Last year the speaker at the
This year, the speaker at the dinner last Sunday at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, attended by some 600 people, was Natan Sharansky himself:
Sharansky’s speech looked back at the moral clarity that produced the fall of the Soviet Union, and forward through George W. Bush’s decision to attend the Prague dissidents conference and meet personally with every one of the dissidents from 17 countries who attended. Standing before the group, he was living proof that a single individual could change the world.
Sharansky was followed by Hugh Hewitt, whose address was a masterful discussion of what he thinks will be the central issue in the coming election. His speech began (after some eloquent words of praise of Sharansky) as follows:
In 1978, when Mr. Sharansky was convicted wrongfully by an illegal regime, I was a graduating senior from Harvard, driving across the country to go to work for Richard Nixon in
. . . [T]here are so many parallels between the election of 2008 and the election of 1980 that I observed from San Clemente San Clemente, the Elba of at the time. America
I had gone out to ghostwrite a book for President Nixon . . . called “The Real War.” . . . .
It was, perhaps, in 1978-1979 the lowest point of the Cold War -- the point at which
seemed least likely to even win a stalemate. America
If you will recall, Cubans were throughout Africa and on the march; the Shah had fallen; shortly thereafter the Soviets would occupy Afghanistan; Americans were held hostage in Teheran; Mr. Sharansky was in the most infamous prison in the most dictatorial country in the world, on his way to exile eventually in Siberia. The future looked very, very bleak indeed . . I had sat at my commencement, in the rain, listening to Alexander Solzhenitsyn
tell us about A World Split Apart, and predicting that in fact the West would not survive. . .
Ronald Reagan’s candidacy was also in trouble. . . . Reagan was flaying around through early 1980 and it did not look, even though Carter was in trouble, that the Republicans could pull it together. . . . A lot of people think 1980 [was easy]. It was such a close thing if you go back and revisit it. . . . [I]t did not in fact break until October 28 of that year. . .
I bring that up because I believe we are in for the same kind of election. I believe that 2008 is going to be as closely run and as difficult . . . but for a very different reason. In 1980 Ronald Reagan presented optimism . . . against Jimmy Carter’s resigned defeatism . . . a belief that we could not rally ourselves and perhaps we could get to some sort of separate peace. This time it’s not defeatists . . .
This [election] . . . is really against fantasists -- against people who do not believe that the threat is what it is. . . . Our fellow citizens and our friends also felt as badly as we did about the events of [9/11]. But increasingly they have come to believe that it was a lucky one-off, a fluke, a tragedy, as opposed to the first massive expression of a very sinister and very powerful will . . . intent not on peaceful coexistence . . . but on the relentless expansion of their radical vision of Islam.
[T]he Republicans are going to be saying a very hard thing to hear -- that we are locked in an existential struggle . . . and that indeed it is going to be a long and difficult and often bloody 20-30 years ahead of us. That’s a very tough hard message to sell in 60 seconds . . . especially when Democrats insist on saying it’s not so, and that we can retreat from Iraq without the carnage following us home, and that we can pretend that the radicalization of the Islamic population in Europe is neither far advanced nor continuing.
Toward the end of his speech, Hewitt presented his strategy for victory, with a reading list to go with it:
[W]e are only going to win if we make a sophisticated argument, based upon facts, and we do it every single day, and we do it day in and day out.
It’s why I recommend the book “Looming Tower” to everyone who will listen to me. You’ve got to understand what Sayed Qtub was saying and how it has spread and how it has metastasized . . . and it’s not about poverty in the Middle East, and it’s not about the West Bank, and it is not about
. It is about a relentless ideological understanding of Islam that cannot be treated with. That book does it better than any. Gaza
I’d recommend “America Alone” . . . Mark Steyn’s effort to alert the world that it isn’t getting better in
Europe; it is getting worse, and it’s getting worse in a hurry . . . .
I’d recommend Robert Kaplan’s “Imperial Grunts” . . . the story of the American military . . . an astonishing group of extraordinarily capable men and women who indeed are protecting the peace and preserving liberties -- and that is a reason for optimism.
I would also recommend the book that President Bush recommended . . . “The Case for Democracy” by Mr. Sharansky . . . It’s why the Bush Doctrine is . . . the only opportunity we have, the only rational choice, which is what Bernard Lewis said in Newport Beach Temple where I went to hear him a few weeks ago: either we will bring them freedom, or they will kill us . . . and he is right.
And finally one other book -- “Alone,” which is the story of the Thirties, the story of Winston Churchill by William Manchester -- the story of how Churchill never stopped doing one thing, which was say listen to what Hitler is saying, take him seriously, he means what he says and you cannot negotiate with him. It took a very long time and an extraordinarily terrible loss in history, for people to believe Churchill. . . .
Recently our friends at MEMRII put out a pamphlet “The Doctrine of Mahdism” and . . . I recommend you download it. It is the ideology of Mesbah-e Yazdi and Ahmadinejad. And people need to know that unlike the Thirties, horrible as they were, the next nut who gets their hands on weapons and begins offensive war is not going to have four and five years to roll out their divisions. It will be a flash of light . . . There is no Atlantic fortress to come to the rescue. . . .
That’s what we have to tell the American people repeatedly from now until November 2008. And it may not be until Election Day that we discover that they indeed were listening.
Hewitt ended his speech with an anecdote of historical optimism:
[A] week ago I was in
Rome, and I always go to the Forum when I am in , and heading toward the Forum you see the Arch of Titus. Of course Titus destroyed the Rome , and thought he had subjugated the Jews for all time, and scattered them to the winds. Nobody knows who Titus is. The Jews are back in Temple . Jerusalem
There were some 600 people in attendance at the dinner, including some very prominent people: William Daroff, National Vice President of the United Jewish Communities; Avi Davis of the American Freedom Alliance; Roz Rothstein and Esther Renzer of StandWithUs; Si Frumkin, longtime Soviet Jewry activist; Doris Wise Montrose, President of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors Los Angeles; Senior Pastor of Simi Hills Christian Church Kevin Dieckilman; Mark Paredes from the Morman Church community and the American Jewish Congress; Shimon Erem, Gary Dalin and Patricia Johnson of the Israel Christian Nexus; David Justman and Adam Schreiber from JINSA (the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs); Michael Warder, Vice Chancellor of Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and Jay Hoffman from the Pepperdine Board; David Horowitz and others from the David Horowitz Freedom Center; and Dan Polisar, President of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem (when Natan Sharansky now works). This is a partial list. Brad Greenberg covered the event for the Jewish Journal and posted a nice write-up at his blog the next morning.
StandWithUs Esther Renzer (L) and Roz Rothstein (C) with Natan Sharansky:
David Horowitz with Natan Sharansky
California RJC Director Larry Greenfield addressing Natan Sharansky after his speech:
"Thank you Natan for your leadership, and your inspiration, and for being with us this evening. Please return to Israel first with our best wishes and our heartfelt support for the families of Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev, and for the citizens of Sderot, and throughout the Jewish state, and know that we are not only there in spirit, but our RJC mission to Israel will be with you in 3 weeks."
Natan Sharansky with the editor of Jewish Current Issues
The dinner was sold out. [Note: the first two photos above, and the photo of Larry Greenfield, are by Glenn Marzano; the rest are by JCI].