Transcript: Sutherland’s 2020 Congressional Series event with Rep. Chris Stewart

August 4, 2020

The following is an unedited transcription of remarks delivered by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) during National Security: America’s Role in the World. Watch the full video here.

Rep. Chris Stewart:

It’s great to be with you. We love Sutherland. You guys have done such great work. I wish Rick was here. I would tell him how much admiration and respect I have for him and the work that he and his team do but please tell him for me. It’s good to be with you.

And, you know, in this day of Zoom, we all wish we could be together. All of us say that. As a great show of respect for you, I want you to know, as you can see, I even put on a tie, because in the days of Zoom, many times we don’t. I got to tell you, to be honest, I don’t have shoes on but you can’t see that so we’re all good. And it’s a different environment. I mean I spoke to you guys last summer in August. We always try to do it during our August break back home, and it’s something I look forward to. And we just appreciate our associations.

I got to tell you I’ve actually changed the topic a fair amount. I was thinking about it over the last few days, and it just occurs to me that…well, two things. Number is one is we were going to do this in conjunction with my National Security Summit, which is supposed to be next Friday. The National Security Advisor, a good friend of mine, Robert O’Brien was coming out for that. We were going to have Eddie McCarthy, one of the most noted journalists in the country, a good friend of mine, Steve Womack, but I think as some of you may know we had to postpone that because Robert got COVID and couldn’t travel. And, again, I was going to, kind of, tie these two events together. But since we pushed that back until October, I’ve decided to, you know, forestall some of those comments and keep that aligned with the summit.

But I’ve got to tell you, even if that wasn’t true, I just feel compelled to change my message a little bit. And it kind of begins with this premise that our national security is completely irrelevant if we don’t find a way to unite our country. I don’t worry at all about our nation being defeated by another nation-state. I shouldn’t say that. I mean, I don’t worry about it at all. I mean, I’m on the house intelligence committee. We spend our whole lives worrying about those things, but the truth is that right now there is no nation that could destroy us militarily.

Now, China may tempt us and China may challenge us in their region and they could do that today and it would be a very difficult battle for us. Russia may challenge us and tempt us, you know, in the form of Warsaw Pact countries and that would be a great challenge for us as well. But I don’t worry about being defeated by any of those nations, not in the short-term. What I worry a lot about much more is the thing that we’re seeing happened to our country right now that we’ve never seen before. Not probably more than 120 or 130 years have we seen a time quite like this. And I’ve said to people many, many times that the U.S. is the glue that holds the world together. If we stumble, the rest of the world crumbles underneath our feet. Whether we like it or not, that is just the responsibility that we have. And so if that is true, then our first responsibility is how to keep our own nation strong and how to keep our own nation united. And that’s really where I’d like to focus a lot of my comments today.

You know, I want to tell a story very quickly. And, you know, again, with Zoom and with the teleconferences we all do, you have to, kind of, adapt the format. You can’t really stand up and tell a bunch of jokes because it turns out you can’t hear if anyone laughs and no one feels like they have to laugh if it’s not that funny. But this story, I think, is a great illustration and it’s a bit humorous. But where a lot of people feel like we are right now, it goes back to Operation Torch, which was, you know, the first really meaningful military operation particularly in the European front or the African front of the United States. And they had this idea for the very first time that they were going to use paratroopers. They had 37 of these old airplanes that they stuck in a couple hundred paratroopers, and they said, “We’re going to paratroop these guys behind enemy lines,” and they had the responsibility of taking various airfields and rural strategic targets around Northern Africa.

So they took off from the UK. It happens a lot of times. Everything just went south almost immediately, but a lot of it is an illustration of how unprepared we were to fight that war. Only the flight leader had a map and the rest of the flight…I think there were 37 of them, I believe, as I recall. The rest of the 37 were supposed to follow their flight leader because they didn’t have aeronautical charts. They didn’t have any navigation aids. They actually had to put some secret assets in that we’re going to set up these navigation aids but they’ve got the wrong date, and they went up and put up their antenna and put out a beacon and nothing happens. So they took them down and locked away.

