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Restoration Weekend's Annie Taylor Award: Zell Miller By: Zell Miller
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 05, 2003

This year's recipients of the Annie Taylor Award were human rights activist Armando Valladares and Georgia's Democratic Senator Zell Miller. The awards ceremony took place as part of the Center for Popular Culture's Restoration Weekend, Nov. 13-16, 2003. FrontPage Magazine brought you Valladeres' speech yesterday. We proceed to Senator Miller's speech today, following Charlie Black's introductory remarks. --The Editors.

Charlie Black: We now get to our second awardee of the evening and our last speaker of the evening. David Horowitz not only did me a favor by letting me get up here tonight to have the chance to introduce Senator Zell Miller; he inadvertently made me an honest man in the process. Let me tell you why.  

Some of you will remember that in early 2001 when President Bush announced the details of the across-the-board tax cut proposal, Senator Miller stood up and immediately offered to be the chief Senate sponsor of the Bush tax cut. This helped us get it passed.  But at the time, one of his former campaign consultants, a low-profile guy by the name of James Carville, stood up and demanded that Senator Miller return the $1,000 campaign contribution he had given him in the last campaign. Being graceful as always, Senator Miller had the campaign send James back a $1,000 check.  

Well, a couple of days later, I was on CNN or one of the cable shows, and this came up, and I said, "By God, this is unfair.  I will agree to make my first-ever contribution to a Democrat, and I'll write a check to Senator Miller for 1,000 bucks to replace the Carville contribution."  

You know what?  When I was thinking about this little talk to introduce you, Senator, I realized I never wrote you the check!  And now you're not running for anything again.  So I asked Senator Miller tonight at the table about his favorite charity, which is the Boy Scouts of America.  Before Judy and I leave Palm Beach, there'll be a $1,000 check to the Boy Scouts in honor of Senator Miller in the mail, I promise you.  I want to be an honest man.  

There are not many college professors or best-selling authors who would qualify for something like the Annie Taylor Award, but when Senator Zell Miller went to the U.S. Senate three years ago, he was a college professor teaching history and political science.  He's the author of six books, including one best-selling book that you're going to hear more about, I think.  But you all know him better for his 40 years of public service, including four terms as lieutenant governor of Georgia, two terms as governor of Georgia, and then, of course, in 2000, going to the United States Senate to represent the people of Georgia.  

What you really need to know about his 40 years as a teacher, professor, author, and public servant is that Zell Miller has been a consistent, dedicated Jeffersonian Democrat. He believes in freedom. He believes that you limit government in order to guarantee freedom. And for all of these 40 years, he has been the populist voice of the people of Georgia, who also believe in freedom.  

Now, he came to Washington, unusual circumstances, which I won't take the time to repeat. He wasn't looking for a job. Paul Coverdell died. He came to serve his state and serve the country, and he showed up, this Jeffersonian Democrat, and was told, “Welcome to the Democratic Caucus of the United States Senate, the most politically correct body in the United States of America.  Sit down and listen to what you're going to do."  

And guess what?  He didn't sit down; he stood up, and he didn't say he was against them. What he did say is he had certain principles, and he would pick and choose issue by issue, policy by policy, how these policies fit his Jeffersonian principles. No matter what he concluded, he would put those principles above party, above political correctness within the Democratic caucus, certainly above social acceptability in Washington, D.C., – and he did it, whether it was the Bush tax cuts, conservative judges or standing up against the tide of his own party on many other issues.  

You've seen it, you know him, and I'm very happy to have the opportunity to present to you the winner of the Annie Taylor Award, Senator Zell Miller.

Zell Miller: Thank you very much.

I first want to say to Ambassador Valladares that you are a brave and courageous man married to a brave and courageous wife, and I don't have any business even being on the same program that you are on, but I want you to know that I am honored and very humbled to be able to do so.  Thank you, sir, and God bless you.

I also want all of you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you and for the invitation to be here.  Thank you for fighting the good fight and supporting the worthy cause.  

I also want to say that I am honored to receive the Annie Taylor Award.  I am even more honored when I heard those who have received it in previous years, like my good friend Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina, and like Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, and the others who were mentioned.

Charlie gave me this opportunity to say a few words about a book, and so I think I will. Excuse the commercial, but I'll get into other things. I have written a book entitled, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat, and it's doing pretty well.  

I've been asked a lot lately, "Why write a book, old man? And why do you write that the Democratic Party is a national party no more? Why whack your own party up side the head?"  Maybe this is the best way to try to explain it.

