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Dr. Larry Arnn on Winston Churchill’s 1938 Speech At Bristol University On Civilization

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HH: It is the last radio hour of the week, and that means Dr. Larry Arnn joins me from Hillsdale College, for all things Hillsdale. For all of our conversations, they are all recorded at, the Hillsdale Dialogues which began four years ago also began in Ancient Greece. Dr. Arnn, I bring you news that they’ve discovered the tomb of Aristotle today. Have you read that, yet?

LA: I have not read that.

HH: Yes, there is, a speech was made yesterday that the archaeologist working on his hometown for the last 40 years says I have no proof, I only have all of the indications, including where it is and all the different signs, that this is the tomb of Aristotle. So that’s quite a Memorial Day.

LA: Yeah, wow. Look at that. I wonder what he looks like these days.

HH: (laughing) I hope they don’t open it up. Let me begin by saying yesterday, I got a call, or two days ago, from Fred Barnes. He said I hear you and Larry Arnn have been talking about Trump a little bit, and I’m doing a story on intellectuals outside of DC reacting to Trump. And I said a little bit. And I went back and I looked, and we’ve spent I think ten hours talking about Donald Trump.

LA: Gracious.

HH: And look indeed, he is now the nominee. It’s an unusual time. I want to read to you Peggy Noonan this morning in the Wall Street Journal and turn to you about Trump after I read you these five paragraphs. “The Washington of our era,” writes Peggy Noonan, “a place not so much of personal as of civic decadence, where the Lois Lerners always get away with it, which brings us to the State Department Office of Inspector General’s report involving Hillary Clinton’s emails. It reveals one big thing. Almost everything she has said publicly about her private server was a lie. She lied brazenly, coolly, as one who is practiced in lying would, as one who always gets away with it could. No, she was not given legal approval to conduct her business on the server. She was not given the impression it was fine. She did not comply with rules on storage and archiving. Her own office told U.S. diplomats personal emails accounts could be compromised, and they must avoid using them for official business. She was informed of a dramatic increase in hacking attempts on her personal accounts. Professionals who raised concerns about her private server were told not to speak of it again. It is widely assumed that Mrs. Clinton will pay no price for misbehavior, because the Democratic president’s Justice Department is not going to proceed with charges against the likely Democratic presidential nominee. This is what everyone thinks. And not only because they watch “Scandal”, because they watch the news, that is the civic decadence they want to see blown up, and there’s this orange-colored bomb.” What do you make of that, Dr. Larry Arnn?

LA: (laughing) Well, I think that’s exactly right. You know, I personally have not believed at any point that, and do not believe at this point, that Hillary Clinton is going to be indicted for a crime. And I’m not certain that I wish her to be. I would need to know more than I know. But I just don’t think it works that way anymore. And look, I mean, this Inspector General’s report, what I’ve read of it, and I’ve read quite a bit about it, it says that she basically ignored all of the security procedures and good order procedures that govern how you set up your email. And it’s astonishing. Why would she do that? I mean, you’d have to go to extra trouble, right, because there’s a system there. Why wouldn’t you just use that? So the point is I don’t think that those things are going to be fairly explored. And so, and she’s exactly right. Donald Trump will say just about anything, won’t he? So…

HH: Yes, he will. Let me play for you the ad that was released two days ago by Donald Trump. It’s a brilliant ad. It’s 30 seconds long. It’s shot in his office high up on Trump Tower. Let’s play it for Dr. Arnn and the audience.

DT: Washington is broken. The truth is too many politicians are totally controlled by special interests and lobbyists. That’s going to change quickly. We’ll cut taxes for the middle class, negotiate new trade deals, bring back jobs, save Social Security and Medicare without cuts, end illegal immigration, build a wall, strengthen our military, knock out ISIS, and take care of our great veterans. We’re going to make America great again. I’m Donald Trump and I approved this message.