And the next day was when the operation took place, and they hit thunderstorms as soon as they started to cross the Med, and they completely got scattered. It just turned into a complete mess, and some of them ended up crashing into the ocean. They ran out of fuel. Some of them ended up landing in Nazi-occupied parts of France and spent the rest of the war as prisoners of war. And some of them just kind of stumbled around it. And there was this one story where these Arab farmers near Tunisia were out in their field, and this great big American airplane lands in the middle of their field. And this colonel jumps out and he comes running towards them and he pulls them aside. He said, “Hey, what continent are we on?” And they said, “Well, you’re in Africa.” And he turns back to the crew and gives them a big thumbs up. They found Africa. Well, that’s hardly a resounding success that they had to land in a field after most of them had already crashed and say, “Oh, they found the continent that they were looking for.”

And a lot of people look at our world now and especially some of our leadership and they think, “Do these guys even know what continent they’re on? And are they capable…have we provided ourselves the resources we need that we can, you know, provide the leadership not only nationally but internationally that we need to do?” And, again, I’d like to kind of address that, you know, “What continent are we on? Where are we going? Where does this thing end?” And I’d like to start with a couple different ideas or different premises if I could. And some of them are good news.

When we feel like the world is going crazy around us, look, the illustrations of this are in our face every day. For heaven’s sake, the coronavirus is the most obvious one; the economic collapse that is taking place as a result of that. Fifty-four million Americans lost their jobs. Now, we’ve clawed back millions and millions of those, but we still are in a deep, deep economic hole. We had the largest collapse of our economy in the second quarter that we’ve ever seen. It’s hard to understand the economic challenge that we had before, including the thing that frightens me as much as anything almost is the fact that we’ve got maybe a $5 trillion or $6 trillion deficit this year.

We have the rise of China. You’ve got Russian aggression. One thing I’m going to spend quite a long time talking about today, the re-writing of history and the premise that our nation is actually evil, that it was based upon evil, and again I’m going to come back and talk about that—the destruction of some of the founding principles and the destruction of the reputation of good men and women. And, you know, those things are in our face every day. As soon as you wake up and if you do like I do and many people do, you kind of check the news. It’s a lousy way to start the day. And if you’re like I am as well where I’m busy in a day and I don’t have a chance to read the news, and often I read the news just before I go to bed and then you lay awake at night, you’re just anxious and agitated. And I actually had quit doing that because, you know, I couldn’t go to sleep because I’d be so frustrated or angry over certain things.

So, we’re aware of that. I mean, it’s just obvious, but I’d like to share a couple thoughts that I think help to give it some perspective. And again it all kind of lays under this foundation of the United States maintaining strong moral leadership by staying united. And it’s amazing to me that the first thing I’m going to say has actually become controversial. This is a stunning thing. It’s kind of like, you know, when you’re at a Fourth of July Parade and the flag goes by, some people are embarrassed to stand up and to place their hand over their heart. That’s stunning to me, but it’s true.

But I’d like to say to people, though imperfect, this country, this nation has been the greatest force for good in the history of the world. And that’s not an opinion. That’s a demonstrable fact. No other nation has given an example of liberal democracy and economic freedom through free markets and a liberal democracy based on capitalism. No other nation has been an example and assisted others, and we’ve lifted three billion people out of poverty in my lifetime. We’ve lifted nearly 400 million people out of poverty in India alone just since the late ’90s because those nations and many other nations looked at the United States and said, “Look what we could have,” and we were an example to them not only for freedom but economic prosperity that they just had never been able to have even imagine before.

The standard of living that we have would make the pharaohs or any of the ancient kings incredibly jealous with things they couldn’t have imagined. But more important to that because it’s not just about money and economics. It’s other principles. We have devolved more power to the people, taking for the first time this idea that the people have the power, not the monarchs, not the kings, not the government. The people have the power. We have defended against tyranny all over the world. We have sacrificed some of the best young men and women in our nation to defend freedom all over the world and have asked nothing for it. We have created more creative genius. Tell me the things that impact your life, the good things, the good technology, the innovation that are positive impacts on your life, and then ask how many of those came from the United States and how many of them came from China. How many of them came from Russia? Because a vast majority of them were birthed here in United States.

And the last one I’ll mention, I think this one’s incredibly important. No other nation is nearly as generous as the United States. I mean, we far surpass any other nation in our charitable giving and the generosity that we showed the needy, and the poorest, and those who need our help among us. No one else even comes close. And I could go on, but I’ll just say, taken together, I think it’s clear what a positive force for good the United States has been. And, again, anyone who doesn’t recognize that, I can’t imagine what they’re thinking. I really can’t imagine some whose beginning premise is, “The United States, the foundation was evil, and that we’ve been evil ever since,” because some people actually believe that. And that’s why they say we have to tear this down and start all over.

Now, having said what I just did, and that is the United States has been a great force for good, I think the second thing I want to recognize is that we are not perfect and we’ve never been perfect. And honestly, I don’t think we’ve ever claimed to be perfect. We have been led by imperfect men and imperfect women through our history. Now, some of them were good people. They were just struggling to do the right thing but, in some of those cases, they failed. Now, it wasn’t because they didn’t have good intentions or they weren’t, you know, trying to accomplish something good, they just simply weren’t up to the task perhaps. Having said that as well, there are some of them leaders who just simply weren’t good people. In some cases, they were selfish, or arrogant, or they were power-hungry, and that’s a thing that I think we see it often is that they’re blessed for power and sometimes they were just weak leaders.

And we haven’t implemented all of our laws perfectly. We haven’t divided our responsibilities nor our economic resources always perfectly. We haven’t guaranteed religious liberty always perfectly, and some of our foreign policy has been a failure. But, again, if your measure is perfection, there is no other nation that comes closer to it than the United States, but we do have our imperfections. Now, we always have and frankly, we always will. No nation, no people, no man, no woman will ever be perfect, but we have to keep continuing to strive. And I think it’s fair to say, too, that despite those imperfections, we have gotten better.

And this is I think the key to this is to recognize that in almost every meaningful way we have gotten better. Everything from racism, we’re far better now than we were before the Civil War. We’re clearly better than we were during Jim Crow. We’re clearly better on racism than we were in the 1950s and ’60s. We still have a ways to go. There’s no question about that. But I think it’s fair to say that we have tried to be better and, in many ways, we have become better. Care for our environment. I mean the truth is that we have cleaner air and water now than we’ve ever had in our nation’s history since the Industrial Revolution. The income distribution is more fair and more skewed toward the middle-class than it has been in almost any time in our history.

I was reading recently in the 1950s, it would take now…an American now would only have to work three months, only three months in a year, to have the same living standard as what we had in the 1950s. In the 1950s, the average size of an American home is only 1200 square feet. A family averaged one car. And I think those are great illustrations of how we have come a long ways as far as the actual standard of living for most Americans. We’re better now than any previous generation.

And the last thing I’ll say is I guess my [inaudible] three, and this is I think so important. When we say that, “Look, I don’t back away from the idea of American exceptionalism,” I’ve been told by some, “Hey, you can’t say that. It offends people.” And, look, I just think it’s true. Once again, I will stand for the flag when it goes before me. I will stand for our national anthem. And I appreciate this idea that we are an exceptional country. That doesn’t mean we’re better people. It doesn’t mean that we’re some gift from God that made us better people. That’s not true. As I said, we’re imperfect people who are striving.

The thing that makes America exceptional isn’t necessarily the people; it’s the founding principles. It’s the documents. If you care about human rights, The Declaration of Independence is the greatest document ever written on human rights. If you care about freedom, the Bill of Rights is the greatest document ever written to guarantee human rights and individual rights. The Constitution is the greatest document ever written to propose this is how you guarantee liberty and freedom to an incredible group of people.

So, this idea of American exceptionalism, again, it’s not that we’re better than another nation but it’s a sincere belief that our founding documents, the founding principles are as near perfect as anything that has ever been given to us to set and to govern a society or people, which is why by the way and I’m so grateful that other nations have tried to emulate it since the creation of our nation, since these founding principles have been formed, dozens if not hundreds of nations around the world have tried to emulate it, have crafted their constitution and their documents much like ours. Some of them have not been successful but many of them are.

