Editor's note: Below are the video and transcript of remarks given by Brian Kilmeade at the David Horowitz Freedom Center's 2018 Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 15th-18th at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.
Hi. How's everybody doing? You all right? Milo stole my act, so I'm going to have to come up with a Plan B. Exactly it. Sebastian Gorka, great job. Milo, fantastic job. David Horowitz, thanks so much for having me here, and Mark, great introduction, great job doing an emcee. I actually feel very at home here. Not only have I been at the Breakers before, but as I look at the audience, this is essentially the Fox News green room. I'm very familiar.
I'm going to break away a little bit from politics and go back to our roots, and what I really tried to do in these three books is reaffirm what made America great, and that is, just going back on how we started. I was kind of astounded a few years ago when we had a president of the United States that wrestled with this question: Are we an exceptional nation? And I thought, "Of course we are." He goes, "Well, everybody thinks they're exceptional. Oh, we think we're exceptional; so does everybody else." And it made me go back and really look back at our history and realize we're not perfect, but what we went through to get here, the things we had to overcome, the things we achieved is flat out miraculous.
So what I wanted to do is get these founding fathers off Mount Rushmore. I wanted to get behind them and find out who they were. Did you know, Thomas Jefferson was 6'3 with red hair and freckles? Did you know that George Washington had bad teeth, and he was self conscious, felt he had to always overachieve because he didn't have the great education of a lot of people that he was fighting with and wanted to impress? And then I sort of realized, it's not about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt or FDR. America is made up of so‑called average, everyday people doing extraordinary things because they care about the country. They don't want a pat on the back; they don't want praise; they don't want riches. They care about the nation, and they live and die without any fame and acclaim. And I realized there are stories to be told around that, so I cannot do a George Washington bio that's better than anything you've read. I can't do anything from Jefferson that you don't know. I can't do anything about Jackson that you can't look up. But if I could tell you what happened around them and recreate those moments that I think shaped the country that we are today, I thought, "Then, I'm doing my job."
So, for 20 years, since 1989, I've been studying George Washington. It's because I grew up on Long Island. Anybody from Long Island here? As Jerry Seinfeld says, "After 60, it's the law, you have to come to Florida." It does not surprise me. So I'm sitting there on 25A, a famous thoroughfare, and they were painting a line in the road. And I said, "Sir, no offense, I thought a machine did that." He goes, "Well, this is going to wash away." Right after, he goes, "This is to symbolize where George Washington came right before he took office in New York City to thank his spies." I said, "What spies?" He gave me the name of a book – Morton Pennypacker wrote it – he broke the code in 1930. Without these spies, we don't win the Revolutionary War. Now, you know about a lot of famous people that fought in the Revolutionary War, but you don't know about a farmer, a bartender, a longshoreman, a printer who is a journalist, a grocery store owner and a socialite who learned more in the middle of a war about the spy craft than any of our CIA agents learn today before they go out on a single mission. How do I know? Because I went to Langley, Virginia, and I wanted to make sure – you know, as a Fox guy, you have to check your facts, because everyone's looking over your shoulder – I wanted to make sure I wasn't so caught up in this story that I was blowing things out of proportion.
So, I went into the CIA, and I go through about 25 doors. It's like the opening of Get Smart. Remember Get Smart? And as I get through the 24th door, I see a gift shop. And I'm saying, "Sir, don't blame yourself if traffic's a little slow today. Not many people are coming in." So I get to the historical portion of the CIA, and I said, "What could you tell me about the Culper spy ring? Named after George Washington's hometown, Culpepper. And he goes, "Well, what do you know?" So, I told him. He opened up his folder, and what they taught and what they did and what they figured out, because we were losing a war, for George Washington to have inspired in a way in which Lombardi did would have been awesome. With dead drops, with numbers, with writing between lines, with invisible ink, they were able to unwind what the British were doing before the British even knew they were doing it. And guess whose information they gave it to? George Washington. And guess whose Army was almost destroyed before they could get into New York City when they were in Brooklyn? George Washington. He knew he couldn't square off ever again with the British because he almost got destroyed, but he could do guerilla warfare, and the people that got him that information were the bartender, the longshoreman, the farmer, the grocery store owner, the printer and the socialite. Can you relate to that? That's what made America, and that's what made us great. It's not the guys whose faces are carved into the side of a mountain; it's not the people on your money, and they would be the first one to tell you.
