Maureen O'Hara

Subsequent statements after motion of Ms. O'Hara was seconded and passed:

H.R. 3767
May 21, 1979
SERIAL 96-10
Monday, May 21, 1979

Statement of
Maureen O'Hara Blair
(please note - this was not a "prepared" statement, but totally
extemporaneous..from her heart)

Chairman Annunzio:  "...It is a great honor to have you appear before this subcommittee today.  If you have a prepared statement, I will ask unanimous consent that it be made part of the record. And now you can proceed in your own manner.

Mrs. Blair:  Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee.

 I don't have a prepared statement.

 I came yesterday from the Virgin Islands to be here today, and it is my great honor to be here.  I had a difficult time getting here because the flight was canceled into Washington and I had to come through New York.

 Yesterday in the Virgin Islands we had a golf tournament in honor of my late husband, Gen. Charles F. Blair.  So I could not start until very late.

 I am happy, thrilled and delighted, and very proud to be here.  In my lifetime I have been very privileged to have known and to have met, perhaps with my connections with the motion picture industry, many great and famous men all over the world, starting with my beloved father and then my husband, Charlie Blair, and John Wayne.  I think they are perhaps the three greatest men I have ever been privileged to know.

 I have known John Wayne for 39 years, and in those 39 years I have called him my dearest friend, my best friend.  I cannot tell you the kind of man he is.

 You have listened this morning to many eloquent speeches about Duke.  But it is the man that you really don't know about.  I can speak to you here as an immigrant to the United States, because I am.  I can speak for the people of the world outside of the United States.  And, since I am now an American citizen, I can speak for the people of the United States.  I hope they will grant me permission to do that.  I think they will.

 To the people of the world, John Wayne is not just an actor and a very fine actor, John Wayne is the United States of America.  He is what they believe it to be.  He is what they hope it will be.  And he is what they hope it will always be.

 It is every person's dream that the United States will be like John Wayne and always like him.

 To the immigrant, the person who is going to migrate to the United States, to this wonderful land where we all believe that the streets are paved with gold, every immigrant believes and hopes that perhaps life will be as John Wayne says it will be in the United States.  Perhaps for them, and if not for them for one of their children, their sons or maybe one of their daughters will marry a man like John Wayne. And so, that is their dream of America.

 And then for people like me, who are fortunate enough to have become an American citizen and to have met and know this man, he is, believe me, the United States of America.  He is a man that has a code of beliefs that he sticks with.  He believes in individual responsibility and honor.  He is cursed with one failing, his loyalty to friends. And it has cost him many sad moments and many happy moments. But he will never cease to be a loyal ever.

 Patriotism and love for his country is something - he doesn't demand that everybody love the United States.  He only demands of a man that he love his own country.  And I think Duke lives by a phrase or a poem that we learned in school in Ireland and we applied it to my country that I was born in, too.  We always said, "Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said that, this is my own my native land." And Duke lives by that, believe me.

 He believes also in the adherence to the American dream.  The American dream to people like me who are immigrants is enterprise, hard work, and then reward. And I think that dream still exists in the United States, where there is enterprise, hard work and reward. And he believes in that, too.

 I am afraid I could talk to you about Duke all day, all through the night and on into tomorrow without stopping.

 You have heard so much about what a wonderful man he is, but I wonder if you wonder, what kind of man is he, what is he like, what is he like at home, what is he liked when he's not in front of the public, what is he like when he's not on the screen, what is he like when he's with his family and his children and the people he loves.

 He is just the same. He doesn't change. That is the wonderful thing about Duke - you can depend on him.

 I have never been in trouble or needed help at any time in my life that I didn't first pick up the phone and call Duke, and within 5 minutes I had what I wanted or what I requested, or what I needed.  And he never asked for a thank you.  He wouldn't think of that.

 He lives his own life by strict rules and strict regulations, and he adheres to those things, those rules.  He expects you, his friends and you, his countrymen, to live by the same rules and obey those rules. But then he has a very soft heart and if you do make a mistake he will bend those rules, not for himself, but to forgive you.  And that is friendship and love.

 He has a marvelous family.  He has wonderful children.  He has 7 children and I think he has 21 grandchildren as of the last count.  Of course, any minute it could change, but I believe it is 21.  And he loves every one of them and they adore him. They hang out on him.  There's one on his arm, one on his shoulder, one hanging around his leg and he loves them all and he loves his children.

 And each one of them reflect in their families the love that they have learned from sitting on his knee.

 There are many stories I could tell you about Duke, about right after the inauguration of President Carter in 1977, he sent me a postcard, and I have it, and the postcard said: "In the twilight of our lives, when the hell are you going to invite me to the Virgin Islands."

 And so, he came directly from the inauguration down to the Virgin Islands with Ms. Pat Stacy, a wonderful, wonderful lady, and stayed with Charlie Blair and me in the Virgin Islands. And every night - he loves to play chess, and he would play chess with Charlie Blair, and then they would go flying, and then you would get to talk to him.  And I would say, what do you want for dinner?  Steak. You say, what do you want for lunch? Steak. The next day, what would you like for dinner? Steak.