So, you know, these things aren’t mutually exclusive. You can be a good country and not be a perfect country but still be striving to be better. And, again, it’s not just that we are a chosen people; it’s that we have an incredible foundation and these documents, which brings me to the last point I want to make, and then we’ll open it up for your questions.

I worry a lot that, you know…I’d said I don’t think another nation can destroy us, but I worry a lot that we may destroy ourselves, that we may commit national suicide in a way. And, look, I could go through a long list of things that would illustrate that a healthy nation wouldn’t do these things. A healthy nation wouldn’t tear down its founding fathers and the statues of them. A healthy nation wouldn’t burn Bibles in the streets or the Quran or any other religious documents like that. A healthy nation wouldn’t have demonstrations where it’s okay to assault the police, and attack them with lasers that permanently blind them, and to see the riots, and to excuse that as protesters when they’re not. You have to be able to distinguish between peaceful protesters who actually want to accomplish something positive, and people who are there just to hurt and to tear down, and for the people to be willing to acknowledge there’s a difference between them.

And as I look at where we are as a nation right now, I guess I’ll conclude by just coming back to some things I’ve said before. And, again, I want to be respectful of the time and allow people to comment, but coming back to what I said before, whether we like it or not, this nation has a responsibility to the rest of the world. And coming back to the original topic, part of that is through national security, and the allies, and the compacts that we have developed and honored for generations now—NATO, our compacts with Asian nations, our willingness to go out and engage other nations and say to them, “Do you want us and you and this ally that we have, these allies in this alliance that we have, to lead the world towards a more free and prosperous future or do you want to look at Pres. Xi and say is that the future that you want?” We have the responsibility to make that argument to people, but we can only do that if we are safe, and strong, and united at home.

And I think the key to that being united and the key to getting through these difficult times is to look at those founding documents one more time. If you care about human rights, go back and read The Declaration of Independence, which says we are given these rights from God, and they are given from the people to the federal government in order to protect our freedom and to maintain a more perfect union. The Constitution which has answered questions on how to govern people for more than 200 years. And the Bill of Rights, boy, if you want to have a fight in our future, do what some people are actually going to propose and that is to take away some of those guaranteed freedoms in the Bill of Rights.

Those are the things that will protect us. and having protected us, that allows us to help to bring stability and in places that we can to bring some peace that wouldn’t be there otherwise without the influence of the United States. It’s good to be with you. Thanks for the opportunity to spend a few minutes, and I’m sure that we have some participation that we can now, kind of, share our own ideas and questions.

Aaron Taylor:

Excellent. Thank you so much, Congressman, for those comments. Again, for our audience, my name is Aaron Taylor and I serve as the Executive Vice President for Sutherland Institute. Audience members, if you would like to ask us any questions, please go ahead and email those questions to si@sifreedom.org or feel free to comment on our Facebook page.

Congressman, let me ask you a few follow-up questions based on those comments. You mentioned “the re-writing of our history” and how much that troubles you. That’s something that Sutherland Institute is very much focused on with our work on civic education and making sure that civics is taught in our schools. How do we teach those founding principles effectively to the next generation?

Stewart:

Yeah. Oh, man, Aaron, if you’ve got the answer to that, please tell us, right, and share it because, you know, something that I think…one that’s incredibly important. I come from a family of educators. I think some of you know because I’ve said it so many times. These are my father’s Air Force wings. He was a pilot in the World War II. We came from a family of people who served in the military, five of my brothers, some of our own children.

But I also come from a family of educators. My mom and dad were both teachers. I have some of my own children who are in education right now. One of them is getting a master’s from Columbia, which is the best education school in the country. And by the way, some of the stories that he tells about, you know, the culture of these very senior education leaders, it’s pretty frightening when you think, “Oh, my gosh, and some of them are going to go teaching our kids?” My wife is an educator, and so I understand from a personal perspective how important educating of our children is, which is by the way sidebar completely why I think it’s so important to get our kids back in school. They need that face-to-face learning experience, especially younger children.

