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Public Statements

FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

FAA REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - April 30, 2008)



Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, over the last few weeks, I have taken note of the tributes that have been made about a great American who passed away on April 5, 2008. That American is Charlton Heston. This Senate even joined in those tributes, and I was pleased to cosponsor a resolution offered by my colleague, Senator Jim DeMint, officially honoring Mr. Heston's life and extending the sympathies of the Senate to the Heston family.

Charlton Heston's significance was more than his distinguished career as an actor. In his lifetime, he became undeniably an American icon. But there is an aspect of his life that has not received the attention that I believe it deserves--his truly admirable record of public service. That is why I rise this afternoon to comment about his contributions to our Nation.

This was not a man who only recited patriotic speeches; he put his words into action and put his reputation and career on the line for the causes he supported. This was especially true in an area that people seem to have forgotten: his work on civil rights.

Charlton Heston freely allowed his fame to be used to draw attention and support to the cause of civil rights, and he did so at a time when it wasn't the popular thing for Hollywood stars to do. In fact, according to his autobiography, some of his associates warned him that his activism could harm his career and his financial success. But he pursued it anyway.

He told the story of demonstrating outside some Oklahoma City restaurants that refused to serve black Americans in 1961, and while he modestly acknowledged this was a small effort that ``made no more than a ripple in the wider world''--those are his words, not mine--the restaurants did change their practices, and the episode was a significant personal milestone for him.

His civil rights activism took him further. He was an admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and wrote ``Many men who knew him better than I have written about Martin Luther King. I can't match their eloquence; I can confirm what they've written: He was a special man, put on Earth, I do believe, to be a twentieth-century Moses for his people. Dr. King sought him out to discuss how to integrate certain segments of the film industry. Mr. Heston was supportive but had doubts that it could be done; he was surprised and impressed when Dr. King accomplished that goal.

Later in 1963, when Martin Luther King famously marched on Washington Charlton Heston was not only part of the march but helped organize and lead a contingent from the American arts community in participating. Their job was to help draw press attention to the cause but Mr. Heston characterized the role he played as essentially an ``extra'' at the event. Even so, he said of the march on Washington: ``In a long life of activism in support of some good causes, I'm proudest of having stood in the sun behind that man, that morning.''

I think many people fail to appreciate the importance of Mr. Heston's involvement in supporting the cause of civil rights at that particular time. It was a turning point in our Nation's history. His position put him at odds with many in his industry, not to mention the mainstream America that existed in those days. It was no small thing for Charlton Heston to commit his energies and his name to advancing a cause that was deeply controversial.

Today, some have forgotten what those times were like and the risk he took. I would even argue that some prefer to overlook or rewrite the record of his civil rights activism because they disagree with other causes he took up later in his life.

Maybe it just doesn't sit right with the predominately liberal majority in the media and Hollywood that Mr. Heston could both march with Dr. King and later publicly denounce the violent, pornographic lyrics of rapper Ice-T. Maybe they don't understand how the same man who picketed against racism could criticize the Screen Actors Guild--an organization he presided over for six terms--for practicing reverse discrimination.

Or maybe they just don't understand the common denominator between his fight for civil rights and his fight for the Second Amendment. When he took the helm of the National Rifle Association for an unprecedented three terms Americans' firearms rights were under attack as never before. I met with him and encouraged his participation, as others did. Mr. Heston did participate and brought for formidable energy to the defense of this fundamental civil right of the law-abiding American citizen.

It was my great privilege to work with him in those days. I came to know him as an unabashed patriot and a friend. He was amazingly modest about his accomplishments when he told me about his past involvement in policy and political issues, but it was from him I learned about his early work on behalf of civil rights.

Charlton Heston is remembered by countless Americans around the world for the great roles he played and the characters he created, as only he could do. That legacy will live forever. As his movies are discovered by new audiences in the future, a new life for that memory will emerge.

But Americans should also be aware and celebrate and treasure another legacy he left behind--his simple and quiet service to our Nation. Let the record show Charlton Heston did not sit safely on the sidelines. He strode boldly into the arena of public affairs and took on all the risks of fighting in that arena. He worked to make this Nation a better place through his activism in promoting civil rights and individual liberties, a legacy that will have an even more lasting impact on our lives and the lives of our fellow citizens.

Goodbye, Charlton Heston. America misses you.

I yield the floor.



Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I am going to address, very briefly, an action that will come before us this evening in a 2-week extension of current farm policy that will be sought by Chairman Harkin, as they work out, I understand, the final details of a new farm policy for our country.

As my colleagues know, over the last several weeks, I have come to the floor to speak out about the urgency at hand of getting a new farm policy before American agriculture as we move into the spring season and before the early harvest in the grain belt of our country, which starts very soon in Oklahoma and northern Texas.

As most of my colleagues know, both the House and Senate passed new farm policy last year, but because of their differences, we were simply not able to work out a compromise in conference. In fact, the House waited months to appoint conferees. Then the Speaker openly spoke out about being unwilling to provide the tax package to finance the necessary new policy.

I began to object. After 6 months and 4 extensions, finally, last week on the floor I did object. But out of that we began to work together and worked out a compromise, and I must say to all the conferees on the House and the Senate side that their diligence appears to have paid off. In talking with my colleague and the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Saxby Chambliss, today, their work in large part is done. It is a matter of simply putting it in final form, bringing it to print and, of course, then bringing the conference report to the floor of the House and the Senate. Apparently, the White House has also signed off on that and their work is largely complete.

It is with that understanding that I will not object this evening to a unanimous consent request to extend the current farm policy for another 2 weeks while they work out and put to print their final effort.

Let me thank them all for the sense of urgency that has developed over the last 2 weeks and the work in completing it. Obviously, the finance committee in the House, the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee had to bring about the necessary package. Senator Max Baucus and Congressman Rangel, apparently working with the Republican side, have solved those problems and put the appropriate finance package together.

There are very important policies, new policies inside this farm bill. We are hearing for the first time, at least in my memory, a question about food shortages or at least some commodity shortages because of new demands we put on the production of American agriculture as it relates to the production of energy. There is no other time more important in our country to have farm policy in place and operative than right now, to say to the American people we can get our work done in a timely fashion--and that work is now complete; to say to American agriculture: Here is your policy for the next 5 years, whether it is nutritional policy for America's poor, whether it is production policy for America's farmland, whether it is conservation policy or energy policy; in large part all that is embodied.

I thank my colleagues for the work they have done. I hope their sense of reality and their finishing the product and getting it before us meets that timing. With that in mind, I will not object tonight to an extension. But I am on the floor to personally thank them for the work they have accomplished in getting it completed in the next 2 weeks and getting it before us as soon as possible so we can say to American agriculture: The work is done. Here is agricultural policy for the next 5 years.

I yield the floor.

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