrong side of their judgment! [applause] We were the destroyed
and the oppressed and the brutalized and the murdered. [applause]
And I do not understand how anyone who looks back on that heritage, and knows
that that injustice came from the principle that lies at the heart of this
abortion rights movement, how can anyone then stand on the same side as those
who are resurrecting the principle of oppression and slavery that destroyed
my black ancestors!!! [applause] It does not make any sense. (long applause)
And yes, it's true. The auction blocks and the slave pens were pretty dirty
smelly places, you know. So people put them over in a part of town, as
Lincoln would often point out, nobody went to. They didn't want to have
anything to do with the folks who were involved with it. The slave masters
and overseers and auctioneers, and so forth, were considered the lowest of
the low in society at that time.
Now, these days, this principle manifests itself in a somewhat different way,
right? People come forward and they don't say "auction blocks,"
even though they traffic in human life and destroy the dignity of both the
aborted child and the woman. We don't hear them called
"auctioneers" and "vendors," and so forth. No, they're
"doctors." We call these places of death, we call them
But you know what bothers me, have you ever looked back (it's not that far
either) to the history of Germany during the '30's? And have you looked into
the programs that they instituted under the Nazis, where they took people who
were disabled, or defective in their eyes, whom they had decided, on the
basis, by the way, of very, very studiously developed "scientific
criteria" (they called it "science," you know)--and on the
basis of this "scientific criteria" they had determined that some
life was "unworthy" of life, and that some people were not people
at all, but "subhumans" who, if they only
had the "consciousness of human beings," would want to die anyway.
And so they took them to "clinics," and they murdered them. And
they called them "clinics," and they're all dressed up in nice
white smocks and had "doctor" in front of their name. And, oh,
that's how "Doctor Mengele" had came by
it. But we know that these were really the doctors of death. The doctors of
human degradation. Learned only in the ways in which humankind destroys its
And we stand now in a society where, in this abortion doctrine, the same
principle has emerged. And it is dressed up in the same white smock, and it
wears the same language of pseudo-scientific discussion.
Did you notice that it was debated in the Congress recently, where folks were
standing up to talk about partial-birth abortions? And in the Congress,
amongst those who were voting to retain this, and in the newspapers, and on
the television, people . . . what did they refer to it as? . . . they called
it this "rare abortion technique," this "rarely used medical
procedure." You'll notice how carefully they avoided describing this
"medical procedure." Because most of us, I think, we hear the word
"medicine" and "medicate," and we think "save,"
we think "heal," we think "respect life."
We don't usually think, "suck out the brains of a helpless innocent
child and crush its head." No, when we hear that, we usually think,
"torture and brutality and degradation!" We usually think,
"terror and monstrosity." We don't call it "medicine,"
and we don't hide it behind the language of "medical procedure."
But that which is gruesome and repulsive to us in the facts of its
description ought to be more gruesome and repulsive to us in the truth of its
moral principles. (long extended applause)
And so, we are as a nation in one of those periods when we are called upon to
decide, not just about what we do, but about who we are. And that question
which was put to us in beginning and in the Civil War and in the Civil Rights
Movement is back again before us as a nation, "Are we still a people of
the Declaration? Are we still a people based on that premise that all human
beings, the high the low, the educated the uneducated, the strong and the
weak, the vulnerable and those less vulnerable, we are all entitled to the
same respect for our God-given moral dignity?" Are we still that people?
See, I don't see how we can answer "yes" when we are telling our
women that they have the right to kill the most innocent amongst us, simply
because they are voiceless, and simply because they are helpless, and simply
because they are entirely dependent on another.