But I’m going to answer the question, if I could, by, Aaron, telling a story that happened to me. I was with a good friend of mine. He and I served together in a calling in our faith. And actually unfortunately he was dying of cancer at the time, and he was a really interesting man. He was a really successful businessman. He was very successful, made a lot of money, but when he was quite young, he retired from business, and he became a teacher because he loved kids, and he wanted to teach, and he loved U.S. history. And as we were talking once, he told me the story about Abraham Lincoln, about him praying and having nearly a revelation during just before the Battle of Gettysburg and the desperation of Abraham Lincoln feeling like, “I have to preserve our nation.” And it was a very touching story, and I’d never heard of it.

And I said, you know, “Jim, I’m not the smartest man in the world. I’m not a historian, a professionally trained historian. I love history like you,” but I said, “I’ve never heard that.”

And he said, “Let me show you something.” And he walked over to his bookshelf and he pulled off a history book that used to be taught in all of our schools from the 1930s. And he opened it up and he showed me that this story about Abraham Lincoln and his belief and faith in God had been described in this history book. And he said, “Look, we don’t teach these things any longer. Our kids don’t know this,” and that’s I think the point of your question is kids don’t learn it like they used to. And, in fact, many times they’re taught exactly the opposite and that’s the thing that’s really stunning. If you read Mr. Zinn and his history of America, it teaches a very different story than what I think many of us think is the history of America, and frankly it’s dishonest. It’s just not true this idea again focusing on only the imperfections and the flaws and completely discounting the great accomplishments of some of these people.

So, it’s got to take concerted effort and my view is, if you think, the schools are going to teach our children that, even here in Utah, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It’s going to take parents, and aunts, and uncles, and family, and friends to pull our kids aside and say, “Let me tell you some of these stories and some of these realities that are our history is based upon,” because otherwise, all they’re going to see is the statue of Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington be pulled down because they’re told they’re not honorable people.

Taylor:

So, excellent. Let me probe a little bit further if I may on that point. I think there’s certainly a disparity between our two parties on whether that’s what is the focus on education should be coming from a national level in Washington, D.C. or whether it should be coming from a local level. And with that perspective, I think some of us would share that perspective that, hey, nationally all those founding principles should be taught.

But given the disparity in the parties, is it up to local parents to be—I won’t use the word protesting—advocating to their local school board that those founding principles should be included or what the right textbooks should be? How do we implement that idea that you just [inaudible]?

Stewart: Yeah. So, there’s actually I think a very important principle at play here, and interestingly it goes back…and I actually wrote about this briefly in one of the books that we wrote. And that is it goes back nearly 400 years. This goes back, you know, more than 150 years before the founding of our country. It goes back to Jamestown because this first Anglo-Saxon colony in the Western Hemisphere in our country, Jamestown, one of the things that they said, one of their charter principles, the idea, this concept that every community would educate their own children.

Now, before that, the vast majority of people had no education. The organization that took responsibility for education was the church but they simply didn’t have the resources to educate everyone so they educated the elites. And everyone else was left basically with no education, and they said, “No, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to educate every child. Every community will be responsible for it.”

That was the right principle and it’s still true today. I think every community should be responsible for educating their kids, not the federal government. If you want to change the education curriculum, you can do that through your local school board. You can do it through your superintendent or through state legislators or the governor. Try doing it back in Washington. It’s nearly impossible to do. It’s frankly nearly impossible for me as a congressman to have influence on national education policy, let alone some poor mother/father who’s just concerned about what their kids are being taught.

I mean the short answer is I’m really glad that education policy still relies and resides in the states, and it should, and in the local community, the local school boards as it should.

But the second answer to the question is very simple, and that’s the parents need to be involved. They need to demand that the local school board and local educators do educate their children and things that are important to them. Because if they don’t ask for that, you’ve been here in Utah. They’re going to be disappointed in some of the education outcomes that they’ll have.

Taylor:

Okay, excellent. Let me ask you this question, Congressman. Some of the questions are coming from the audience on what was originally today’s topic, “National Security: America’s Role in the World.” What do you view as America’s greatest threat today?