So, as I start finding out what Morton Pennypacker found out in 1930, that they put everything at risk, and they live and die without any acclaim, I thought I'd share a few stories, talk about how sophisticated they got. I'm going to read you a letter that they'd handed off to each other, because if they were caught, they’d die. The first chapter of this book is Nathan Hale, a great American, but a bad spy. He gets over to Long Island, gets caught in Huntington, gets hung at 66 and 3rd in Manhattan, and the message was sent: You spy, you die. And Washington felt responsible. He says, "I'm going to do this right. I know how to do it from the French Indian War, and I'm going to put it together. This is how deep they got.
"December 15, 1779: Agreeable to 28 at 73, not far from 727 and received at 356, but on the return was under the necessity to destroy the same or be detected. There's been no augmentation by 592 or 680 or 347." What does it mean? "Sir Jonas Hawkins, agreeable to appointment, met Culper Jr. not far from New York and received a letter, but on his return was under the necessity to destroy the letter. There has been an augmentation of ship of war, land forces, everything very quiet. Every letter is opened in the entrance of New York. Every man is search. That, for the future, every letter must be written and written with invisible ink, a sympathetic stain."
Here's a group of people who have the idea and image of a country, that would do absolutely anything to make it happen, who are outnumbered going against the number one fighting force in the world, who had every advantage known to man, from money to the offense, even knew the terrain. Why were we able to prevail? Because there's something special about this country. The people that came before you, the people that told you to come here, your ancestors knew there was something special about this country and this idea. And time and time again, as you study it, miraculous things happen. I'll give you an example. Washington's backed up to Brooklyn, and he's saying they're about to descend on him. His instinct says to fight, but he knows if he fights and loses, it's over. So, when night falls, he's got to get out. The word gets out, and civilian crafts show up to get him into Manhattan. The problem is they can't show. It's too windy and waving. They can't get up. Finally, at about 12:00, it calms. The ships show up, and they begin to disembark and get to Manhattan. Soon, the sun starts coming up, and only half the Army's out. Out of nowhere, a fog rolls in so thick you can't see in front of your face. We thought that was a myth like the cherry tree. What we find out is that Major Tallmadge told the story in 1830, wrote it on a 76‑page bio, because his kid said, "Dad, you've lived an extraordinary life. You were side by side with George Washington. You've got to write down these stories." So the story they told us is that it was a myth, didn't matter, probably didn't happen. We find out it was written by a guy from 1830. "That fog was so thick the whole Army got out, and they went back and got their horses." They get to Manhattan to live to fight another day, or we're not in this room. We're certainly no such thing as America, and there's certainly no such thing as freedom around the world, because America got this whole thing started.
That's the country you're from, and for those people out there who say, "I'm in America. We all love George Washington, but he's pretty much a myth. It's kind of like all hype. He really wasn't that great of a person. We put him on a pedestal because that's what the English teachers told us; that's what the social studies teachers reaffirmed." Wrong. The people that knew him knew he was extraordinary. And what I found so enjoyable about this book is that people wrote about their interaction with Washington. His final movement at Fraunces Tavern – which I feature in Fox Nation, which you all have to get; I did ten features. One was Fraunces Tavern, the oldest bar in Manhattan. I love bars, especially old bars that give me free beer because I'm on television, but that's where Washington said farewell to his troops. You want to know what it was like? Listen. Major Tallmadge was there. "Entering the room promptly at 12:00, Washington seated himself and enjoyed a light lunch before raising his glass of wine, speaking in a voice heavy with emotion. He told them, 'With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I must devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been, glorious and honorable.' We then all followed Washington up, we touched his hand, and he left. We followed him to the wharf where a prodigious crowd had assembled. He hopped on a small barge, went down, hooked up with another and went home."