It's interesting, isn't it? If you were to imagine the scene where somebody
comes along, and there is a sweet defenseless child. And if that person were
to take that weak defenseless child and smack it around for a while and ring
its neck, we actually think that that is an instance of the worst kind of
abuse, don't we? I mean, we react against that more than we would if that
same child were a robust healthy individual capable of defending himself, and
in the midst of an equal battle and fight, one of them happens to get their
block knocked off. You know, we watch the one as a contest we can even see
with a certain amount of pride. You know, there can even be some nobility in
one of those contests. In the other, there is just the indecent indignity of
Now, somebody tell me, if that's true, if we understand that strength
destroying weakness--that sense that someone wholly dependent on you has been
destroyed by you, in your power--is actually the thing that repulses us most
as an abuse of power, how can we then recommend this to the women in our
society, that they should take advantage of the fact that wholly within their
power there is this helpless life, and because of that dependency, we will
tell them they have the right to destroy it?
Doesn't this stand all decency an morality on its
head? Doesn't it mark us as a people no longer sensitive even to the most
rudimentary moral principle?
And then we have the nerve to wonder, when we look around our society and see
the things that depend upon a rudimentary sense of moral principle, falling
to pieces. Our families fall to pieces, and the peace of our streets falls to
pieces, and our schools and class rooms begin to fall to pieces under the
shadow of fear and violence. And our children, most of all, seem to have lost
their way so that more than anywhere else in this society, crime and violence
and mutual brutalization are increasing among the young. Hasn't it occurred
to anybody yet that they are only doing to one another what we have granted
permission to their elders to do to them? Hasn't it occurred to anyone yet
that all this posturing about being against child abuse, when you will
support the worst kind of child destruction, marks us as a people without
decency or common sense?
It doesn't work. And it especially doesn't work, if I may say so, when you
take those folks in our society who come from a heritage of oppression, black
Americans, and you recommend this abortion holocaust to them. And you have
leaders locking arms with the folks who are part of the Abortion Rights
League and walking down the street in support and defense of this holocaust
that is claiming more victims more consistently than slavery or the Klu Klux Klan ever did--and doing it not through the
instruments of external destruction, no, no, no. No white-sheeted mobs with
hoods over their heads stringing people up from the trees. No. No, need. No
need for others to come in and murder when you have somehow persuaded those
who ought to be the guardians of the future to murder that future in the
I have come to the conclusion, though, and it's the thought I want to leave
you with this evening, that we have actually won this battle. We have. We are
at that moment, and it does happen sometimes you know (you can read the
accounts of some famous battles in human history where folks had actually won
the battle, and they didn't know it, so they stopped fighting and let the
enemy get away). Really, we have won this battle. How can I tell? I can tell
that we have won this battle, because the man right now who is the champion
of the pro-abortion cause, sitting there in the White House, has told us that
abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare."
Well if it's good, why does he want it rare? [hoots and laughter]
If it's just, why does he want it rare? If it's not evil, why does he want it
rare? Because in his conscience he knows that it's wrong.
Now, of course if he's listening to his wife--she gave an interview in
"Newsweek," or wherever it was, and she said, "It's wrong,
abortion is wrong." And he appointed Henry Foster who had done all these
abortions, and what does he stand up and say? "I abhor abortion."
You don't abhor something that's right, do you? Generally speaking I don't,
do you? [laughter] No!
You see, the battle for America's conscience is over. And just as by the time
you get to the 1850's most descent minded Americans had decided that slavery
was wrong, so most descent minded Americans have decided and know in their
heart that abortion is morally wrong. [applause] We have won that battle.
[applause] No more arguments. Oh, you know the rabid folks will still try to
stand up and say, "What about population control?" and so forth.
But it has occurred to a lot of people that controlling the population by
murdering people is not generally to recommend itself. [laughter]
No. People know it's wrong. But the problem we have now, my friends, is that
folks want to deny that it is a public wrong, you see. They do. And the other
day, during this partial-birth abortion debate, they had a lady on who had
had this "medical procedure." And she was saying that she thought
that this was a "private decision," and so forth and so on. And
even my daughter Maya, 10 years old, and of good heart, could hear that and
understand that, as she put it, that would be like saying that we could take
her upstairs in the bedroom and murder her and that would just be a private
You see, nobody believes this. But that's what we're saying. We're saying
that it's a "private judgment."
