In each of the 4 years that I have been a member of the state Assembly, we have had many “celebrations” on the Assembly floor. These “celebrations” are orchestrated by the Democrats who control the House and often involve singing and dancing. Every one of my 4 years have seen substantial celebrations of Cinco de Mayo (Commemorates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla), St. Patrick’s Day (for the patron Saint of Ireland) and Chinese New Year’s Day, among others. But never once have we celebrated America’s Independence Day, the 4th of July.
So, this year, Republican Assemblyman Jay LaSuer of San Diego arranged for Vietnam war hero Admiral Jeremiah Denton to come to California to be a part of a 4th of July ceremony. As you may know, Admiral Denton was a Navy pilot in Vietnam who was shot down and spent 8 years in a Vietnamese prison. In 1966 while in prison, he was interviewed by North Vietnamese television in Hanoi after torture to get him to “respond properly.” During this interview, he blinked his eyes in Morse code to spell out the word “torture.” He was asked about his support for the war in Vietnam to which he replied “I don’t know what is happening now in Vietnam, because the only news sources I have are Vietnamese. But whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it, I support it, and I will support it as long as I live.” Four of his 8 years in prison were spent in solitary confinement. He later wrote the book When Hell was in Session, chronicling his experience in Vietnam.
When he stepped off the plane after being released from prison in 1973, he said “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country in difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our Commander-in-Chief for this day. God bless America.” He was later elected to the U.S. Senate from his home state of Alabama, becoming the first retired Admiral ever elected to that body. I could go on and on about his accomplishments.
Suffice it to say, Jeremiah Denton is unquestionably an American hero.
The Democratic leadership refused to allow him on the Assembly floor and there will be no 4th of July celebration. A memo from the Democratic speaker’s office said “problems have arisen both with regards to the spirit, content and participation of various individuals with regard to the ceremony.” Apparently, they said that he did not believe in the “separation of church and state” and they didn’t like the policies he supported as a United States Senator and therefore they would not allow him to be on the Assembly floor or to speak.
Upon hearing about this, Governor Schwarzenegger offered his meeting room last Monday for a ceremony with Admiral Denton. The room was overflowing with people. Only one elected Democrat was in attendance. A number of veterans of the last 4 wars were present. Admiral Denton gave a very moving speech about the 4th of July and about the undeniable commitment of our founding fathers’ to their faith in God. He talked about how the war on terrorism may be the most difficult war we have yet fought. And he went on to say that he fears that partisan attacks on our mission and our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan sound too familiar to what he experienced in Vietnam. Following his speech, The Governor came out to personally spend time with him.
Then this American hero, whose debt from us all can never be repaid, flew home to Alabama.
The Assembly did meet on that day. And we did have a ceremony that lasted nearly 20 minutes. That ceremony was to celebrate the career of a reporter from the L.A. Times on the occasion of his retirement. Democrats universally praised him as being “balanced.” He was allowed to speak for about 10 minutes. Admiral Denton was no longer in the building.
Four years of Cinco De Mayo and not one recognition of the 4th of July. An L.A. Times reporter praised, and the very person whose sacrifice allows him to express his opinion is banned. It is perverse. It is wrong. And it is disrespectful to all the men and women in uniform who have stared death in the face and to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the American people.
Admiral Jeremiah Denton is a hero not because he was politician, but like all the other men and women of the Armed Forces, because he defended the ideals set forth with America’s independence.
Democrats are always railing about intolerance and discrimination. But yet in practice, it is they who engage in regular state-sanctioned discrimination and who are intolerant of the presentation of other views. Maybe they are worried that people will listen.
I do not send you this to bash Democrats. I send you this to demonstrate the huge chasm that exists between registered, voting Democrats, and elected Democrat leadership. I hope those of you who are not Democrats, will send this to your friends who are. If you are a Democrat, don’t be ashamed. Be angry. Change your party and your leadership, or leave it.
Fortunately, we do not need the approval of the Speaker of the Assembly to celebrate our nation’s independence this Sunday. Nor do we need his permission to thank those who fought to give us and to maintain our freedoms. On this 4th of July, as the burgers cook and the fireworks fly, let us remember……and give thanks.
As a final offering, I give you a poem that Admiral Denton read to us this week, through eyes clouded with tears:
It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.”
Amen. God bless America.