In 1956, I was discharged from the Marine Corps, and armed with the GI Bill, I went to get a college education at the University of Georgia in Athens.  I was already married.  We already had two babies in diapers.  And the GI Bill was not quite enough to feed all four members of the Miller family, and so I first got a job out at this tavern -- in Georgia, we call it a "beer joint" -- where they serve hamburgers, and you draw a draft beer, and they paid me a dollar an hour. I worked there from five until midnight, five nights a week.  

Of course, I was looking already for bigger and better-paying jobs, and I happened to see this notice on a bulletin board there at the college that they were looking for someone to help tutor the Georgia football team, and that paid $3.75 an hour -- big money. So I applied and I got the job, and I started working with those guys. I earned every cent of that $3.75 an hour.  

I had this one big tackle, and I won't call his name because some of you that keep up with football, like Senator Jeff Sessions and others, would immediately remember him because he went on to play in the NFL. But anyway, he came up with a 58 in an English course, and you had to have a 60 to be eligible. And so I went to see his professor to see if there wasn't some extra work he could do, and he was a good Bulldog fan, and he wanted to help out. He said, "Tell you what we'll do. If you get him to memorize a passage from Shakespeare and come up here and repeat it to me, we'll count that as extra work, and we'll get him those extra two points."  

And so I got with him, and they had been studying MacBeth, and there's a passage in there right before they go into this battle, where this fellow says, "Lay on, MacDuff, and damn'd be he who cries, 'Hold, enough!'"  

Well, I thought that was pretty simple, and so we worked on it for about a week, and I took him up there to perform and get those extra two points, and he stood in front of the professor's desk, and I was over in the corner.  He started off just great.  He said, "Lay on, Mcduff," and then he forgot the rest of it.  And he looked at me over in the corner, he looked up at the ceiling and down at his shoes, and finally he started all over again, and he said, "Lay on, Mcduff, damn if I ain't had enough."  

So that's why not only in the winter of my discontent but in the winter of my life I decided to write another book. I suppose that I could've just smiled and kept my mouth shut and gone along and got along and become another piece of furniture over there in that august body, the United States Senate. I could've served my time and then quietly gone back to those Southern hills that I came from, but my conscience wouldn't let me.  

I saw a process and individuals who are so politicized and so polarized that they can't even put it aside in time of war; example, that memo from the Intelligence Committee in the Senate.  I saw a process where 59 votes out of 100 could not pass anything because 41 votes out of 100 can defeat it.  Explain that to Joe Six-Pack in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Explain that to James Madison, who wrote the Constitution.  I saw a process that takes individual thought and transforms it into a political partisan goose step, a process where you're expected to go along with the quarterback even when you know he's calling the wrong signals.  

And I found out that while the national Democrats have never seen a snail darter that they didn't want to protect, the one endangered species they don't care about saving at all is the Southern conservative Democrat.  These people understand nothing about the modern South, and that was clearly shown last week when Howard Dean announced his Southern strategy.  

The fact is the Democratic Party's bucket has got a hole in it. A political party cannot totally ignore one-third of the country, the fastest-growing one-third at that, and still call itself a national party.  National means nationwide, and the so-called leaders of this party cannot even come South and campaign for Democratic candidates.  They can't come because they do more harm than they do good.  I mean can you imagine Terry McAuliffe coming to Georgia and trying to help out a Democrat?  Or even Bill Clinton or Al Gore, for that matter? And certainly not Tom Daschle or Nancy Pelosi.  They all were considered too liberal and out of touch, and they are.  These leaders have been cannibalized by the extreme left-wing special interest groups, groups that care only about their narrow agenda that they put ahead of the party and that they put ahead of the country as they so clearly showed last fall in the debate over homeland security and as they have shown this week in the debate about the confirmation of judges.  

We're not through with that fight yet, and I urge you to be sure and be at lunch tomorrow when Senator Lindsey Graham is going to talk more about it.  We've got some ideas about how we're going to continue to fight this, and you'll be interested in hearing them.  

When I was governor, I was a tax-cutting governor, and I've been a tax-cutting senator.  And in the book, I've got a chapter on that entitled, "Return to Sender."  There are others -- one, as you know, is "Growing up with Guns," "By the Sweat of One's Brow," "To Secure these Rights," "Abortion and a God Above."  I've got one called, "The environment, Pristine and Commonsense," "The Days of Whine and Rose-colored Glasses."   

It was another old conservative Democrat by the name of Sam Erwin, who lived not too far away from where I lived in those mountains of North Carolina, who once said about the country's condition, "Everything that was nailed down is coming loose."  I believe that, and so do many others, and there are a lot of us.  

John Zogby, the pollster, says that one out of four voters today are valueless voters, and the South and Middle America are full of them, and they are virtually ignored by today's Democratic Party.  

