Glenn Beck received the Freedom of Speech award from TALKERS magazine in New York City on Thursday, joining more than 55 prominent speakers at the sold-out event.
In the theme of the award, Beck discussed freedom of speech and how he believes it is under attack “from both the left and the right.”
“If they tell you to shut up and sit down, it’s trouble,” he said. “If it’s a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent, if it’s a Tea Party person or someone from Occupy Wall Street — if they say shut up!, it’s trouble in the end.”
Reflecting on the amazing opportunities we have in America, Beck said that future will be brighter if the nation unites around the values of respecting each other’s rights to express opinions, especially opposing views.
“Any role that I have played in dividing, I wish I could take it back — I don’t wish I could take back the truth that was spoken, but [many] times I could’ve said it differently,” he said. “We are now living in a completely new era, and there is profound opportunity and profound light on the horizon ready to dawn, a world that none of us could understand or even design if we tried, because the possibilities are endless. But so are the nightmares.”
He went on: “And it will require all of us to recognize what time we’re living in, to recognize we have a profound responsibility because of the rights we have, and to stand and protect the rights not of those we agree with, but protect the rights of those we vehemently disagree with.”
“…You stand with those people, and that’s what will heal our country,” he concluded.
Using talk radio as an example, Beck said he welcomed the progressive movement coming onto radio “because it makes all of us stronger if we can come in, debate the issues, and have any point available.”
He emphasized the point with an intentionally controversial example, saying “the whole world would be set on fire” if this statement was taken out of context: “If you read the Koran, you will be amazed at the absurdities contained within it.”
Beck said that his speech could be be cut to imply that those are his words, though they are not.
“That’s a quote from Thomas Jefferson,” Beck said, noting that it was part of a disclaimer printed on Korans by the U.S. Congress when the U.S. went to war with the Barbary pirates.
But Beck’s point, he said, was that Jefferson brought copies of the Koran to America and urged all Americans to read it. “Read it yourself and you decide,” Beck said. “That’s what we should be encouraging people to do, not shouting people down in the square.”
Regarding the controversial Common Core education program, Beck said he wouldn’t try to stop those who want to educate their children a certain way. “But don’t you dare silence me for raising an alarm,” he said. “[And] If I want out of that system, don’t you dare try to stop my children from getting out of that system.”
Beck said when no dissent is tolerated, often, the road only leads one way – to the loss of freedom.
He showed the audience a rare copy of a teacher’s manual from WWII-era Germany, which explained the best way to identify the Jews in class, and a napkin worn by Adolf Hitler during an assassination attempt. The napkin was riddled with bloodstains and holes, though Hitler survived.
“Why did somebody do this? Because by the time he had all that power there was nothing to do but take it, because people were forced into silence…There was a chance to stand up against it, and the Germans failed the test. But make no mistake, so did the rest of the world.”
Beck urged listeners never to let it get to that point in America, and be wary of those who tell you to “sit down and shut up.”
Watch complete video of Beck’s remarks, below: