Skip to comments.A Long Way from ’78 - And yet “more relevant than ever.” [Solzhenitsyn:“A World Split Apart”]
Posted on 06/06/2003 4:33:07 PM PDT by Ragtime Cowgirl
EDITORS NOTE: June 8 marks the 25th anniversary of A World Split Apart, the commencement address delivered by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn at Harvard University. Last month, Harvard staged a conference commemorating this event, at which Jay Nordlinger, among many others, spoke. In the below remarks, you will see references to Stephan and Ignat. These are two of Solzhenitsyns sons (and they both attended, and addressed, the conference).
ts a pleasure to be here, among so many I admire. Its a further pleasure to be a representative of National Review. This is a magazine that was pro-Solzhenitsyn before pro-Solzhenitsyn was cool. Is it unquestionably cool now? I think so cooler, at least.
National Review actually published A World Split Apart, in its issue of July 7, 1978. When we laid out the title, we had the words split and apart spaced quite far apart. Arent we clever?
Like many here, Im sure, I had the experience not long ago of re-reading A World Split Apart, for the first time in a very long time. I must say, I found it more relevant than ever. Thats a terrible cliché, but one I feel I can use unapologetically. The speech incorporates many of the things that make Solzhenitsyn great, such as his boldness and his devotion to the truth, certainly as he sees it.
He begins that way, doesnt he? Truth seldom is pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter. He went on to play his role of truthteller, no matter whom it discomfits. As Charles Kesler remarked in an essay later, Solzhenitsyn was arresting because he spoke of the truth as if it were true. Lovely line, and insight, that. Kesler also quoted another great foreign friend of America, Tocqueville, who said, Enemies never tell men the truth.
I have a little story about Solzhenitsyn and truth or rather, Solzhenitsyns and truth, because the apples didnt fall very far from the tree. Stephan, you may not know, is a minor celebrity in New York. He made the press even the tabloid press! in some scandal a couple of years ago. Stephan took the wrong side in some environmental controversy. By wrong, of course, I mean anti-hard green, as Peter Huber might say. One of his opponents chided, Didnt he learn anything from his father? Stephan retorted, Yes mainly that the truth isnt always popular.
Let it not be said that Solzhenitsyns cant do soundbites.
A World Split Apart, of course, is a religious speech. Barely into it, he was quoting Jesus: that a house divided against itself cannot stand. No, that wasnt Lincoln, originally. Nor was a shining city on a hill Reagan or John Winthrop, for that matter.
A short while later, Solzhenitsyn cautions against assuming that all peoples strain for liberal democracy, as we know it. No End of History for him, quite. He speaks of terrorism, and whether a free people has the nerve and self-respect to fight it. He speaks of self-sacrifice, alertness to danger, the false ideal of stability (when stability means continued oppression, no boat-rocking from freedom-seekers). You see what I mean by relevance. There are echoes of September 11th or let us say pre-echoes all over this speech. I thought it was eerie, at times.
Of course, there are some things in Solzhenitsyns address that are hard to swallow even for his most dedicated admirers. But all of these things need to be pondered, hard. In the column he wrote shortly after the speech, Bill Buckley said, Such is the debt of free spirits to Solzhenitsyn that we owe it to him at least to consider anything he asks us to consider.
Perhaps most important in A World Split Apart is this business of courage and its decline. In reviewing the speech, we should remember where we are. Or rather, when we are. Nineteen seventy-eight was perhaps not the Wests best year ever. Three years before, the helicopters had taken off from the embassy roof in Saigon despite President Fords plea with Congress not to abandon the country that 58,000 Americans had just finished dying to save. This same President Ford, however, had denied Solzhenitsyn admission to the White House. About a year after the speech, the current president Carter would be in Vienna, kissing General Secretary Brezhnev (literally). This is the sort of thing that once caused Mr. Buckley to write a column titled, For Moderation in Osculation.
Solzhenitsyn says, The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and of course in the United Nations. I love that of course, before in the United Nations. For me, it is one of the most priceless parts of the whole speech. I have been studying the U.N. with particular concentration lately, and I am incessantly quoting Solzhenitsyn. If he received royalties, hed be even richer: The United Nations is not so much the united nations as the united governments or regimes, no better and no worse than those regimes on the whole.
(Excerpt) Read more at nationalreview.com ...
The price people pay for limited environmentalism ping.
What a nice name!
Let me know if you wish to be added ro removed from this list.
That's one more reason I'm proud of our "Cowboy" president. He has restored COURAGE in our country.
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