Editor's Note: Below are the video and transcript of David Horowitz's tribute to Dr. Robert Shillman, which was delivered at the David Horowitz Freedom Center's Aug. 3rd evening honoring Dr. Shillman in Newport Coast, California. Geert Wilders and Dennis Prager also spoke at the event.
In a recent speech in Poland - as strategic for our time as Winston Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech was for the war against the Soviet empire - President Trump said: “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” When it comes to embodying that will and desire and courage, few among us can equal the efforts and dedication of Robert Shillman, and that is why we have gathered to pay him tribute tonight.
Dr. Bob is a visionary businessman and philanthropist who has devoted his resources and his life to supporting an army of warriors to combat the unholy alliance of Islamic jihadists and domestic collectivists who seek to destroy us.
Looking back on my own relationship with “Dr. Bob” and the debts I owe him, I now realize it was characteristic that our first meeting should not have been the result of me approaching him for support, but of him reaching out to me. I am sure the same is true of many of the 50 or more organizations, and probably ten times that number of individuals he supports, from Israeli IDF veterans, like Reservists on Duty, to warrior statesmen like Geert Wilders and warrior teachers like Dennis Prager – all of whom are dedicated to the defense of our country and its values, and also the defense of Israel, which is the frontline state in the war that radical Islam and the international left have declared on us.
Not only was it Dr. Bob who approached me, but it was he who put a proposal on the table that he wanted my support for – exactly the reverse of the typical relationship between donor and recipient, and a reflection of the activist role he takes in our common struggles. He is not only financing forces on our side of the struggle, he is creating them.
Dr. Bob stands out among donors to c3 advocacy groups as one whose criterion for giving is that the beneficiaries must not shrink from battle but be prepared to take the war to the enemy camp. At the same time, those individuals and organizations that Dr. Bob invests in can be confident that he has their back when they come under attack. Dr. Bob is a supporter of the most courageous but also the most reviled and threatened opponents of Islamic fascism, Geert Wilders, Pamela Geller, Ami Horowitz (no relation) and our own Robert Spencer.
There is a uniqueness to this generous and gutsy funder of noble causes that it probably takes someone like myself to fully appreciate. As the child of communists, I was born to combat, and have been a soldier in the political wars all my life. I have lost donors because of the attacks on my work, and because of their fear of being dragged down with me. I understand and sympathize with their fears and their reluctance to be drawn into the fray. Donors like Dr. Bob have accumulated fortunes and consequently have rare opportunities to travel the world, enjoy themselves, and get praised for the kind of non-political charity work that earns applause from everyone. People who have accumulated wealth are by nature creators and builders, who have learned to avoid debilitating conflicts and sought to expand the communities they are involved in. They have a lot to lose at the hands of the unprincipled, malicious and litigious activists that make up the other side of the cultural and political wars we are engaged in. Unlike such donors, having accumulated little, I have much less to lose as a result of the wars I am engaged in. Therefore, I have always appreciated whatever support such individuals have been willing to give, and I have respected their decisions to stay in the background if they regard the risks as too great.
Having sweated a lifetime to create a billion-dollar company in Cognex, Dr. Bob has earned the privilege of living in beautiful surroundings and could devote himself to travelling all over the world and taking in its pleasures if he were so inclined. But he is passionate about saving the freedoms of the homeland he loves, and has dedicated himself to the struggle to do so, devising ways to defeat its adversaries, and investing in organizations and actions that he believes will serve the cause.
Dr. Bob is an exemplar of a rare breed of donors who are drawn to the heat of the battle, are filled with ideas of how to fight it, and willing to roll up their sleeves to make things happen. There are others present with us tonight who share his passion, but I warrant there is none quite as aggressive as my friend in pursuing it. My experience is to have donors holding me back. With Dr. Bob I have sometimes had to hold him back.
Let me illustrate these qualities with an example of Dr. Bob in action: On May 3, 2015, the “First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit” was held in Garland Texas, sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization founded and run by Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, and supported by Dr. Bob. The Exhibit featured a contest which challenged artists to create cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Ten years earlier, when cartoons of Mohammad were published in a Danish newspaper Muslims rioted across the globe and killed 200 people. Not a single American newspaper had the courage to print the offending cartoons.
The Garland event took place four months after the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was attacked and its cartoonists massacred for the same blasphemy. The Garland contest was conceived as an act of defiance, a courageous defense of the most sacred right we have in the West which is the right to speak our minds freely, and which the entire American press had turned its back on out of fear. The Garland contest was won by Bosch Fawstin, an Albanian-American ex-Muslim who is the Freedom Center’s chief illustrator.
The Garland event was attacked by two armed terrorists acting in the nameof ISIS. It was the first ISIS terror attack on American soil. Fortunately, there was a large security presence at the event and both terrorists were killed before they could harm those who attended.
I knew Dr Bob had supported the contest, and also the sponsoring organization Pamela and Robert had created. Obviously it was and is dangerous to be associated with them and with the Garland exhibit. That is how the terrorists intend to win their jihad and silence their critics: by instilling fear in those who would oppose them. So in preparing these remarks I emailed Dr. Bob and asked him if I could mention his support tonight. His email reply was this:
“YES...you can tell everyone that I not only funded the contest, but that I conceived it! And it's one of my best investments because it resulted in the death of two terrorists!!”
Dr. Bob is a force of nature, not only on the battlefield but in his own life as well. And this is very important for all of us. As each of us grows older we come face to face with what we gradually realize is our true and invincible adversary, nature itself. Time lays siege to the fortress of our bodies with diabolical cunning, targeting us at precisely the time when the sense of our vulnerability is strongest, and the forces of our resilience are weakening. It is then that warriors like Dr. Bob face their severest tests. And we can all be grateful that he is facing his with the same tenacity, the same will to prevail that is so evident in everything he does in the battles we face together.
We at the Freedom Center regard Dr. Bob, in all his aggressive glory, as an inspiration and a blessing - an inspiration in how to fight our wars and a blessing for providing us with the weapons and means to carry out the mission. I am sure that every group that Dr. Bob supports, several of whom are gathered here tonight, feel exactly the same way.
On behalf of all those activists and organizations he has supported - both here tonight and not; and on behalf of our country and all people who love freedom, I thank you Dr. Bob, for we are all in your debt.