HH: So Larry Arnn, I believe that Paul Ryan’s reluctance, I believe Paul Ryan is the leader of the Republican Party, even though Donald Trump is its nominee. I believe Paul Ryan is its leader, is reluctant to endorse Donald Trump comes from this dilemma. He doesn’t know if he’s temperamentally qualified to be the commander-in-chief. I think that’s the dilemma. We know that Hillary Clinton is disqualified from being president and ought not to be. We don’t know if Donald Trump is qualified to be president, and therefore, many of us are reluctant to say yeah, go. How does Paul Ryan, and I said last night on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show on MSNBC, I don’t know if he gets over this, because you know, Ronald Reagan said agree 70% of the time, and you’ve got an ally, not an enemy. They might agree on 70% of the issues, but it comes down to that commander-in-chief issue, doesn’t it?

LA: Yeah, well, and it is hard to figure out. You know, I’ll say a word for Donald Trump, but first, against him. Nobody ever got elected president of the United States as his first public service. And that’s what Donald Trump is, you know, he’s leading in the polls. I think he’s going to win. And I think Paul Ryan’s going to support him. But you have to doubt, and that doubt has to be there all the time anyway, because Aristotle’s doctrine is power shows the man. You don’t really find out until you find out, because being the president of the United States is a kind of job, and it’s different in kind from being the head of a big corporation, even if you built that corporation. It’s suggestive that you can run things well if you start a big corporation, but the stakes in politics are higher, as you say, the nuclear button and all that. So we don’t, of course we don’t know, and we wouldn’t know about anybody until they tried to do it. So yeah, there has to be a doubt. But you know, I will say about him that he has unlocked a bunch of stuff that needs unlocking very much in America. His campaign from the first day has been a campaign waged to all the America people, in all the states. I read an article the other day talking about how Trump has not done big data. He’s only lately hired a pollster. He just goes out and talks to us all as Americans, and that’s good. And Lord, has he not breached the politically correct barriers in so many ways. And that’s good, because that opens up the debate and lets us talk about things. So there’s a lot to be said for him, and goodness, did I read this morning that the Republicans have five primaries still to go, and they have set a record for total turnout in Republican primaries already?

HH: Yes, but the upside is Donald Trump has gained more votes by millions than any previous Republican nominee. But as Michael Barone pointed out to me, he will not have won a majority of those votes for the first time ever in a nomination process. Isn’t that interesting, just as a matter of electoral history?

LA: Yeah, and you know, I think another way I comfort myself, and I do comfort myself right now, because first of all, I think God has purposes left for the United States of America, and they won’t all be harsh, although I think some of them may be. As I’ve been saying to people lately, I’m not saying we’re not going to get our hair mussed.

HH: (laughing)

LA: …like the general says in Dr. Strangelove.

HH: (laughing) 20,000 tops, depending on the way the wind blows, yeah.

LA: (laughing) Yeah, that’s it. It’s, you know, I think it’s bound…look at what a mess we’re in. I mean, the rule of law is breaking down in the United States, in my opinion. It, President Obama, so we have this, think of what immigration means. First of all, I, personally, Larry Arnn, am in favor of very wide immigration without regard to color. I think we ought to go by qualifications. That’s what we used to do. The original qualification was it was extremely difficult to get to the United States of America from the places people were coming from. And so our first immigrants were people who were very good at doing extremely difficult things. So we should have qualifications. You should be able to contribute as a free citizen, whoever you are and wherever you’re from. And we should have a lot of immigration. I’m for that. But do we have the authority to control our borders? And because we have failed to do that in the face of public opinion for 30 years now or more, does that mean that the president of the United States by executive order can change the status of millions of people? Because if that’s the case, then now the people are not choosing the government. The government is choosing the people. And Donald Trump made a thing of that better than anybody else. And people see the sense in that.

HH: And I agree with that. Then bring me back to the key question. What do you think is holding Paul Ryan back? We have a minute to the break, and then after the break, we want to talk about Winston Churchill’s civilization address.

