Saturday, 28 May 2016

America's Greatest Orator: Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)

I had the honor to introduce this great American at the 2010 National Wellness Conference. Not in person, unfortunately - Robert Green Ingersoll died over a century ago. But he is as important today as when he lived, for his words apply so well to current events and controversies. At last year's conference and in other forums, I have played Ingersoll by dressing the part and reciting a few of his speeches, then describing his passions. He has been deservedly proclaimed as, "the Most Remarkable American Most People Including Wellness Promoters Never Heard Of."
The following introduction is from Joseph Lewis' dedication of the Robert G. Ingersoll Museum, located in Dresden, NY. The ceremony dedicating the museum occurredon August 11, 1954.
Robert G. Ingersoll was a Colonel in the United States Army who fought in the fought in the Civil War, the war of liberation and freedom and the preservation of the Union-a war to restore the integrity of the original draft of the Declaration of Independence.
But let me tell you this: That no danger which Robert G. Ingersoll faced-no battery of gunshot-no steel bayonet could compare with the danger he was to face when he fought to free men's minds from the shackles of ignorance and religious superstition.
When Robert G. Ingersoll fought as a Colonel in the Civil War, his conduct was that of gallantry. When he fought the combined opposition of religious hatred, antagonism and ignorant fanaticism, he was magnificent.
When the bloody Civil War was over, Robert G. Ingersoll entered the political arena. He became Attorney General of the State of Illinois. His fame as an orator, his integrity, his reputation as an astute lawyer, made him the most logical candidate for the nomination for the Governorship of his state.
His views on the question of religion, by this time, were well known. He never lost an opportunity to speak the praises of Thomas Paine.
A delegation of political leaders came to see him. They stated their business, and named the conditions upon which he was to receive the nomination for the Governorship of the State of Illinois.
The proposition was that he would receive the nomination provided he concealed his religious opinions.
Robert G. Ingersoll refused to accept their proposition. They begged, they implored him to change his mind. They told him that they did not want him to change his convictions, but merely to keep them to himself.
He gave them a reply: "I would rather refuse to be President of the United States than to do so. My belief is my own. It belongs to me, not to the State of Illinois. I would not smother one sentiment of my heart to be the Emperor of the round world..."
What intellectual prestige Robert G. Ingersoll would have brought to the Executive Mansion as President of the United States of America!
World admiration would have been showered upon us.
What wonders he would have accomplished!
Religion has many blots upon her blood-stained garments, but no "damned spot" is more ineradicable, than that of having deprived the people of this great Republic of the genius of Robert G. Ingersoll.
And yet, I had rather that the name Ingersoll be omitted from the list of governors and the list of the presidents than that the world should have been deprived of only one of his matchless orations.

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