In this book, I tell about how I grew up, born a Democrat, married a Democrat, in a strange place where you could tell a person's party affiliation by their last name, and where Democrats bought their groceries at one store, and Republicans bought their groceries at another store, as they had done for 100 years since the Civil War.  I tell about my break with my Democratic colleagues in Washington in a chapter called, "But Not This Kind of Democrat."

And I wrote a chapter called, "Onward, Freedom's Soldiers."  Nothing has pleased me more in recent weeks than seeing President Bush boldly making the central theme of his presidency the idealism of American foreign policy in areas where, as he put it, "Freedom does not flourish."  I think it shows the same kind of boldness that Ronald Reagan showed toward Communism in the Cold War, and I could not agree more.  

Throughout recorded history, there has often been this struggle between tyranny and freedom, and one is forced to make a choice between the two.  It always exacts a terrible toll, but thankfully, it also often results in the most glorious of payoffs when freedom wins.  It was as true as far back as 490 B.C.  The citizen soldiers of Athens, Greece, turned back on the plains of Marathon, a Persian army three times as big and much better equipped, and a man named Phidippides ran the 26 miles back to Athens with the news of the great victory.  

Marathoners still run that distance, but a far greater significance of this battle was that free men defeated the hired soldiers and slaves of a king.  And this victory led the way to Athenian democracy and all the good things that came with it -- equality of citizens, individual rights, trial by jury, freedom of speech.  The glorious payoff, also, was true that April day in 1775, when the local militia of the American colonists stood up to the British Redcoats at Lexington and Concord and fired that shot heard 'round the world.  

I thought recently that if some of today's presidential wannabees had been around that April night in 1775 when Paul Revere came riding by warning that, "The British are coming, the British are coming," they would've shouted out the window, "Shut up.  We're trying to get some sleep in here."  Or maybe they would've shouted out, "Shut up.  We're putting together a tax increase in here."  

The payoff was gloriously true in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln made his famous address at that Gettysburg ceremony where 7,000 men had died and their bodies lay rotting for months after the battle.  President Lincoln's few words explained better than anyone else ever has what the Civil War was all about.  "A test," he said, "of whether a new nation conceived in liberty," -- conceived in liberty -- "can long endure."  

It was true in 1917, when within just a few months more than nine million Americans volunteered to fight the Germans in World War One and turned the tide from possible defeat into an allied victory on the Western front.  My father was among them.  He died when I was two weeks old.  I never knew him, but I can remember wearing his coat with those sergeant stripes on it when I was so young; it dragged on the floor, and my arms did not extend more than halfway down its sleeves.  

The glorious payoff was true.  That late spring of 1940, because of a single strong voice, a magnificent and eloquent voice that would not let up in his opposition to Adolf Hitler, as evil a man as ever lived. As the clouds of war threatened, Winston Churchill repeated warned against the dangers of appeasement and pleaded that the evildoer be toppled and destroyed, but few were listening.  But then, finally, when only Britain was left, in desperation, Great Britain turned to Churchill as its prime minister, and with stirring oratory and unflinching courage, he led them out from under the heel of Hitler during Britain's finest hour.  

I had come to believe that unless America found its own version of Winston Churchill, that the same spirit of appeasement, the same kind of softness and self-indulgence would turn my country into a modern version of a land cowering before the world's mad bullies.  The signs were evident in the American people and in our leaders, and our will as a country was vanishing.  

I remember with disgust when we did nothing after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, killing six and injuring more than 1,000 Americans.  I was amazed in 1996 when 16 U.S. servicemen were killed in the bombing of the Khobar Towers, and still, we did nothing. When our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were attacked in 1998, killing 263 people, our only response was to fire a few missiles into an empty tent.

And then came September 11, 2001, the "worst day in our history," David McCullough has called it.  Nineteen men armed only with box cutters, the skill to pilot a jet aircraft, and a fanatical zeal changed forever the meaning of keeping our citizens safe.  In two hours, thousands of Americans were killed on our own soil and before our very eyes as we watched in horror.  

I went to the floor of the United States Senate and said our response should not only be swift; it must be sustained, that our will as a country was being tested, and that too often in the past, terrorist attacks have not been answered as forcefully as they should have.  My exact words were, "Bomb the hell out of them."  

Later, I was the only Democrat in the Senate who supported President Bush on Homeland Security and still later gave him my full support for the regime change in Iraq and told this true story to my colleagues.  