LA: Well, I don’t know, but it could just be shrewdness, right? The two great problems are entitlements and the regulatory state. Trump is very good on the regulatory state. Ryan is very good on the entitlement state. Maybe they’re plotting out how they’re going to work together.

HH: I, that’s interesting. Maybe they are plotting out.

LA: I have some reason to think that.

HH: They have two conversations at length off the record, and Paul Ryan hasn’t said no, and he hasn’t said yes, but you also have David French and the National Review, Bill Kristol and the Weekly Standard, many Beltway elites and intellectuals in New York, Washington, Boston worried, worried, worried. Dr. Larry Arnn is my guest. We’ll be right back, America. Stay tuned.

— – – – –

HH: This morning, President Obama gave a speech at Hiroshima, the act of doing so will be remembered. What he said, not so much. And we want you to focus on a different speech, one given by Winston Churchill, but titled Civilization on July 2nd, 1938, the Chancellor’s Address at the University of Bristol. We have no recording of it, Dr. Arnn. Would you read it? It is short.

LA: Yeah, I’ll read it. It’s very beautiful. I will introduce it by saying that Churchill was chancellor. He is the longest-serving chancellor of the University of Bristol. And they loved him there, and there is videotape when he first became chancellor, he was chancellor for 30 years, more than that, actually. When he first became chancellor, he appeared, and there’s videotape of students picking him up and carrying through the streets, hordes of them. So he must have had a really fun day that day. So he didn’t speak there a lot, although he often went to its ceremonies. And on July the 2nd, 1938, he gave the commencement address, and it’s called Civilization. He, you should know that in 1938 in March, Austria, neighbor of Germany, German-speaking country, has scheduled a plebiscite to get the Austrian people to vote whether they would join Germany and become part of the Nazi nation, and that was likely to fail. And so Hitler’s agents and Hitler himself, his army, invaded Czechoslovakia in March of, I’m sorry, Austria in March of 1938. And so then we had what was called the Anschluss, which was the union of Germany and Austria. And that opened up the borders of Czechoslovakia, the next place he was interested in. And by July, when Churchill gave this speech, the agitation against Czechoslovakia had begun, and that would end in October when Hitler would get half of Czechoslovakia. And then in February of the next year, he would take the rest of it, having sworn that he wouldn’t. So Nazism is on the March.

HH: I don’t want you to being it this segment, because we won’t have enough, we’ll read it next segment.

LA: Okay.

HH: So pause with me a moment, and tell me a little bit about Churchill’s position in the country on July 2nd, 1938.

LA: Churchill was in the wilderness, and he has, he was in the 20s, Churchill was chancellor of the exchequer in a long-lived Conservative government, and was thought to be a likely successor to the premiership. That fell apart in 1929-30-31 when he got at odds with his party over first Egypt, then India, and then Hitler. Hitler became chancellor of German in January of 1933. And so Churchill goes into what we call the wilderness. He’s just a back bench MP. During this time, he wrote some of his very greatest writings. He made his living writing, but he was also broke, almost had to leave, he lost of money in the American stock market in 1929 and in 1936. And so he’s been fighting a war with the government almost alone against especially their policy of appeasement. And he had won very extensively. From 1936 on, the British government abandoned its policy of disarmament, and was rearming. Not fast enough, but fast enough to barely save the country by the skin of its teeth in 1940. So Churchill is fighting this one man war, and he fights it. It’s one of the most amazing things. He predicted that this might happen to himself. In his first publication, which is called The Scaffolding of Rhetoric, which he wrote when he was just out of school, and he said somebody who can write and talk could stand alone against great governments, and that’s what he did. And…

HH: And so when he mounts the rostrum at Bristol, he is in the spotlight? People know what he thinks? And will they, do they pay attention at that moment? When we come back from break, we have about 30 seconds to the break, were they paying attention then as we will be paying attention after the break?

