Interview with Charlton Heston

Personal Snapshots
December 1999

by Mark Skousen

Time magazine will decide this month who is its “Person of the Century.” The issue was raised at the New Orleans Investment Conference last month. There I had a chance to meet Stephen Ambrose, author of best-selling books such as D-Day, Undaunted Courage and several presidential biographies. His choice is Dwight D. Eisenhower. According to Ambrose, Eisenhower was the right person to make the decisive decisions in World War II (such as D-Day), and fought to keep America out of war with the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

Ambrose, who was Eisenhower’s official biographer, says that on several occasions during his administration his advisors and members of Congress demanded that he act militarily against Russia. But he refused, saying it would have been a bloodbath and the end of Western civilization. Eisenhower told his advisors, “Soviet communism is a great evil, but it cannot survive our system of democratic capitalism. We must be patient and it will die on its own.” He was eventually proven right.

I certainly think Eisenhower is a better candidate than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who got us into World War II as a way out of the Depression, and started us on the road to big government with Social Security and other New Deal programs. I think Winston Churchill is a much better candidate as a world leader, and far less divisive.

On the closing panel in New Orleans, newsletter editor Larry Abraham named C. S. Lewis as the Person of the Century for his classic works in defending liberty and moral faith (The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, Chronicles of Narnia). I like Larry’s idea of choosing a person who was a great influence for good in the 20th century, rather than picking political leaders who did a great deal of harm, such as Lenin or Hitler. In this regard, I would definitely choose Winston Churchill over Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or in economics, Friedrich Hayek over John Maynard Keynes.

The Film of the Century

The highlight of this year’s New Orleans conference was spending time with the actor Charlton Heston. My wife, Jo Ann, and I had the chance to have lunch with this famous actor. In his 76 colorful years, he has made the same number of films! My favorite is Ben Hur, which in my judgment is the film of the century. It deservedly earned 11 Academy Awards, more than any other in history.

In his talk, Heston warned us that our liberties are at risk in this era of Big Government. “The government encourages irresponsibility,” he stated. “As citizens, you need to spend the same time and effort defending your freedoms as you do on your investments.” Good advice!

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