Speech by Samuel Rubin

22 September 1978

Samuel Rubins acceptance speech for the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards

Howard University, September 1978

Friends, I feel awkward standing before you without co-recipient Rev. Ben Chavis at my side. I would ask his mother to please convey to her imprisoned son my wish that if it were only possible to change places with him this evening I would feel honored and privileged to be behind bars.

And now, a few personal observations. As a young emigrant from Czarist Russia in the early 1900s, I needed few lessons in the meaning of poverty, discrimination, and the abrogation of human rights. Little wonder that the despotic Czarist monarchy met its end in bloody revolution. The peasants, workers and intellectuals could take no more, so they took to the streets. They had little to lose but increased oppression and impoverished lives.

The Need for Human Rights

The impact of these early hardships was apparently indelibly impressed on my views of the world at large. Despite later successes in business affairs, the immortality and inequity of the disparity between rich and poor remained a constant reminder that two-thirds of the world's population lives in hopeless squalor. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's admonitions and President Carter's campaign for human rights have had little effect in curing the curse. Too often are we diverted with fears of phantom enemies at our doorstep threatening our national security.

Clearly, it is lust for the last dollar of profit and the last ounce of power under the guise of democracy and the free enterprise system that permits banks and multinational corporations to reap their harvest at the expense of the poor, the worker and consumer, while encouraging despotic regimes to deprive their people of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Some 30 years ago, in testimony supporting the proposed National Health Bill, I remarked that 'A nation is as wealthy as its people are healthy'. How different than the propaganda fed to us that a nation is as strong and wealthy as its military arsenal.

New Life and Dignity

And on the plight of the Middle East, when I proposed to the American Jewish community some 20 years ago that Arab and Jew recognize their respective rights, face each other across the table rather than the field of battle, I was termed a renegade seeking the destruction of Israel. Hopefully, Camp David will be the forerunner of a Middle East economic development plan that will make the deserts bloom and bring new life and dignity to their peoples - and the same solution for other regions of the world. How much better that they grow grain for their hungry bellies than gladioli to adorn the tables of the well fed.

My few remarks may sound like sweeping generalizations, but given the few minutes allotted to me, there is little time for supporting evidence. Do we need more facts than are already in, to confirm that without the massive loans and investments by banks and multinational corporations the notorious regimes would find it impossible to stay alive and continue violating human rights? In January, April and May of this year alone, the Chilean junta received over $ 400 million in loans through the Morgan, Chase and Wells Fargo Banks, in defiance of President Carter's preachments, let alone hundreds of millions over prior years. And what about similar support for the Somoza's and Marcos' of Nicaragua and the Philippines, the apartheid regime of South Africa, the repressive regimes of Rhodesia and others? Hopefully our people will come to realize how meaningless the mythical threats to our national security are and how they only serve as a compelling reason to help bolster otherwise decrepit governments.

It is High Time

In my judgment, it is high time that Congress asserts itself with a hard look at the excuses we coin to justify CIA involvement with police and internal security forces in foreign countries at a cost to the American taxpayer of billions upon billions of dollars. Equally important for Congress to investigate is the extensive influence of powerful Washington lobbies on behalf of the military industrial complex, a title coined by President Eisenhower. The waste and corruption presently being exposed in the General Services Administration will appear minuscule when compared to the billions recklessly spent for unnecessary military hardware. Imagine the savings to the American taxpayer, if we had been spared the enormous costs of the useless and unpopular Vietnam war, let alone the loss of young lives and permanently wounded on both sides, or even the limited cost of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs. Unfortunately for Vietnam and Cuba, they were not losers like Germany and Japan - otherwise they, too, would have qualified for vast American reparations to heal the wounds of war.

We Must Find Alternatives

Madness of this kind cannot continue forever. We must find alternatives to eliminate the despotic assault on human rights while relieving the American taxpayer of escalating, crippling inflation, brought about by much of what we do today that is wrong and immoral.

The Institute for Policy Studies deserves our wholebread support as it studies and analyzes viable alternatives for the madness in which we live. The TransNational Institute seeks out similar alternatives on behalf of the millions in Third World countries who know nothing but hunger. It was this program that commanded the interest and leadership of Orlando Letelier, whose life was snuffed out at the hands of hired assassins, direct agents of DINA, and the illegal junta it represents. History will record the enormity of the loss suffered by mankind with his brutal murder, and the murder of his colleague Ronni Moffit. To the oppressed, Orlando Letelier stood as a beacon of light and hope. To his beloved people of Chile, his fearless and courageous activities exposing the Pinochet regime for what it is, helped maintain their spirit and determination to restore democracy and human rights to their land. From all reports, the days of the junta are now numbered. To his many friends and co-workers in this room tonight, and to the millions throughout the world, we are the richer and stronger for having known this extraordinary and gifted human being...

Samuel Rubin Foundation