LA: Yeah, this is about the time, it’s a month later, when the London Sunday pictorial sends photographers to Chartwell. It’s sort of like Look Magazine for England, and did a big spread on Churchill. And his popularity was rising, and the spread was very favorable. It showed how he worked. It showed his stand up desk. It showed how he wrote all those books and speeches, which he wrote himself. So he’s really gaining strength now at this point.

HH: When we come back, the Bristol address entitled Civilization. Don’t go anywhere, America.

— – – – –

HH: I will close this broadcast today with the new Hillsdale production of a Memorial Day tribute to our armed services and the military that is available at YouTube that I tweeted out. It’s been retweeted, I think, a hundred times already, because it’s so moving. It was recorded, the Mansions Of the Lord, by the Hillsdale Choir. Dr. Arnn, have you seen that, yet? Larry Arnn is my guest, president of Hillsdale College. Have you seen that?

LA: I have not seen it. I’ve heard about it, but I’m going to watch it on Memorial Day.

HH: It is, it’s remarkable. Now let’s return to Winston Churchill’s address at the University of Bristol on July 2nd, 1938. You set it up last segment. It is called Civilization.

LA: So I’m going to read the first three sentences, all right, and say what they mean, because it’s really great. No, four sentences. So it begins like this. There are few words which are used more loosely than the word civilization. What does it mean? It means a society based upon the opinion of civilians. It means that violence, the rule of warriors and despotic chiefs, the conditions of camps, of warfare, of riot and tyranny, give place to parliaments where laws are made, and independent courts of justice in which over long periods those laws are maintained. That is civilization. Now what I want to say about that is this is how Churchill understood Hitler for what he was. And we think today, because we live in the multicultural world, right? And we think that it’s racist or bigoted in some way to say that any place is uncivilized. But the truth of the matter is that word civil, and it comes from the Latin word for civic or city, or for citizen, right, and so civilian, as opposed to military or martial, civilians rule when people rule under law. And the rule of force is what tyranny has. So just remember when we think one way, we think of civilization is, Michelangelo’s David, or Rembrandt’s paintings, or Mozart’s symphonies, right? And those are instances of civilization. But then read the next sentence. That is civilization, and in its soil grows continually freedom, comfort and culture. When civilization reigns in any country, a wider and less a rash life is afforded to the masses of the people. The traditions of the past are cherished, and the inheritance bequeathed to us by former wise or valiant men become a rich state to be enjoyed and used by all. So do you see what he’s saying?

HH: Yeah.

LA: He’s saying that these Nazis, and the communists who are ruling by riot and tyranny and by armed camps, are destroying the ground on which people can live well, and the ground upon which, by the way, Michelangelo can flourish. And this is apposite today, because today, to say of these countries that we’re fighting, where women are oppressed, and everybody lives in fear of some unorthodox statement, you know, in Afghanistan, when the Taliban ran it, there was a story, a great story of a young man who was conscripted on pain of harm to his family. And his job was to walk around at night listening for people watching television or playing cards. And he would report them, and they would be hauled off to prison. So the first thing to know about this speech is Churchill is telling these young graduates here’s how to understand the world, right? Is there law? Is there freedom? Do civilians rule? And you know, if we made our foreign policy distinctions on that basis, they would get a lot simpler.

HH: They would. They would be very, very easy, actually.

LA: Yeah, and then you might work with people who are not civilized, but you would not trust them. I once had a talk with Benjamin Netanyahu, and I said I don’t see why you don’t say more often something you think, which is you’ll make a deal with the Arab states in confidence and trust if they treat their own people well. And he replied to me, but they won’t. And I said yeah, but you do, don’t you? Don’t you let them vote and write what they want to in the paper? And don’t you have to have a warrant to arrest them? And he said we do do that. That’s controversial. Some people say they don’t, but the point is it is at least relatively safe to be an Arab citizen of Israel as opposed to being an Arab citizen of Iran.