Stewart:

Oh, my gosh. I get asked that all the time. You know, again, sitting on the intel committee, having had the opportunity to travel the entire world from Moscow to Beijing to Western China with the Uighurs, to go out and try to observe, you know, the million-plus Muslims that are being held in concentration camps in Western China to Africa. You know, cybersecurity, quantum computing, which is an incredibly important dynamic in the next, you know, 8 to 12 years. The threat of CRISPR which could potentially, you know, unleash a virus for example that’s specifically genetically modified to attack Americans or Caucasians.

I mean the list goes on but funny I was asked that question about…well, it was nearly four years ago because I just come back from Moscow, and it was just before the 2016 Election, and I was doing an interview much like this, and someone asked me, “What’s the greatest threat facing our country?” just as you did. And without thinking, I said something I’d never said before. And you’re not going to find this a satisfying answer, so I’m going to answer it this way, then come back and answer it more generally. But I said then it’s that no one knows what is true anymore, and I really believe that. I am asked all the time, “Where can I get information? How can I find out what’s true?” because there’s so much active deception around us.

And if there isn’t a foundation that we accept these truths, these principles, or these facts as being true and if you don’t have that, then nothing can be built upon that. And by the way, in the last three years, it’s just gotten worse. I mean, our trust in the media has been destroyed because of their active deception. Our trust in some political organizations has been destroyed because of active deception. It’s worse than it was three years ago when I first answered that no one knows what is true anymore.

Now, let me answer your question or the individual’s question I think how they intended it and that is, “What do I think is the greatest threat from a national security perspective from actual outside organizations or nation-states?” And I’ve got to tell you it’s very difficult to answer, and it depends. We see the Presidential Daily Brief. We have access to that information, and it shifts from time to time. I mean the focus is—I can promise you this—the greatest threat facing our country is not Islamic terrorism. And that’s where we’ve spent a lot of our time and effort and a boatload of our money over the last generation. But while we did that, we ignored nuclear proliferation. We ignored the rise of China, particularly militarily. We ignored Vladimir Putin and his excursions in trying to rebuild the former Warsaw Pact. I think those are far more dangerous for us.

So, I mean, it’s impossible to answer that question. And like I said, I know that’s not satisfying, but it really is the truth. It depends. And we’re able to defeat or tamper down some of those threats. So, for example, a couple years ago, the thing that really kept me awake at night was the cyber threat. We instituted some policies and made some changes that have kind of tampered that down a little bit. And now it may not be the greatest threat facing our country. Now, I look more towards China, and Chinese aggression in Hong Kong, and China’s potential aggression in Taiwan. That’s the thing I think that is more immediate for us. So, the challenges that these threats kind of ebb and flow, and you have to be willing to adjust and, you know, stand before all of them.

Taylor:

Excellent. Let me probe a little bit further again on the China point because that is mentioned so much in the media, and I think many Americans question, if they haven’t ever been to Hong Kong, don’t have a business interest in Hong Kong, how does that affect us? How is that issue between the island of Hong Kong and mainland China affecting our national security?

Stewart:

Yeah, because I think it’s an illustration of the truth, and that is that China is the Chinese communist party, that Pres. Xi has no intention of ever leaving power. You know, he’s redefined the rules of the political world where instead of serving 8 years like every president before him, he said, “I will serve here as long as I wish to serve here,” which will be until he dies.

It’s an added realization that China cares not at all about human rights. And, again, I mentioned that more than a million Uighurs that are in re-education camps for having done nothing wrong other than they’re ethnically different and they’re Muslim. The reality that China could have prevented the coronavirus but they essentially said at some point, “Hey, we know this is going to be devastating for our country economically. We’re going to make sure that other nations feel the same pain,” and they allowed that virus to be spread. They allowed thousands of people to leave Wuhan and travel throughout the world knowing that they would spread that virus.

You know the contract with Hong Kong specifically, they had another, what, 50 or 37 years to have that be protected of the UK, to be independent of Beijing, to be separate but equal. And China just threw that out the window and said it’s not true anymore.

