Then he did something ordinary and hard working Americans did in that era.
He dusted himself off and got back on his horse.
During the nation's great depression era, he worked his way up from the
bottom of Hollywood 'B' movies. He labored hard as a prop man for the film
studios and hired hand. His dedication became a nation's destiny and when he
caught the eye of Director John Ford. The rest is history.
As John Ford hammered, chiseled, and polished this American original, John
Wayne realized that his American characters (and their importance) were as big
and wide as Monument Valley. His roles were shaped by his personal values and
became an integral part of his life. And along the way, they became a part of
America as well.
From his roles as Captain and Calvary leader Nathan Brittles and Lt. Col.
Kirby York, The Duke became a symbol of American Steel and stalwart service.
The Duke's legacy and his portrayal of American virtues became known
throughout the World. From Nikita Khrushchev to Emperor Hirohito, they
discovered that John Wayne's America was indeed the embodiment of the American
And that's why for over twenty five years, the Duke has remained on the top
ten lists of popular actors. Nobody has even come close to this posthumous
achievement. They never will.
It was the football injury that dashed the Duke's dream of Annapolis and
serving in the Military. Once again, he turned disappoint into devoted duty. He
accepted his calling and enlisted in our nation's service in what would become a
life long dedication to America's military.
When America needed him the most, he proudly served as America's goodwill
ambassador and best known advocate. He poured himself into roles that
exemplified America's strength, and commitment to defeating America's enemies at
home and abroad.
After World War Two and during the Cold War, John Wayne joined forces with
Ronald Reagan. They boldly spoke out against the scourge of communism that had
infiltrated Hollywood and the nation's college campuses. The Duke wasn't
interested in U.N. Photo shoots, or using the film industry to undermine morals
or family values. The Duke believed in substance, not style. And Hollywood could
certainly learn a lesson from the Duke today.
He was a man who didn't draw attention to his midnight hospital visits with
children suffering with cancer, or the time he flew into a Vietnamese war zone
to rally American Troops. He loved America and America loved him.
Like 'Sgt Stryker' in the sands of Iwo Jima, as children we all played 'John
Wayne'. And along the way, millions of young men followed his cinematic example
and joined the Armed Services. We grew from boys to men.
America learned from John Wayne how to be patriotic when being patriotic
wasn't popular among the chic set. And four generations of our own military
family experienced no greater joy during basic training, than foraging through
Army C—rations in hope of discovering a 'John Wayne' bar consisting of a
chocolate and toffee confection.
Perhaps in this time of moral confusion, when everything that is right, is
attacked as being wrong, we could use the wit and wisdom of Rooster Cogburn.
Today, America is rediscovering the Duke as we watch and reflect on his
beloved roles, shaping our understanding of the heart and character of service.
In his closing years on earth, someone asked the Duke how he wanted to be
remembered. He said...'Feo, Fuerte y Formal' A Spanish proverb
meaning 'He was ugly, strong and had dignity'
And recently I asked the beautiful Co—Star of John Wayne, Mrs. Maureen O'Hara,
if she had any comments to proclaim on her long friendship with John Wayne. She
simply said 'There's not much more I can say, than I have already said in the
past.... He was John Wayne —American.'