HH: Yes.

LA: Or a Muslim citizen of Iran. So do you want me to read some more?

HH: Yes.

LA: The central principle of civilization is the subordination of the ruling authority to the settled customs of the people, and to their will as expressed to the constitution. You see, law has to be stable. In this island, we have today achieved in a high degree the blessings of a civilization. There is freedom. There is law. There is love of country. There is a great measure of goodwill between classes. There is a widening prosperity. There are unmeasured opportunities of correcting abuses and making further progress. So stability of law, so it’s not all changing, so every week, there’s not a revolution or some hard thing and strange thing that happens that we can’t change.

HH: You know, but as I listen to you read this, and I want you to continue, I am of course comparing it to present day, the end of May, 2016, and wondering whether or not there is freedom, there is law, there is love of country, there is a great measure of goodwill between classes, there is a widening prosperity, not so much, Arthur Brooks argues, that the 5% growth of the last eight years has only been enjoyed by the top 20% of the country. 80% have been stagnant. There are unmeasured opportunities of correcting abuses, not so much because of a bureaucracy that is largely uncontrolled, and making further progress, that is in doubt.

LA: And see, just think. This is, you know, you have to remember about Winston Churchill, when you read him, it’s easy to forget. This guy is a lifelong politician when he’s not a soldier. And he can put these points so clearly. And as then, so now, there is a breakdown of civilization, and it is spreading to the Western free countries, too. That’s your point, right?

HH: Yeah.

LA: Churchill warned of that same thing in Britain. He said that, in 1945, he gave that great speech where he said that the Socialist Party could not realize its ultimate aims without the use of a secret police, a gestapo. And the point is if you have a structure in which the majority of the people operating through settled constitutional rules are the ultimate arbiters of the law, then the law can be stable. And if it’s stable and simple to understand, we can all abide by it and help even to enforce it. But if it’s changing all the time, and it’s technical, and it comes from places we know not where, then what that amounts to is a breakdown not just of freedom, because the rule of law is necessary to freedom, it’s a breakdown of civilization in all its meanings. And that’s what we face today, in my opinion.

HH: Please continue on with the speech, then.

LA: In this very week, we have seen a prime minister at the head of a large and loyal majority bow with good grace to the customs of Parliament. And we have heard Socialist members speaking with pride of the precedents of the early 17th Century and the principles of the petitions of right. There’s an editor’s note in this speech I’ll mention. Churchill’s very great son-in-law, Duncan Sands, was acquitted of a breach of privilege, which was really brought to attack Churchill, for revealing information about the weakness of the British military. So, and that was overcome. In this respect for law and sense of continuity lies one of the glories of England. And more than that, there also lies in it an important part of her strength and safety. Such episodes are astonishing, but also educative to countries where dictatorships prevail, and where no one dares to raise his hand against arbitrary power. They stir and cheer the minds of men in many lands. That’s pure Churchill right there.

HH: Yeah.

LA: That’s great.

HH: Keep going. Keep going.

LA: We have, however, to face the problem of the turbulent, formidable world outside our shores. Why should not the same principles which have shaped the free, ordered, tolerant civilization of the British Isles and British Empire be found serviceable in the organization of this anxious world? Why should not nations link themselves together in a larger system and establish a rule of law for the benefit of all? That surely is a supreme hope by which we should be inspired, and the goal towards which we should march with resolute step. But it is vain to imagine that the mere perception or declaration of right principles, whether in one country or in many countries, will be of any value unless they are supported by the qualities of civic virtue. Remember, civic, that’s civilization, and manly courage. I, and by those instruments and agencies of force and science, which in the last resort must be the defense of right and reason. So he’s calling there for what he wanted – an international alliance, even the United Nations, he supported, of the, led by the free countries, able cheaply, so that we can quickly, so that we can go on living our free lives, to stop belligerence and to keep tyranny from attacking its neighbors. That’s what, that’s Churchill’s foreign policy.