And I’ll illustrate it with this. For years, China has had tens of thousands of security forces on the border of Hong Kong but they didn’t dare move them into the city to camp down and to eliminate these protests that we’ve seen. They didn’t dare do that until the coronavirus. And then they looked at the West, and they looked at the United States and said, “See? They are not watching. They’re absorbed with their own problems. They’re not going to do anything to us now.” And within a few days, tens of thousands of Chinese security forces were moved into Hong Kong. They arrested and we have not seen many of those demonstration leaders. Many of those who were fighting for freedom have disappeared and we know not where they are. They took steps to completely control Hong Kong, and they did it without hardly anyone saying anything.

And so, if you want to know why is that important, because it shows China’s intentions. And when they say…and they’re very open about this and I’ll conclude with this thought. This isn’t our intelligence analysis. This is them openly saying, by 2048, the 100th anniversary of the creation of the communist party in China, they intend to be the single dominant force in the world militarily, diplomatically, economically. They intend to dominate the world. And if you want to know, “Well, what would that world look like?” then look at Hong Kong and look at the freedoms the people in Hong Kong have lost in a few months because of Chinese domination that went unchallenged.

Taylor:

Okay, excellent. Again, we want to thank our audience for their questions. Again, if you have other questions, please submit them to si@sifreedom.org.

This question the Congressman relates to the economic issues you mentioned with China and Russia. How would you expand on international cooperation and economic development with positive countries that we have wonderful relationships with like Israel?

Stewart:

Yeah. That is a great question, and I’m so glad that they asked that because it’s one of the things that we don’t talk about very often. You know, one of the great advantages that the United States has around the world is that we have friends, that we have allies, that we have people who believe the same things that we do or nearly the same things, and that we honor those alliances. And, you know, that’s generations old, and it’s so important for us to do that.

So, if you talk about Israel, if you want to counter the rise of Islamic terrorism or the threat of what that might be in the region or even globally, it’s important that we have Israel as a partner with us, the intelligence that we share with Israel, some of the operations that we share together, and both of us standing together to say, “Here is a liberal democracy. Here is a nation that respects human rights, and the rights of minorities, and the rights of women.” But they’re in a neighborhood where most of their neighbors don’t, and so obviously they’re much stronger if the United States stands with them, and we’re much stronger in the region if Israel is a partner and a friend.

As we have done over the last few years, we can go to New Zealand, and Australia, and Japan, and South Korea, and Malaysia, and Vietnam, and a host of other countries and say, “Look, partner with us. You know, let us have a trade agreement. Let’s have a regional trade agreement. China doesn’t have to be the only partner that you look to for economic aid or for economic partnerships. We can go to NATO and honor that alliance when it comes to Vladimir Putin.”

I mean the bottom line is the United States is far stronger with our friends and one of the great strengths that we have unlike Russia who has no friends at all in the world. They just have people they compel to work with. And China who has no real friends in the world they just have nations, they are compelled to work with. They force them to work with them. We actually have friends and allies. And I think one of the most important things is to take advantage of those friendships, those things we have in common to stand together against these threats that we’re facing.

Taylor:

Excellent. Thank you. Let me divert a little bit and go back to the topic you mentioned about be united and [inaudible] on race. This question is: many people are struggling today to reconcile America’s history of racial inequality before the law inherited the goodness of America that you have highlighted in your address. In such a polarized political age, how do we help people achieve that kind of reconciliation instead of rejecting American, I can’t say it, exceptionalism?

Stewart:

Yeah. I’ll tell you that is a delicate, delicate question. And I guess I would start with the premise that we can do it, because some people are so frightened by it that they don’t want to talk about it at all. And they’re so afraid of either saying the wrong thing or, you know, offending someone that it’s made the conversation as I said very delicate.

And I think that the key to it is kind of the premise I’m talking that is, look, we understand that slavery was a terrible stain on our country. It was a terrible stain on our country. It was terrible stain on our history. But we recognized that. We fought the Civil War to change that and we have tried to get better since. We recognize that the Jim Crow laws perpetuated some of that racism, that the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s of which by the way the Republican party led. We were fighting against Democratic southern senators and congressmen to implement those Civil Rights reforms.

