How lessons from a troubled personal past propelled a heroic man to try to save his nation.
Editor's note: Below is the video and transcript of David Horowitz's introduction of Glenn Beck at the Freedom Center's West Coast Retreat, recently held at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, California, from March 21-23, 2014:
To introduce Glenn Beck is always a special pleasure for me. Glenn and I have several kinships. We have both chosen the path of missionaries in a troubled world. As a result we are confronted by numerous and powerful adversaries who wish to prevent others from hearing what we have to say, and who have attempted to bury us under layers of fiction as to who we are and what we believe. By appending derisive epithets to our names, they have sought to deny us our humanity and indeed any personhood at all.
Because warriors like Glenn Beck are constantly under fire, and because their truth is constantly being erased, it is important to know who they are and to never lose sight of it. That is why I am going to take a moment to tell you about the man Glenn Beck is, about what he has done for himself, and what he is trying to do for his country.
If you know Glenn Beck only as a public figure, you have seen him facing wicked, character demolishing fire. Yet you can also see that he is a vulnerable man, someone more than ready to concede in public his own flaws and failings; you can see that he is an emotional man with the tears of his defeats and regrets close to the surface. Yet – and this is another oxymoron of his character -- he is also a man with outsize ambitions such as only the most powerful ego could possibly sustain: a man crusading across oceans to fight battles for freedom, an entrepreneur who has set out to build a national media network from scratch, and largely with his own earnings. You see all this and you wonder – and probably worry -- how these conflicting realities come together and where they will lead. I am going to tell who this man is and the reason why I consider him not only my friend but an American hero.
His is truly an American story. Glenn is a baker’s son from a little town named to honor the father of our country -- Mount Vernon Washington. Growing up in quite modest circumstances, Glenn’s talents have made him a multi-millionaire -- money that he has invested in building his network and in a movement dedicated to defending the principles and ideas that provided him the freedom to pursue his dreams.
He was raised in a family plagued by alcoholism. Within this troubled environment, he always felt that he was his mother’s favorite child, and she his rod and staff. Everything he had in life, including his passion for radio, which became his career, he felt he owed to her. But his mother was also part of the family problem, a depressed woman, addicted to drugs and alcohol.
When Glenn was thirteen his mother committed suicide, leaving him without his best friend and support, and with a black hole in the center of his soul. That hole was quickly filled with a corrosive bitterness and distrust. The adolescent child was overcome with guilt and self-loathing for having failed to make his mother love him enough not to want not to leave him. What she did leave him was the thought: “I have been poisoned.” And then: “I am poison.”
For the next twenty years this was the truth of Glenn Beck’s life. The truth of him. Like others whose existence is consumed by anger and pain, Glenn dealt with his demons by denial, and by attempting to smother them, as his mother had, with alcohol and drugs. The betrayal he had suffered led to a soul-crushing fear of intimacy and trust, lest his life be shattered again. The impossible angers he sought to suppress exploded periodically in the course of his affairs, destroying whatever relationships he managed to build.
Typical of those who fall into a despair like this, he blamed others for his misery, his mother first of all. It was she who had done this to him, who had poisoned his life and caused him to poison it over and over again. With these feelings, he denied his own reality and gave up his freedom to change it. If others are to blame for your life you cannot choose to make it different.
At this point in his journey he did not have the courage to face his own reality, to grab its truth and use that knowledge to change it. Yes, the truth will set you free, but as Glenn will tell you, it will make you miserable first. Misery is just what this young man was desperately attempting to flee. It is what everyone in denial is attempting to flee.
At this stage of his life, he was so blind he could not even see the truth that he was an alcoholic. When his doctor told him that if he didn’t give up alcohol he would soon be dead, he denied the diagnosis. He told the doctor that he was ingesting no more than two drinks a day. What he failed to mention was that the drinks were not shot glasses but huge tumblers of bourbon. He lied to himself believing that the sign that you were an alcoholic was that you drank during the day. He devised an elaborate routine to maintain the fiction and protect himself from the truth. He would go to work in the morning to do his radio show, come home, take an afternoon nap, and wait for the clock to strike five. That would signal that the day was over and he could begin to drink.
In other words, to him – and these are his words -- “it wasn’t the destruction of my family, my marriage and my liver that were the bad signs – it was the time of day that I did it.” That is true denial.
In 1996, Glenn was 32 years old, a man of prodigious talents who had made a name for himself as a successful “shock jock” radio host. It was the perfect profession, allowing him to vent the cynicism and rage that were the fruits of his self-loathing, project them onto others and make a good dollar in the process. But in 1996 his wife, the mother of his two daughters, the closest person to him, rebelled. She rebelled against the denial, the lies, the lack of accountability and the absence of real intimacy that had already destroyed their marriage. In 1996 she gave Glenn notice that she was divorcing him. The surreal world that alcohol and denial had created for him was shattered. He was forced to confront himself as he was: a broken man with a broken family. It was enough truth to prompt him to begin a painful, unsteady journey to a new life.
Of course nothing unfolds as a single event. The seeds of the change he now embarked on had been planted two years earlier by his daughters, who were 8 and 5, and whom he loved more than anything in the world, and certainly more than himself. In his heart, Glenn was an adoring father and he had a gift for storytelling. Nearly every night he put his daughters to bed with tales he invented about three mice, Inky, Blinky and Stinky, and their attempts to reach the promised Island of Parmesan Cheese. On this particular morning he went downstairs to where his daughters were already having breakfast. As soon as he appeared, they were at him, “Daddy, daddy, tell us the story about Inky, Blinky and Stinky you told us last night. That was the best one ever!”
But Glenn didn’t remember the story. He didn’t even remember reading to the girls that night. He didn’t even remember being home. He had blacked out. It wasn’t the first time. But it was the most important one. Somewhere inside him he realized at that moment that it was as though he had died, and left them.
That Sunday he went to an AA meeting in the basement of a local church and introduced himself. “Hi,” he said. “My name is Glenn. I think I’m an alcoholic.” But nothing does unfold as a single event, and there were still trials ahead. It was two years later that his wife told him she was leaving. They confronted each other in the garage of their family home. You need to hear this scene described in Glenn’s own words:
“She looked at me in a way that combined equal measures of real compassion and intense anger. Then she burst into tears. ‘You are not your mother!’ she yelled. ‘You are not going to repeat the mistakes that she made. Quite frankly, if that’s what you want to do then that’s what you want to do. But you are not going to do that to your children.’”
You are not going to do that to your children. These were the words that turned Glenn around, that stripped the scales from his eyes and brutally forced him to see his life as it had become. He was on course to leave his little girls the same way his mother had left him. If he did not actually kill himself – and he was well on his way to doing that – he would black them out as he had on that fateful morning. The person he had become could not really be there for them as his mother had not been there for him.
Seeing himself in his mother’s shoes not only transformed the way he saw himself but the way he had seen his mother until then. The reality of his despair opened his eyes to hers, and transformed his understanding of how and why she had left him.
He saw now that she was trapped in the same kind of depression and pain that afflicted him, and that “for her, the thread of hope had finally snapped.” The moment this thought entered his head, the moment this connection was made, he gave himself the power to step outside the bubble of self, and understand his mother’s plight. “Right then and there,” he later recalled, “for the first time in my life, I forgave her.” Forgiving her, he was finally able to forgive himself. He was not the reason she had left him. He was not poison.
The road forward was still long and difficult, but the fact that he no longer blamed his mother – the fact that he had ceased to see his life as a fate he couldn’t affect -- restored to him the power to choose, the courage to face his reality and change it.
And so the Glenn Beck you see before you was born: the Glenn Beck who created the 9/12 Movement to memorialize the catastrophe of 9/11 and to restore the virtues of an America that had once been the envy of the world; the Glenn Beck who organized mass demonstrations in Washington and in Jerusalem to “Restore Courage” in the face of freedom’s enemies; the Glenn Beck who is building a national media and historical archive to educate Americans about the miracle that is their country and to arm them against the threats their country faces from enemies at home and abroad.
But how? How did this Glenn Beck spring from the other? It’s certainly understandable that after his personal transformation, and after the attacks of 9/11, he no longer found professional satisfaction in insulting his radio listeners and spinning Britney Spears songs. But why this? Why this grand reclamation project, this defense of country, its principles and its freedoms? How do we get from there to here? Would it not be more likely that the man who emerged from this crucible of personal suffering and redemption would become a self-help guru, or a religious missionary?
Well, Glenn is a missionary. I attended his last mass gathering, which he called “Restoring Love.” And yes it was, in essence, just the way it sounds -- a tent revival meeting. Only the tent was the Dallas Cowboys’ football stadium with 60,000 people in attendance, and the object of the religious feeling was America. Its message was the need to defend America against the siege not only from external enemies but from domestic turncoats -- university intellectuals, teachers and politicians who were instructing new generations to despise their heritage; to blame everyone but themselves for the dissatisfactions of their lives and the hatred they felt towards their country.