Think about the emotion. It's 1783. He just put together a band of continental fighters and farmers, and they defeated the number one fighting force in the world. They created a country, the country that we all support and will die for, and think about the man that made it possible and the people he's looking at, the officers that commanded the regiments that pulled it off. If you don't think this is a real story, if you don't think Washington is a real person, if you don't think America is made out of some of the finest people on the planet, a human all star team who chose to be here, for the most part, you do not understand American history, you don't understand this country, and you don't fully understand how great we are. We're not great because we're perfect; we're great because we're trying to be. And that's George Washington's secret six.
So, I did stand up for awhile, and I always thought, they'd say, "Listen, Brian, if you do 20 minutes, and you hit a high at 15, and you know you're getting a loud laugh, do not finish. Get off." So I'm saying, I studied Washington for 20 years and aspiring. I reaffirmed it, treated it like a new story, got new information, I can't replicate it. Get off the stage. And then they ask me, "What are you passionate about?" I go, "Well, the war on terror has got me consumed. The whole hunt for Bin Laden is really what's got us going." And I said, "Well, any time people write with perspective about the war on terror, they bring up Jefferson." Thomas Jefferson, not known as a warrior, knew there was an Islamic extremist threat, and he knew it before we had a government, before we had a president. You know why? Because before we had an Army, before we had a president, we had our first enemy, and it was Islamic extremists, people that bastardized the Koran in order to use it as a weapon to absolutely blackmail the west, the Spanish, the French, the British. Everybody in Europe would pay the price in order to, when they went through the Mediterranean by these four north African nations, to not get raided, to not get boarded, to not get their craft taken, the cargo pillaged and their people taken as hostage. We're a new nation. All we have is war, debt and a lot of ambition, and an ability to work our way out of it; and natural resources to make it happen.
So, what are we going to do? So, it's time for a meeting, and the meeting's going to be between John Adams, an ambassador to England, and John Adams, ambassador to France. They wanted to talk our way out of it. They wanted to explain, "Hey, you guys got enemies. We're brand new. We're 2 years old. We're not your enemy. We just want to be able to use the international waters." They said, "They're our waters." So Jefferson and Adams met. They walked out with very different attitudes. Adams said, "We can't fight them, or we're going to have to fight them forever." Jefferson said, "We have to fight them, because if you don't punish the first insult, more will follow." So what do you do? You bring your case back to this country, and because we had no Army, because we had no Navy, we had to pay the price to Tripoli, Morocco, Tunis (which is Tunisia), Algiers (which is Algeria), just so our guys can travel through the Mediterranean, and they were still taken hostage, and we still couldn't afford to get them out, and they were still being tortured. We had our first threat.
In fact, here's the quote – tell me if this sounds familiar – "All nations, according to the Koran, which have not acknowledged the prophet were sinners whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave. Christian sailors were, plain and simple, fair game." That's the quote from the Tripoli ambassador. Man, have things changed?
He went on, "If you fight us, every muscleman who was slain in warfare was sure to go to paradise." Jefferson to Monroe: "We ought to bring in a naval power if we mean to carry on our own commerce. I am of the opinion that John Paul Jones and a half a dozen …..would destroy their commerce by constantly cruising and cutting them to shreds."
Soon – and by the way, Thomas Jefferson on why we fight: "The love of peace, which we sincerely feel and profess, has begun to produce an opinion in Europe that our government is entirely of Quaker principles," – sorry Quakers – "and will turn the left cheek when the right one is smitten. The opinion must be corrected when just occasion rises, or we shall become the plunder of all nations."
Do you know what the smartest man in the planet's saying? It's still schoolyard works. The toughest guy is not going to get picked on. If you are tough, they're not going to challenge you. If you show weakness, you will be challenged, and you will be hit. Things have not changed. The schooling's better; our knowledge is better; our knowledge of the world is more understood. But still, it comes down to, are you willing to do anything you can to defend your nation? Are you willing to fight? And if you are, and you can back it up, you won't have to. Jefferson, the intellect, knew it. So when Washington becomes president, they plead their case. Washington says, "I'll split the baby”, essentially. “I'm going to build a Navy, because we have none, but for now, I'm going to pay the price." When Adams takes over, Adams got the ships. He's like, "I'm not going to fight these guys. These guys are crazy." When Adams wins, Jefferson knows exactly what he's going to do: Stop making the payments. What happens if you stop making the payments? They declare war. First up, Tripoli. We send some ships over; we got the wrong guy in charge; he doesn't have any coordination; it doesn't work. The next guy comes over, he only wants to party in the Mediterranean, pull him out. The next guy is Edward Preble, really the father of the Navy. He drills, he coordinates, he instills fear, and these six ships because eight and ten, start coordinating in a way that Europe could only wonder if they could ever pull it off. In the end, they strangle Tripoli.