It was incredibly important to step forward to getting better and then finally recognizing, “Okay. Well, then are we finished? Is everything perfect right now?” No, the truth is that we can still do better, but I don’t think because we have been imperfect in these things now and there are still some of those elements that may exist that we therefore say, “Well, the United States is an evil country, and we should destroy it, and tear it down, and start over.” But again that sounds extreme but I’m telling you there are many people who actually believe that, and you’ve got to be able to reconcile those two things. Yes, there were mistakes made in the past. We have tried to do better. We can continue to get better but that doesn’t mean that our nation, or our history, or the traditions of freedom and democracy, those principles, that those are therefore so fatally flawed that they can’t be defended. It’s just not true.

And I’m going to say this quickly and then we can move on, but one of the really smart things that some of these advocates have done is they’ve tied racism and the fact that we have disparate outcomes because of our economics which don’t guarantee perfect outcomes. They guarantee perfect opportunities, but they’ve tied that together saying, you know, “Therefore, racism and capitalism is so flawed or capitalism is so racist, that capitalism is the problem.”

And I just don’t think that’s the case at all. It can’t be the case in the sense that we’ve already done so much good in the world, but to say that we don’t have a perfectly equal outcome, therefore, we have to tear it down and start over again, I just think that’s nonsense.

Taylor: Okay. Thank you. Let me ask you this question that is related to that from our audience member. In the age of COVID and with many parents deciding or debating whether or not to homeschool their children this fall, is there…and this may take up the remainder of our 15 minutes given your prolific writing. Do you have a recommended text or reading list for parents to use to educate their children accurately on the founding principles of our country?

Stewart:

You know what? I don’t and maybe I should, but the truth is that I’ve never homeschooled our children, and my kids have been…you know, they’re all in college. Actually, my youngest just graduated from college so it’s been a while. I guess I would start by some great books by one of my favorite author Chris Stewart; maybe some of you guys have heard of him. But actually we do talk about the ” Seven Miracles That Saved America” and ” The Miracle of Freedom” with world history. I’m kidding of course. I’m not recommending those books at all, and I’m not selling them out in the trunk of my car.

But my point is that there are a lot of good resources out there. There’s lots of good books out there that parents could turn to. And I know that there are guides and that there are, you know, organizations that could help in that. But off the top of my head, I really don’t have a great answer to that question.

One thing I’ve learned in this job is that it’s okay to say, you know, “I’m not really sure. There’s other people who could answer that better than I could.” I don’t have to know everything, thank heaven, because heaven knows that I don’t know everything. That’s for sure.

Taylor:

All right. Thank you. And this is the last question. A few weeks ago, we celebrated Pioneer Day here in the state of Utah, and you wrote an excellent op-ed in relation to religious liberty. How does the state of religious liberty in other countries affect our national security?

Stewart:

Yeah, it comes back to this principle of the things that unite us—the ideas, principles, foundational beliefs that unite us. There are people all over the world who believe the same way that we do. They want to express their sincere and deeply held beliefs, whatever that might be. Their religious beliefs they want to express those and be able to hold those. And they’re denied all over the world.

Russia has no religious freedom at all nearly. Now, they go through kind of a pretext but it’s very, very difficult to exercise your religious freedom in Russia. It’s impossible in China. And in many other nations around the world, it is very, very difficult. And by the way, almost all of those…none of those are free democracies. They’re all totalitarian or communist party leaders that have taken away people’s religious freedom because totalitarian and oppressive leaders will never support religious freedom because it gives their people independent thought.

But when we can protect religious liberty around the world and, by the way, protect it at home because it is a battle that is just beginning for us on religious liberty, which is why we wrote the editorial. That’s why we did the Fairness for All bill that was designed to protect religious liberty but protect against discrimination.

There is area in the public space to do both but I think that the fight for religious liberty is one that we have to support around the country but we have to be willing to engage in that fight here at home as well to protect the first amendment, that foundational liberty. I think religious liberty is the foundational liberty upon which all of the liberties are resting, and my fear is that there’s going to be a battle for that in ways that we may not anticipate not only around the world as the questioner indicated but even here at home.

Sutherland Institute is pleased to present content from our Congressional Series and other events. Perspectives expressed by guests and participants may not reflect those of Sutherland. The Institute does seek to provide a civil forum to express those views.

 

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