William McGurn Full Speech and Video From SFLA Gala:Last night, we hosted our second annual Gala fundraiser. We were honored to have William McGurn, Wall Street Journal editorial board member and a former speechwriter for George W. Bush give the keynote. Mr. McGurn was presented with the Students for Life Defender of Life award last night. His remarks in full and a full video of his speech can be viewed below.
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Students for Life
March 20, 2018
Thank you for those kind words, Kristan. Brendan, thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into this evening. And thank you all for the honor of this award.
When I was asked to speak tonight, I asked Kristan what I should speak about. She said, “about five minutes.” That’s sound advice. The Ten Commandments fit on two stone tablets. The Gettysburg address was 271 words.
It reminds me of something attributed to Harry Truman. Someone once asked him, “How long does it take you to prepare one of your speeches.”
Truman answered that it depended on the length of the speech. “If it is a 10-minute speech,” he said, “it takes me all of two weeks to prepare. If it is a half-hour speech, it takes me a week. If I can talk as long as I want, it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.”
My friends, you will all be relieved to know that I’ve put a full two weeks into preparing this evening’s remarks.
Tonight I want to speak about where we are in building the culture of life. But before I do, I’d like to tell you a little about myself. Because the most important fact about me is that I am the father of three girls. Counting my wife – who by the way was a member of American Collegians for Life back when she was at St. Joe’s in Philly and that’s what you were called – it makes me the lone male in my house.
A good friend describes my situation this way: Blessed art thou among women.
My three girls were each adopted from China. So the circumstances of my fatherhood is somewhat unique: I am at once an ethnic, gender and racial minority under my own roof.
But here’s what’s important: Whatever happiness my family enjoys – that we even are a family – we owe to three women in China whom we do not know and will probably never meet. In a culture that promotes and even forces abortion, each of these women chose life. My little family owes them a debt that cannot be repaid, except to lead lives worthy of their sacrifice.
When George W. Bush was elected to a second term, I went to the White House to serve as his chief speechwriter. We’d just adopted our youngest, Lucy. Imagine what it was like for me to see my daughter go from lying in a crib in Chinese orphanage to sitting on the lap of the President of the United States.
The first speech I wrote for President Bush was his address to the 2005 March for Life. When I left in 2008, the March for Life for that year was the last speech I would write for him. And let me tell you: I am proud to have served in a White House that stood for life.
As I look out at this sea of young faces, I realize that, for some of you, this is all ancient history. I’ve been prolife before most of you were even born. Now, when I was your age and my mom and dad and their friends would used the Before-You-Were-Even-Born line on me, I thought them dreadful old geezers.
Now I am one of these geezers. But among the great luxuries of geezerhood is that you get to take pleasure in things you are told you shouldn’t. And a big reason I take great pleasure in Students for Life is this: You annoy so many people who deserve to be annoyed.
Your signs rightly proclaim, “We are the prolife generation.” But by everything Americans were told about abortion the past fifty years, this should not be true. In fact, you shouldn’t even exist.
When in 1973 Roe v. Wade overturned the abortion laws of all 50 states, the New York Times called the ruling a “historic resolution of a fiercely controversial issue.” Its editorial suggested the Supreme Court had brought “an end to the emotional and divisive public argument.”
And yet … and yet. Some 45 years later, here you are, more committed to defending the unborn than the generations before you. Somehow you didn’t get the message. And I confess I take an almost illicit pleasure in this.
No one in this room tonight needs a lecture on the preciousness of human life. That’s why you are here. You know something else as well. That just as the culture of life requires institutions and arguments and commitments to sustain it, abortion has its own culture. And so much of it is built on nonsense.
In my industry, the media, you are often dismissed as nut jobs who can’t think for yourselves and oppose abortion because the Bible or some preacher tells you to. Let me fill you in on something experience has taught me: The abortion culture has its own orthodoxies, saints and dogmas, and they are rigid and do not stand up well to questioning or reason. Let me outline a few of them:
A mom looking a sonogram can call her unborn child her baby if she plans on keeping it. But if she’s planning to terminate, the same child becomes a “fetus.” This, we are told, is science.
Abortion is nowhere mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, a majority of justices on the Supreme Court discovered that abortion is not only a liberty, but a constitutional liberty – an extension of a constitutional right to privacy which, like abortion, also appears nowhere in the constitution. This, we are told, is sound legal reasoning.
CBS News last year reported that Iceland was “on pace to virtually eliminated Down syndrome.” Of course, it isn’t eliminating Down syndrome at all. What Iceland is eliminating are unborn children found to have it. This, we are told, is what advanced societies do.
On campuses across America, as you well know, your generation often builds prolife displays to convey your point of view to your fellow students. In many case, often, they are vandalized or torn down by other members of the college community. This, we are told, is tolerance and openness to other views.
In like manner, Planned Parenthood has three hundred or so chapters on campus. You have almost four times as many. Yet the disparity goes largely unmentioned in our media. This, we are told, is objective reporting.
