This speech was at Oxford University in 2006. Tony had been a student at Oxford in his youth during which time he was elected as President of the Oxford Union.
I just wanted to share a few highlights that illustrate the wisdom of one of the greatest British politicians of the last 100 years.
University Sermon by the Rt Hon Tony Benn PC
The University Church of St Mary the Virgin on Sunday, 14 May 2006
"Adam Smith was the founder of one of the greatest religions of all; those who worship money. Archbishop Dow Jones, whom I’ve never met, works twenty-four hours a day on his averages. Dow Jones tells us every day on the business news how society is doing by measuring what is happened on Wall Street."
"When we heard that God told the President to go to war, and that man Moussaoui who was sentenced to life imprisonment last week in America for being involved in 9/11 had said “We are the soldier of God, you are the army of Satan”, you realise that the same language is used by both sides."
"I remember once when the Russians and the Americas had a space race, to see who could land on the moon first, the Russians landed a space vehicle on the moon. It was like a World War I tank, with caterpillar tracks and it went across the surface of the moon, and I had a letter from a constituent in Bristol that I have never forgotten. It said “Dear Tony, I see that the Russians have put a space vehicle on the moon. Is there any possibility of a better bus service in Bristol?” Now, you can laugh, but it was a very, very sensible question. With a fraction of the money that you spend on war you, everyone in Africa with Aids could get drugs and the United States could have a health service. When you have to make a moral judgement the scientist cannot help you in his capacity as a scientist."
"I read the other day that if everyone in the world had the same living standards as the Americans it would require the resources of 33 earths to do it; 33 times as much oil and food and water. That reinforced for me the idea that the human race are like survivors in a lifeboat, after a shipwreck. Imagine a little lifeboat with a few people in it with one loaf of bread for there are only three ways that you can distribute in those circumstances. You sell the bread so the rich gobble it up, you fight for it so the strong gobble it up, or you divide it up and share it."
"It is the motivation of moral teaching that encourages you to want to do it yourselves. These words appeared in the Charter of the United Nations, I heard them 61 years ago, I was on my way back as a pilot from the Middle East in a troop ship coming back to this great university to resume my studies and I heard the preamble to the Charter and it said “We the peoples of the United Nations” – it didn’t say we the coalition of the willing, or we the free world, or we the international community, “We peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has caused untold suffering to mankind”. That was the commitment that we made, and this generation has to discharge that commitment because, dare I say, there is no moral difference between the stealth bomber and the suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons, and that I believe is in defiance of everything that was being taught by Jesus and the great religious leaders whom we have been celebrating in this wonderful University Church today."