But it wasn't enough. Americans are getting restless. When's this war going to end? Queue William Eaton. William Eaton's a crazy guy – think half Mike Ditka and think half Roger Ailes. He says to Jefferson, "If you just give me some muskets, a little bit of money and submarines, I'll go to Egypt, I'll get the deposed leader, I'll march through the desert, and I'll take out Tripoli." Jefferson's like, "I got this. Don't worry about it." After 2 years, they told the treasury secretary, Gallatin said, "Go get Eaton." He said, "We didn't have this conversation. Here's your muskets; here's your money; go for it." So, all William Eaton did--American born--goes to Egypt, puts together a mercenary Army, gets the deposed leader of Libya, marches 500 miles with a handful of gutsy Marines through the desert, without a map, no MapQuest, no Ways app; goes through the desert, goes to Derna and takes out a major city in 2 ½ hours. On the cusp of going after Benghazi and then Tripoli, they stopped short. They panic. Nobody, in all the hundreds of years, has ever taken on an enemy threat, Islamic extremists, like we have.
So, in case you think I'm blowing it out of proportion, the pope says this, "The Americans, with a small force and a short space of time, have done more for the cause of Christianity and freedom than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages." By 1805, we took on the terrorists, we took on the world's superpower. We're fighting for freedom with very little money, with nothing but an idea of a government, with forces around the world determined to destroy us. Why? Because you're an absolute monarch or you're a king or you're a queen. This whole democracy thing is not good for business. The whole idea of elections, not really what I'm looking forward to. The whole idea of giving it your all and having success and not staying in the same class, not the template that they had formatted for humanity. America changed all that.
That's the country you're from; that's the idea we had; these are the people that came before us, and this is why everyone wants to come here, because they want to be us, they want to be part of us, and if they come for the right reasons, you're going to excel, and you'll appreciate having the opportunity to excel. No guaranteed success, but an opportunity for success.
Are we out of the woods yet? No. The War of 1812 happens. The problem with the British, much like Stacey Abrams, they don't know when they lost. So the British say, "The Treaty of Paris, we're not going to leave the Midwest. You know that whole merchant ship thing? We're going to take your guys, going to put them into our Navy. We're going to harass your ships. We're going to radicalize the American Indian troops, and we're going to make sure the Spanish never leave Florida, and what is to the future of Mexico, it never stops, let's up on Texas." So, finally, the war hawks come in, much like today, and they say, "We've got to stand up to the British, plus, they're fighting the French anyway. They're not going to focus on us. We have to stand up to them." And with 19 votes in the Senate and 79 in the house, we go to war. And it's a great idea, except for one thing: We have no standing Army and have a shell of a Navy. And we're, again, taking on a superpower that's stronger than ever, and they're a little angry about that humiliating loss from 29 years prior.
So, Madison and his secretary of war Armstrong have a great idea: Let's take what we have in Army and go to Canada and fight them there. Great, leaving the whole Atlantic seaboard wide open to be terrorized by the British to the point where they get in and burn Washington to the ground. If you think that this country's in jeopardy because Barak Obama's president or Donald Trump's president, you don't understand where we came from, what we did to get here, what we overcame to survive and thrive.
So that sets the scene for Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans. The first guy to put his hand up to say, "I will lead my militia to take on the British," is Andrew Jackson. But, just like today, you've got to know somebody; you've got to be part of the intelligentsia; you've got to be part of Virginia, Washington, Boston and New York. Not Jackson. He's a back woodsman. He has a reason to fight, tough as nails. His dad died before he was born. His older brother dies in the Revolutionary War. Him and his younger brother volunteer. They become couriers and scouts. They get caught; they get imprisoned. His other brother gets hit in the head to the point he never recovers; he dies. His mom goes out to earn a living; she dies of cholera. This guy's alone at 15. You think he's mad at the British? Yeah. He has a little bit of problem with the British. Do you think he thirsts for revenge at 41 years old? Yes. The guy that became a self-taught lawyer, judge, attorney general, senator and congressman is the American dream. You give somebody an opportunity for success, you don't guarantee it. He bled red, white and blue and thirsted to defend our nation that was flat on its back. In 1814, he gets the call. Jackson's in.
