The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
Back in 1970, when I was in army basic training at Fort Jackson, SC, the men in my unit spent a lot of time complaining about officers and making fun of them. We ridiculed everyone in our chain of command from President Richard Nixon down to our company commander. In spite of our grumbling, our commander in chief was re-elected in 1972 in one of the largest landslides in American history. Less than two years later he resigned in disgrace, the first U.S. president ever to do so.
Much of our complaining took place over cans of 3.2% beer, the only offering at the PX. I’m pleased to report that much better beer is now available to some of our men and women in the armed services thanks to a visionary air force colonel who forced me to reconsider the nasty things I had said about officers 43 years ago. As has previously been reported in this space, Colonel Al Hunt demonstrated extraordinary leadership back in 2006 when he ordered that Schlafly Beer be served at Scott Air Force Base in the officers’ club, in the enlisted club and at the golf course.
This decision by Colonel Hunt opened many doors for me. I was able to rub shoulders with generals and admirals at the Scott Club, a place that would have been strictly off-limits when I was a lowly private. Schlafly Bottleworks was chosen as the venue to host the Adjutants General Association of the United States, meaning we probably had more stars in one room than any place outside the Pentagon. A few years later I was invited to give the keynote address to the National Security Forum at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base. No longer was I merely expressing my opinion about high ranking officers. I was actually expressing my opinion to an auditorium full of officers from all over the world, including a lot of generals and admirals.
I was reminded of the famous quotation by John Adams:
“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
There was an irony that someone like me, who had studied poetry (English literature) in college, was giving a talk at an institution devoted to studying politics and war (national security issues).
Considering that I majored in English, it’s not surprising that my view of history was shaped by literature. Like lots of other people, I learned about King Richard III by reading William Shakespeare’s play depicting him as an amoral monster. Shakespeare in turn is said to have relied on Sir Thomas More’s unfinished history of Richard’s purported intrigue, deceit and murder, an account now dismissed by some as nothing more than Tudor propaganda.
Richard, the last king of the House of York, was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, making him the last English monarch to die in battle. After his death his body was put on a horse and taken to nearby Leicester, where it was put on display for several days. Henry VII, who had become king by virtue of his victory over Richard and was the first of the Tudor monarchs, had the body buried in the Greyfriars Church. Fifty-one years later, in 1536, King Henry VIII demolished the church, one year after he had ordered the beheading of his propagandist Thomas More.
Nearly five centuries later, the University of Leicester, the Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society, which was founded in 1924, found the remnants of the Greyfriars Church underneath a parking lot. After some digging the archeological team found a skeleton that was soon conclusively identified as that of Richard III. The publicity surrounding this discovery has led to renewed discussion about whether Richard really was such a bad guy after all. During his reign he had his defenders, including the historian John Rous, who praised him as a “good lord,” who had “a great heart.” Three centuries later, in 1768, Horace Walpole came to his defense in Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third, arguing that Richard may not have been guilty of all the alleged murders. Today The Richard III Society is working energetically to provide “a more balanced assessment of the king” and to give his remains a proper burial consistent with his royal status.
The lesson from all this is that public opinion changes over time. Some reputable historians are now even offering more favorable assessments of another infamous Richard, the former president sometimes known as Tricky Dick. As far as I know, however, no one has anything nice to say about 3.2% beer, like that served in army PX’s in 1970.