At “Restoring Love,” Glenn had even created a religious iconography. On center stage in the middle of Cowboy Stadium, Glenn placed the actual wooden desk at which Abraham Lincoln sat as a congressman in the U.S. Capitol, 150 years earlier. He also placed on stage a famous painting of George Washington praying at Valley Forge, and had his own commentary to go with it. The painting portrayed a private moment that was witnessed by Isaac Potts, the Pennsylvanian on whose Valley Forge property Washington’s troops were bivouacked at this darkest moment of America’s struggle to be born. Glenn has acquired and preserved the actual deed to Isaac Potts Valley Forge property as part of his campaign of restoring love for his country.
As it happens, until the moment when Potts saw Washington praying, he had been loyal to the king and not sympathetic to the American rebels. But when he saw the humility and devotion of the general of their troops, the quality of the leader they had chosen, he concluded that he had taken the wrong side; and he decided then and there to join the builders of a great new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
I think it is probably becoming clearer now how this all fits together. If you step back and look at Glenn’s story, it is familiar to all of us, even though we may have experienced different traumas and perhaps not so severe. You get up in life and life knocks you down. No one escapes getting knocked down. The problem for all of us is how to get back up.
At the turn of the millennium Glenn Beck got back up and was able to restore his love for his mother, and his love for himself, and therefore for others. Then, on September 11, 2001, as the new century was beginning, his country got knocked down; and got knocked down in a way that it had never experienced since becoming a great power a hundred years earlier. On 9/11 America was attacked in its homeland by enemies so hateful that few would have imagined they existed the day before. Now these global enemies trumpeted their desire to destroy America. To compound their evil, they claimed that its destruction was blessed and ordained by God.
Not long after 9/11 -- somewhere between the attacks themselves and the war to bring down the monster Saddam Hussein -- the domestic enemies of America also came out of the woodwork condemning their own country in absolute terms. And these radicals resonated with a large section of the American public. In 2008 they elected one of their own, a president who lied about what he was and what believed in. On taking office he began to systematically bankrupt this great nation and disarm it in the face of its enemies.
The America that elected Obama was very like an alcoholic -- drunk on progressive ideology, self-loathing, and denial. Always blaming their mother country first.
They blamed America for the wars that were being waged against her; they compared her leaders to the worst despots in history; they showed that they too wanted their country destroyed. “Fundamentally transformed” was the way Obama put it, just before becoming the 44th president of the United States.
When he was elected a second time, and began a second even more radical term, and the anniversary of America’s tragedy came around again, Glenn launched his September 12th movement. Its purpose, he said, was, “to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001 ... We were united as Americans, standing together to protect the values and principles of the greatest nation ever created.”
Glenn did it, he explained on television when he made the announcement, “Because I love my country.” As he said the words tears welled in his eyes. It was a straightforward, unvarnished, too honest truth for the drunk-on-progressivism sophisticates. They swarmed all over him, with scathing mockery. Boo-hoo-hoo. Wah-wah-wah. That was the response of comedians like John Stewart and other icons of the anti-American ethos that was now the culture of the media, of the university and of the leadership of the Democratic Party.
The tears that Glenn shed, the commitment they reflected, provide the keys to understanding who this man is, and what he does, and why he does it. The first thing to understand about Glenn Beck is that he loves America with the kind of love that we normally experience towards family. We honor and cherish family as the point of our origins and the crucible of our identities. We are who we are because of them.
The same is true of America -- of the American culture that we are now losing as the result of half a century of unanswered attacks on our heritage by the America-hating left. We are who we are as Americans because of those who went before us -- because of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Isaac Potts.
What we are as Americans, what we have been as Americans, is a people that is free. Our freedom was won and is continually won -- as Glenn learned from his personal struggle, as we all learn from ours -- through courage and love. The courage to see things as they are, to restore the reality that has been denied. The compassion to see through the eyes of others and to care about them. And about our country. The courage and compassion to answer the call to defend the idea – the unique American idea -- that we the people, not governments or kings, are sovereign, and that our rights are not given by governments or men but by our Creator. That they are therefore inalienable; and that that is the freedom that makes us who we are.
As we make our individual ways through the mysteries of this life, we see that in it no one has the answers; no one sees every turn in the road; no one achieves a self-mastery that would keep things always under control; no one can avoid lurches to the side or the occasional fall into a ditch. When everything is said and done you may not agree with all the conclusions Glenn Beck has drawn from his life. But if you have the courage and empathy to see the man as he is you will not fail to appreciate that in Glenn Beck we and our country have a great, compassionate and brave friend; and in this hour of our nation’s peril, an indispensable one.
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