So, let's take a look at Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans so you'll understand roughly what the book's about and how America, once again, prevailed. It goes a little bit smoother at Fox. You guys all right?
Yeah, but suddenly, I mean, that was miraculous because, with Washington flat on his back, our 5 foot 3 inch president on a horse by himself wondering where his wife was and his family was, where his Army was, we actually outnumbered the British, but the militia ran for the hills. They had no organization. Jackson changed all that, and he did it by changing an attitude. He took a 1,200‑man militia, well, goes to New Orleans; inspires a city that he wasn't sure wanted to be American, and then told them, "You're all in the Army. Congratulations, you've been drafted." In 3 ½ weeks, a uniquely pure American Army. Choctaw Indians, Cherokee Indians, free men of color, Cassians, pirates, Kentuckians, Tennesseans and regular militia. He took a 1,200‑man Army, made it 5,000. The only problem, he's taking on 9,000, and the Army that he was taking on was fresh off defeating Napoleon. You think they were confident? Absolutely.
So Jackson did a great thing. First he said, "I'm kind of without permission going to take out these American Indians who are allied with the British. I've got to kind of watch my flank. Then, I'm going to blow up one of these Spanish forts in Florida – sorry – and let them know, 'We don't want you participating.' Then, I'm going to take my guys, and I'm going to go to New Orleans, because I looked at a map. You have the mouth of the Mississippi, you've got the Mississippi. You own the mouth; you own the Mississippi; you can own transportation; you can own commerce; you own the country. You lose it, you don't." So he goes there, and then says, "Where could they possibly land?" They landed in the exact right place for Jackson. Is that a fluke? I don't know. They land in the same place. They go through a series of reeds. Their boats are too big. They can't get close, so they got to row in. You know who's got flat boats? Jackson. And, as soon as they land, he starts lobbing him with cannons; and these guys in their beautiful red suits, hoping to spend Christmas in New Orleans, are getting hammered. Wait, we were cutting through these guys. What happened? Night falls. Jackson sends his guys in with axes and hatchets, and George Gleig, who was a captain at that time for the British, writes in his journal, and he fought for basically 25 straight years. It was the most brutal fighting he'd ever experience.
Who are these people? They're Americans fighting for the existence of their country, fighting for the manifest destiny, the ability to go from coast to coast. The British were not going to leave. We found, actually, Ron Drez, a decorated Marine and historian, found 8 years ago documentation that showed the British were told, Pakenham, who led the forces, "If you hear talk of a treaty, keep fighting. Stay in New Orleans. We're not going anywhere." They had no right, Napoleon had no right to flip Louisiana or New Orleans or bringing it to--what was then-- the World Court. You ever see the British leave Hong Kong, how long that took? You know how long they stayed in India? Do you think for a second they weren't going to sit right there in American because they feared, at the time, what we had become? And guess who else figured that out: Jackson. So, some people told us, and they told us this in school, the War of 1812 was a draw, really unnecessary. Let's just move on to the next chapter in our history. Wrong. The War of 1812 and that battle were so decisive we would not be invaded again.
Twenty-five years later, Jackson hurting, like he was his whole life, he was down to 140 pounds at 6 foot 1, suffering from dysentery with a bullet wound in him because he took a duel; because he was the second in a duel, and, of course, you have to have pride. You might as well lead your troops with a bullet in your shoulder. He's a little different than most of us. So, he was getting some people that were saying to him what they're saying to us in school. He said this at the 25‑year anniversary, "General Pakenham and 10,000 …veterans, if they could've annihilated my little Army, he would've captured New Orleans, all the contiguous territory through technicality, the war was over. Great Britain would have immediately abrogated the Treaty of Ghent, would've ignored Jefferson's transaction with Napoleon. He knew what was at stake; he got angry when they brought it up; he silenced the critics in his life, now we've got to pick it up where he left off. It was such a big deal to us; it was the second biggest holiday in America. It's one of these things in America that I take great pride, and one of my goal is to bring this back. So, when you're sitting, staring at the ceiling, saying to yourself, "What, again, makes America great? Why do I feel as though this is the best country in the world?", you'll be able to understand where we came from, the great moments that stood out and ones that don't get enough attention.
