Over four decades ago in February 1974, Senator Mark O. Hatfield spoke on Wheaton’s campus during the height of the Watergate scandal and merely six months prior to the resignation of President Nixon. Although having visited campus before as governor and later as senator, the Oregon Republican stirred strong feelings from students and administrators alike due to his opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam, as well as his support for politically liberal students whom some on campus characterized as “anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-American.”
The following article from the Wheaton Record, 2/15/1974 (vol.96, no.14) contains excerpts from a floor statement given by Senator Hatfield. The speech was given during a discussion on the Military Procurement Bill, but the underlying issues are particularly relevant even in a predominantly civilian liberal arts college and amazingly trenchant nearly a half-century later. His death in 2011 was marked by tributes by both Special Collections, Buswell Library and the Billy Graham Center Archives.
There is no doubt that people feel threatened today, and feel insecure. But the threats they feel are not those that are supposedly met by our military power.
People feel that their liberty is threatened, but not from any invading foreign army. Rather, that liberty is seen threatened by our own domestic institutions, and even by our government.
I can think of no more fundamental threat to our security today than the cumulative loss of confidence in our government felt by the people. The truth is that our citizens are no longer believing that our government and its representatives actually function as their servants. Government has become an institution of domination, losing the trust of those who are to be governed.
There is nothing more fundamental to our “security” that that. Yet we continue to believe that the most fundamental threats to that security come somehow from the outside.
We are misled, we are deluded to believe so.
When people’s confidence in their government is lost, when people’s human needs are going unmet, and when the nation’s life-supporting environment is in deterioration, then our nation is utterly insecure and will remain so regardless of how many billions we may spend elsewhere. The place to start in building a true security is with these internal needs, not with a continued obsession about the readiness to fight any foe any place around the globe.
We must recognize how victimized we are by our whole national psychology about our power.
We believe, first of all that our power is always good, and only used for righteous purposes. The belief is that if the good guys have the power, then that power is justifiable. And of course, we inevitably look at ourselves as the good guys in virtually any situation.
Power tends to make individuals, or a nation, self-righteous. That is an axiom that holds true as much for us as for any other people.
We suppose that our security comes through an inherent belief in our nation’s self-righteousness. So we create a civil religion that baptizes our established powers of government and creates an idolatry of the Presidency, and forget the truth that power corrupts.
In a very real way, restoring the strength of our people can only begin with a spirit of repentance. It is only by recognizing our errors, our wrongs, and our false gods that we can come to a proper understanding of ourselves. That is the beginning of any true security.
In the end, it will not be the power of our military might that will usher in greater reconciliation between the people of the world. Rather, that will only come from the power of spiritual love.
Such spiritual love must take root first in each one of us — and then extend out to our neighbor, to our communities, through our nation, and to the world — even to our enemies.
That is our only hope for security.
As the words of the prophet say, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.”