You hear these things, and they don’t sit right with you. You put your hand to the belly of a pregnant woman, and you know that what’s inside is a life, no a choice. You see a beating heart, and you know it belongs to another human being.
So when you meet a young woman struggling with an unplanned or unwanted or out-of-wedlock pregnancy, you know: This woman deserves better than the cold front door of a Planned Parenthood clinic.
You also know, or are finding out, that it is not always easy to live the culture of life. Human beings are messy and complicated.
But no one ever said life is easy. What we say is that life is beautiful. Even when – maybe especially when – it’s messy and complicated.
Hubert Humphrey once said that the test of a society is “how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
You hold America to that test. And never forget this: Amid the soul-sucking cult of self that leaves so many people today feeling so dreadfully alone and unloved, your work for the least among us makes you attractive -- even to those who may not share your beliefs and cannot explain why.
Why should this be? Because life is beautiful, and never more so than when you look past human frailties and often ugly conditions to behold see the inherent dignity and beauty of another human being.
So let me end with a story that gets back to my own college days. Way back in ancient times, when I was a freshman at Notre Dame, I went to the 1977 March for Life by signing onto a bus from a local church. Sitting on that long bus ride with me was a senior from Saint Mary’s, whom I did not know. From our two campuses, we were it. The two of us.
This January my two daughters -- one from Notre Dame and one from Saint Mary’s -- traveled that same 15 hours by bus from South Bend to Washington for the March for Life. Here’s the difference. This year they had 19 buses and 65 faculty and more 1,000 of their fellow students going with them.
This isn’t my story. This is your story. And thanks to Students for Life, it is a story we see repeated in this room. You come from Seton Hall … Columbia … Kings College … Queens College … Fordham … Felician … The College of New Jersey and Peekskill High. And you are joined by thousands of other young people just like you on campuses from San Francisco to Boston.
So, my young friends, tonight I leave you with this: Be not afraid to challenge the orthodoxies of the abortion culture. Know how to fail without being discouraged. Have faith that the better angels of your fellow Americans will ultimately prevail.
And in all you do for the great cause of human life, be guided by the principle that has always separated the civilized from the savage: The strong protect the weak.
I thank you for your invitation. I applaud you for your courage. And I remind you: You are writing America’s future. Good night.
On Saturday, November 18th, Berea College kicked off its BereaFest Homecoming weekend and played host to many visiting alumni from various graduating classes. Berea is a small Christian college about 30 minutes south of Lexington, Kentucky. It’s school motto is: “God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth.” By virtue of its size, location, and Christian foundation, most objective observers would probably assume Berea is a welcoming place for Christian values, or at the very least, open to the free exchange of ideas.
Quite unfortunately, this was not the case when our “Stop the Violence” display visited the school this past Saturday. In order to reach the largest audience possible, our student leader decided to host the display during their Homecoming weekend. All appropriate procedures were followed, and the space was approved by the administration. About five minutes after finishing setup, an older couple stopped in front of us and asked, “Is this an anti-choice display?” We explained why we were there, to which the woman responded, “This is disgusting. I am a labor hall nurse and I am very pro-choice.” We invited her to dialogue with us, requests which she rudely shot down repeatedly until angrily stomping away.
This behavior was dishearteningly common throughout the day. Not long after this altercation, two administrators approached us, pulled our student leader aside for about 10 minutes, then returned asking us to move our entire display to a back hallway. At a private school, students basically check their free speech rights at the door, and we ha no choice but to comply. One of the administrators even helped us move our things.
During the few hours we spent in the back hallway, we had a number of interesting conversations. A current Berea student confronted us saying, “I don’t understand why you’re doing this when so many African-Americans are killed by police every day. And there are women who are here who have had abortions, and you’re telling them that it was violent?” Again, we asked if she would stay and have a conversation with us about it, but she was intent on getting us removed and took pictures of the display to show to “someone in charge.” By the end of the day, we found it refreshing yet incredibly ironic that one of our most productive conversations was with the student leader of the Planned Parenthood group on campus.
During our last half hour of the display, the Head of Alumni Relations approached us and insisted that we needed to censor the portion of our banner that depicts medical diagrams of abortion. She was far less polite than the other administrators from earlier in the day, demanding to know who exactly we all were and questioning our student leader’s right to invite outside groups on campus. She even made a remark that our presence there was grounds for them to re-evaluate their policies regarding which outside organizations are allowed to be invited on campus (can you say discrimination?). Our day at Berea was capped off by a visit by a school Public Safety Officer who was sent over to us – whether to check on our safety, or to assess whether we were threatening others, wasn’t clear.
Receiving this type of treatment from any educational institution that prides itself on being a safe haven for the exchange of ideas (which is to say, all colleges) is disappointing enough without the school also being Christian. One conversation we had informed us that the administration is trying to decide whether or not to remove Christianity from the school’s platform – not surprising considering the school hosts abortionist (and alumnus) Willie Parker annually. We pray for the angriest of the dissenters we met that day who may have been hurt by abortion at some point in their lives, and that the leadership at Berea will respect the free speech of the students on their campus.
The school did not immediately respond to requests for contact.