Now, of course, that's tied to other things we talk about as private
judgment. Because in this society we've come to the conclusion that all
things having to do with sexual relations, that's a private matter. Nobody
gets to bother with that. So what you do and who you do it with and so forth
and so on, that's nobody's business but your own. That's what everybody's
trying to say. And they're trying to treat abortion as if it falls in that
category. Just a "private moment where the woman decides what to do with
her body." We will ignore the fact that there is another life involved
in this decision. And we'll ignore the fact that there is more than that: another
equal partner in the making of that life, shut out of the whole business.
They want to claim it's just private judgment.
But think back to where we began this evening. We began by thinking through
the fundamental principles of our common identity, didn't we? And we realized
that as a people we have all this diversity, we have all these differences,
all these things might tend to tear us apart and disintegrate us. And we have
as the basis of our unity our allegiance to that principle which says that our
humanity, rights, and freedom come from God, and not from human choice. And
here we are confronted with the argument that a claim to abortion rights that
is based on the notion that ignoring those fundamental principles is just a
matter of private conscience, should be acceptable. So it's just a matter of
private conscience, whether we observe our principles of justice or disregard
How can this be true? You see, I think that turns the clock a long way back,
because then, if I wanted to own you as a slave, why wouldn't that be a
matter of private conscience? See, that abrogates and disregards the
fundamental principles on which this nation is based. If our observance of
those principles is just a matter of private conscience--"Hey, so what!"--don't
you see where this leads? It turns the clock back utterly on all the progress
we have made toward a greater respect of those principles which are indeed
the foundation of our common life. If we accept that abortion is a private
wrong, then we destroy the notion that there is anything such as public
wrong. We destroy the notion that we have any claim to rights that any other
human being must respect. This is the most devastating blow we could land
against this nation. And this is what abortion represents.
And just as Lincoln understood that we could not survive half slave and half
free, so we cannot survive while there is murder in the womb. That's how
fundamental this is. Can't be put on the back burner. And there were people
who thought slavery could, too--not, of course, the slaves; and therefore, I
believe, not for a moment the descendants of those slaves.
So, I am honored and proud to be here to represent those who come from that
heritage of slavery, but who understand that at its heart there were not slaves,
but people destined by God for true freedom, and who understand, as well,
that in the womb there is not "tissue," but a person destined by
God for human life.
And in that heritage, we must do what those who were struck by the horrors of
the auction block did. We must pray, and we must write, and we must struggle,
and we must march, and we must face, in the end, even the highest cost,
because there are things in this life that are worth fighting and dying for,
and there have been those in the past who fought and died for them so that we
could sit here in our peace and prosperity and contemplate their sacrifice.
On the battlefields of war, and on the battlefields of heart and spirit, they
suffered and died, those who marched in the streets and spoke up in the
churches, they are the forbears of this cause. And as there were those of
every persuasion in America who stood with them against injustice when the
injustice was slavery, so today we must all stand together--black and white,
and Christian and Jew, Americans all--against the injustice that shadows now
our future as we destroy our children.
I think we will come out of this just as we came out of that. Because, in my
heart, I still believe that God's hand is on America. But you know, that
could have something to do, again, with being a black American. For, we are a
people who have been through hell and lived to sing about it. And that means
that we know that our God is a God of justice and power, and that the gates
of hell cannot prevail against His will.
And so, in this, we bring a special dedication, and I hope that in some small
measure I can share that dedication with all of you. Take heart from the
flame. For, if those who toiled in bondage and seemed without hope can today
struggle in freedom to bring life and hope to the unborn, you must know that
God is, indeed, in His heaven and our cause will prevail. Take that hope with
you, and never let it be extinguished. For, He waits on the other side of
this struggle to give us that word we long to hear: "Well done, My good
and faithful servant." And if we struggle long enough and hard enough,
we shall have deserved His praise, and we may live in the hope that our
nation shall deserve it, as well.
[extended standing ovation]