HH: And then he ends with a warning, though. He ends with a warning.

LA: So civilization will not last, freedom will not survive, peace will not be kept, unless a very large majority of mankind unite together to defend them and show themselves possessed of a constabulary power before which a barbaric and atavistic forces will stand in awe. Here then, now he talks to the graduates, here then we see the task which we command the exertions of the rising generation which fills this spacious hall, in which may bring to the life of Britain the surge of a new impulse toward the organization of world peace. And across the gulf of these eventual years, prepare and bring nearer the brotherhood of man.

HH: And that’s the concluding, I’m thinking that his Bristol University graduates, probably to a man, were in the combat within a year, or two.

LA: That’s it. Well, that’s right, because the war starts September 3rd, so that’s one year, fourteen months, after this speech, fourteen months and one day after this speech. And there, you know, and the body count was very high. And I should comment, the reason we got this idea is we talked last time about Clarence Thomas’ magnificent commencement address at Hillsdale College. And this followed, this address follows the same form as his, although he may not even know of the speech, because what he starts with is what are the qualities that make life worthwhile? And his first appeal to our seniors is to build in themselves those qualities, and then in the society, and by that means, to save the world.

HH: It’s remarkable.

LA: Saving the world becomes with each one becoming civilized. And Churchill knows that, see?

HH: It is. When we come back from break, we’ll talk a little bit more about another amazing event tied to Churchill when we return with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. Head over to for all of the Hillsdale Dialogues.

— – – – –

HH: Dr. Arnn, I have to tell you about a story in Stars And Stripes before I play the Hillsdale College Memorial Day YouTube video again. In Stars And Stripes, it’s reported that Melvin Rector, retired Air Force Master Sergeant at the age of 94, was assisted by my friends at the World War II Museum, if people want to help out the World War II Museum, to return to Great Britain where he hadn’t been in 71 years since he flew in the famous Memphis Belle many combat missions over Germany. And he went back, and he had just toured the Battle of Britain bunker, an underground command center where airplane operations were directed during D-Day just outside of which Winston Churchill famously said never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. He died, and his daughter said he couldn’t have asked for anything better than to have gone out that way. Isn’t that remarkable?

LA: Yeah, wonderful. (laughing) You know, my colleague, John Cervenes’ father. John, was in Patton’s Army. And John, a really great guy I worked with, he was at Hillsdale College for 40 years, took his dad on the honor flight not long ago. And that’s just an awesome thing. It’s such a fine service.

HH: Have you been down to the World War II Museum, yet?

LA: Yeah, I have. I spoke there one time, and I’ve been twice. Yeah, it’s a wonderful place. It’s the best museum of war that I know in America.

HH: And it’s not the British Imperial War Museum, which is you know, unparalleled, but I agree with you. I used to think that the Louisville Frazier Museum of Arms, which is affiliated with the British Imperial War Museum, was the best. But now, I think the World War II Museum is far and away the best, because they keep building it out, and they’re gathering in this great struggle, captained by Churchill, who sees it all coming in that 1938 address, Larry Arnn. It’s just so brilliant to lay it out. And we have to confront these same issues. We do it every week at this hour, because they don’t ever go away.

LA: No, they don’t.

HH: From the time that Aristotle wrote it all down and they found his tomb today, to today, 2,400 years later, they’re still the same issues.

LA: Yeah, it’s amazing. Churchill, one of Churchill’s favorite sayings was unteachable from infancy to tomb, that is the story of mankind. But we keep teaching.

HH: Unteachable (laughing) Well, we hear it. We just don’t, you just should have said we have memory problems. We have issues of memory.

LA: (laughing)

HH: We don’t not, we don’t fail to understand. for everything, America, that is Hillsdale, and for all of the Hillsdale Dialogues. Binge listen. Dr. Arnn, thank you.

End of interview.


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