And what I truly loved and surprised me about this whole thing is I did not know I was telling the story of a true American success story. What do we promise growing up? You can achieve whatever you want in life if you put your mind to it. Go for it. Jackson had every reason to be a criminal and a vagrant. Life had dealt me a bad hand, and if he was in any other country or territory, he would've been. But in America, even then, without Social Security, Medicare or food stamps, was able to provide an opportunity for a young kid with a lot of ambition determined to matter. The American dream was born with America, and all we want in this room is, not riches, we want the opportunity to earn it, and that's what we see throughout our time.
Some stats, because I'm from sports, some stats: As I mentioned, 45 minutes, we lost 13 guys; they lost 291. They had 1,262 wounded; we had 39. They had 484 missing. They didn't run; they were blown to pieces. And we were smart. We aimed for their officers: Three generals, seven colonels, 75 officers dead. By the time they went to surrender, Colonel Lambert goes to surrender, and Jackson kept sending him back. They go, "Why do you keep sending him back?" He goes, "Send me your senior officer." They go, "General Jackson, you killed them all." We didn't care. We were going to do whatever it take to win. They were talking about chivalrous fights. We were fighting for our life. Jackson would later say, "If they took New Orleans, I was going to burn it down first and fight them right up the Mississippi." That's the American spirit.
So, who was Jackson? A cut from his farewell. "I thank God that my life has been spent in a land of liberty, that he has given me a heart to love my country with the affection of a son, and a son to his country and a father to his people." In the end, Steven Douglas would write this – the same Steven Douglas from Lincoln Douglas debate, these people really existed – on his death, and they dedicated that statute that still sits in Washington today: "When Jackson had died, there was a sense of completion that the race had been finished. He felt that his work was done, his mission fulfilled. All felt that there was a great man had fallen, yet, there was a consolation in the consciousness that the luster of his name, the fame of his great deeds and the result of his patriotic services would be preserved through all time, a rich inheritance to the devotees of freedom."
Ladies and gentlemen, that's what we thought, but now they're trying to take him off the $20.00, take his statute out of New Orleans. They just had his tomb defiled for the first time since it was actually made at his death prior to the Civil War. The guy's under attack, and I don't think that he's perfect. I've got news for you: I have not met the perfect person. The last perfect person, we nailed to a cross. So, he should be studied. He shouldn't be evaluated on our terms. This is what I liked about the Democrat; this is what I didn't. This is what I can appreciate; this is what I couldn't. But there's a reason why these presidents went back and studied him. There's a reason why it was unanimous to put him on the $20.00. There was a reason why he had an impact on almost every congressional race and president thereafter him. It wasn't the Jackson presidency; it was the Jackson era. They kept going back to him, his hope for us. He knew we were going to be great. He hoped we'd be a humble power, and we are.
So, I ask you, are we a great country? Yes. Are we perfect? No. Are we trying to be? Yes. And people misinterpret, the fight over Trump and the fight over Obama and the protests over the war with Bush. Don't overreact. We've always done this, and people on the outside don't understand us. We do the thing our parents always told us not to do: Argue in front of the company. We fight it out in front of people, but when it all comes down to it, we band together, because, believe it or not, Democrats or Republicans, for the most part, have the same goal: Get better; make us better; make us more perfect, and also spread the word of freedom. We can't guarantee it, but we like to be the beacon of hope and opportunity, and that's what they keep fighting for. Dr. Gorky, you nailed it on so many great points, but I just don't hate Democrats. I don't think Republicans should hate; I don't think Democrats should hate Republicans. The objectives, it's got to be redefined. Make the country better. Let's debate the issues, and come out, maybe, with some compromise and, in the end, even better. Through all this arguing, we're the number one military and economic power in the world, and people are still dying to get in here. We must be doing something right. Thank you so much for my time. David Horowitz, thanks for having me here; thanks so much for having me. Appreciate it.