 You get fed up cooking steak, but that is what he loves.

 And one day he went down into the supermarket in town of Christiansted, because he decided he should go shopping and buy some food for the house. As he started shopping, he saw the meat  It looked absolutely gorgeous and so he started filling his market basket with all the steaks he could find.

 And a wonderful old lady came up to him and she tapped him on the shoulder and she said, "Mr. Wayne if you are buying that meat for Mrs. Blair, you had better put it back and let me show you the meat you are to buy."
 So, she took him over and he bought all the correct meat. And she absolutely loved it.  He just loved the fact that people are so good and so kind.

 And then one day he was driving a big red truck which we borrowed for him because he won't fit in an automobile you know - he has to drive a truck.  And he was driving down to Christiansted, and he was going slowly because he was looking on both sides of the street and ogling everything he could see. And suddenly there's a big truck behind him and they blow the horn beep, beep, beep, beep and told him, get out of the way.

 And they pull up beside him and they say, "Hey," and he says "Yah" and that was the end of it .They didn't challenge Duke any more.

 But maybe I had better stop, because to talk about Duke, I talk from my heart.  I could go on forever and ever.

 I don't know if there are any things you would like to know about Duke.  If there are things you would like to know, I would be very happy to answer any questions you have.

 I beg you to strike a medal for Duke, to order the President to strike it.  And I feel that the medal should say just one thing: "John Wayne, American."

And so it was....

 (In spite of a few accounts on TV, in biographies and magazine articles, it was Maureen O'Hara who was the featured speaker as the closest friend of Duke Wayne, and it was her, and only her suggestion and motion that the
medal should be struck and should say just one thing, "John Wayne - American'"). Had it not been seconded by Congressman Henry Hyde, it would have failed. After it was moved, seconded and approved, the other witnesses gave their statements.)

Below are telegrams and letter content that were before the committee on the day of the hearing:

From Frank Sinatra:

I believe the distinguished descendants of the brave men who bore witness to our country's fight for survival during the difficult winter at Valley Forge will reflect honor on the Nation as well as themselves by paying tribute now to John Wayne's fight for his survival during this difficult spring in another valley. No man's lifetime of work has better expressed the land of the free and the home of the brave.  No man's lifetime or work has given more proof to the world that our flag is still there.  John Wayne is in truth a star-spangled man whom so proudly we hail.

From Mike Frankovich, Director

By giving him the highest honor his country can bestow on a private citizen, the gold medal of honor, we are publicly saying: "Duke, your love for your country is only exceeded by your country's love for you."

From Robert Aldrich, President, Directors Guild of America:

It is important for you to know that I am a registered Democrat and, to my knowledge, share none of the political views espoused by Duke.  However, whether he is ill-disposed or healthy, John Wayne is far beyond the normal political sharp-shooting in this community.  Because of his courage, his dignity, his integrity, and because of his talents as an actor, his strength as a leader, his warmth as a human being throughout his illustrious career, he is entitled to a unique spot in our hearts and minds.

In this industry, we often judge people, sometimes unfairly, by asking whether they have paid their dues. John Wayne has paid his dues over and over, and I'm proud to consider him a friend, and am very much in favor of my Government recognizing in some important fashion the contribution that Mr. Wayne has made.

From Katharine Hepburn:

I understand that the U.S. Congress and our PResident are giving John Wayne a gold medal. Asked to comment, I can only say, with a heart full of love for all concerned: "About time!."

From General and Mrs. Omar Bradley:

In his heroic struggle, John Wayne represents the fighting spirit that has forged America, even now in his offering his life to pave new roads to vanquish an old enemy.  His medal should be made of the same stuff his heart is - solid gold.

From Gregory Peck, an actor:

John Wayne is loved the world over as a man wo represents independence, the love of freedom and the hearty strength of character which made our country great. For audiences at home, John Wayne, through his films, remains an authentic folk hero.  In this era of shifting moral values and cynicism, he has made a contribution of inestimable value to American culture and is deserving of this tribute from the American people.

From Robert Stack, an actor:

I just came back from 3 months in Europe, where everyone shows concerns about Mr. Wayne's health.  There has never been a member of our profession who has so impressed the world with his courage or his stature as a man.  He has never appeared in a motion picture that would project a negative image of his beloved country. What you see is what you get, and when you got is a very special citizen who does our country credit.

James Arnesss, Actor:

I can't think of a man more deserving of recognition than John Wayne.  I am especially proud of my quarter-century friendship and association with him. And my admiration and respect has grown through those years.  He has great stature as a man, as an actor, and as an American, and is well-deserving of the special honor you have proposed for him. With all good wishes for success with this legislation, I remain, sincerely yours

Kirk Douglas, Actor:

I strongly believe that John Wayne should receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He is an authentic chunk of Americana.  His personal and artistic life represent the best qualities of America admired by people around the world.  He has always been a strong force for the American way of life.  He has personified that force privately and artistically for many, many years.  The world would applaud the action of bestowing this medal on a great American.