I was doing some work on my back porch in Young Harris, Georgia, tearing out a section of old stacked rocks, when all of a sudden, I uncovered a nest of copperhead snakes.  Now, a copperhead is poisonous; it will kill you.  It could kill one of my grandchildren.  It could kill one of my four great grandchildren who play around there all the time.  And, you know, when I discovered those copperheads, I didn't call Shirley, like I do about nearly everything else.  I didn't ask the city council to pass a resolution.  I didn't even call any of my neighbors.  I just took a hoe and knocked him in the head and killed him dead as a doorknob.  Now, I guess you could call it a unilateral action.  Or maybe a pre-emptive strike.  I took their poisonous heads off because they were a threat to me, and they were a threat to my home and to my family.  They were a threat to all I hold dear.  And isn't what this is all about?  

Few of freedom's soldiers have understood the lessons of history as well as Winston Churchill, who not only was a brave and daring soldier and not only a great political leader; he also won the Nobel Prize for writing history.  Perhaps then in these times, we should remember the question that Churchill framed to the world when he made his famous Iron Curtain speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946.  

He first reminded his audience that war and tyranny remained the great enemies of mankind.  And then he asked these questions.  "Do we not understand what war means to the ordinary person?  Can you not grasp its horror?"  The bluntness with which Churchill spoke about the threat at that time did not go over well in many quarters.  The American media did not want to hear this kind of talk.  They called Churchill a warmonger.  Even the usually gutsy Harry Truman denied knowing in advance what was in that speech and even suggested that Churchill probably should not have made it.  

But you know, Abraham Lincoln was just as blunt and just as realistic.  He once said, "You don't fight a war by blowing rosewater through cornstalks."  

These two men, each the greatest man of his century, knew the horrors of war.  But they also knew that war is sometimes necessary, that there is more to civilization than just comfortable self-preservation.  Soft-belly peaceniks believe war is politically pointless and that foreign policy is just some kind of fuzzy-feeling social work.  I reject that.  Sometimes, a short war must be fought to prevent a longer war.  Sometimes, hundreds must die in order to save thousands.  Sometimes, the long view of history must be taken.  

In my Senate office in the Dirksen Building in Washington, I have a three-by-five-foot painting of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. I had it behind my desk at the state capitol in Atlanta when I was governor.  To me, that image of six men raising an American flag on Mt. Suribachi in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought is one of the worlds' most vivid symbols of the price of freedom.  

Those flag-raisers were very, very young men.  They were just boys, really, from all corners of our country.  There was a coal miner's son from Pennsylvania; a tobacco farmer's son from Kentucky; a mill worker's son from New England; a dairy farmer's son from Wisconsin; one came out of the oil fields of Texas, and one was a Pima Indian at an Indian Reservation in Arizona.  Three of those boys would never leave that island and would be buried in that black volcanic ash; one would leave on a stretcher; and two would come home to live miserable lives of drunkenness and despair.  

As one looks at this image of courage and sacrifice, it is easy to miss what I consider to be one of the most important things about it.  There are six boys in it, but unless you look very, very closely, you see only five.  Only a single helping hand of one is visible.  

Most significantly, they are all virtually faceless.  Only a somewhat vague profile of one can be seen at all.  If you are like most Americans who have looked at this famous scene time and time again over the past six decades, you have missed that one important feature; one cannot really identify a single face.  But isn't that really the way it has always been with most of freedom's soldiers -- unknown and all-too-often unappreciated, faceless, nameless grunts who fight our wars to keep us free? I cannot help but marvel, where do we keep getting these young men and women?  Where do they come from?  It's amazing that our country produces them when we consider how many do not have the love of this country and a willingness to die for it.  

I am fed up with those Hollywood weenies like Martin Sheen and Sean Penn who make millions of dollars playing soldier in films and then in real life give the finger to those who really wear the uniform.  In the Marines, we had a name for folks like that.  We called them, among other things, "all gurgle and no guts."  

Someone once said that in the long course of world history, freedom has died in many ways.  Freedom has died on the battlefield, freedom has died because of ignorance and greed, but the most ignoble death of all is when freedom dies in its sleep.  

As Americans, as lovers of freedom, we must not allow that to happen.  We owe it to those who bore the burden and paid the price before us, and we also owe it to those who will come after us.  I believe that the next five years will determine the kind of country that my four grandchildren and four great grandchildren are going to live in, and I want a commander in chief who is a stand-up kind of person.  I want the kind of commander-in-chief leading this country who can make a decision and who does not suffer from paralysis analysis.  I want a commander in chief that can look out at the American people and say about Iraq, "We're not leaving," and you know he means it. 

God bless President Bush.  God bless America.  And thank you.

Sen. Zell Miller, D-GA, is a veteran and former governor of the state of Georgia. He was appointed to fill out the Senate term of the late Paul Coverdel.

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