Washington, DC - Earlier this month Randall Wallace delivered the keynote speech at the 59th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
Each year the National Prayer Breakfast has two guest speakers: the President of the United States and a keynote speaker whose identity is kept completely secret until the morning of the breakfast. Randall Wallace was revealed to be this year’s mystery guest only minutes before the breakfast began. In past years the keynote spot has been held by an elite group of icons, including Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Bono of the band U2.
Randall Wallace is the Oscar-nominated creative force behind the epic storytelling of such critical and box-office hits as BRAVEHEART, WE WERE SOLDIERS and PEARL HARBOR, and this past Fall he brought to life the inspirational excitement of SECRETARIAT.
Noteworthy excerpts from Randall Wallace’s speech
On nearly stealing the personal Bible of former President Jimmy Carter’s wife, Rosalynn Carter:
When I was directing WE WERE SOLDIERS at Ft. Benning, Georgia, I found time one weekend to drive over to visit President Carter’s Sunday lesson at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains. I asked a friend who knew the Carters to save me a seat, and when I arrived I found the seat was right next to Rossalyn Carter.
Apparently Mrs. Carter, gracious Southern lady that she is, had wanted to be sure I felt at home. I sat down and Mr. Carter asked the congregation to open their pew Bibles to a passage that was the subject of his lesson. Now I grew up in Baptist churches and I was familiar with the passage he was about to read, so I took the chance to open the hymn book to check on the lyrics of a hymn I was thinking of using in our film. And as I was thumbing through the hymn book, Mrs. Carter touched my arm and handed me her Bible, opened to the right passage.
And I realized in that moment that Mrs. Carter had logically assumed that since I was a Hollywood director I didn’t know the difference between a hymn book and a Bible. And I have to admit it did strike me that I had the perfect chance to steal Mrs. Carter’s Bible. If anyone stopped me, I’d just say, “She gave it to me.” It was worn with use, marked with joy and tears. Imagine what it would bring on eBay.
On the personal setbacks that drove Wallace to his knees in prayer, eventually inspiring the words for the Braveheart screenplay, which he later wrote and directed:
I had my embarrassments and my setbacks, but I kept writing; I moved to Los Angeles, I got an opportunity in television. I married. We had two beautiful sons. I had purpose in my life, and I worked like I’d seen my father work, with pride and passion. I won a multi-year contract with a thriving company. I bought an old home and remodeled it; I was promoted to producer. Except for an occasional mishap with my tie, life was sweet.
Then the Writer’s Guild went out on strike, which caused the company I worked for to void its contract with me. The strike went on forever, and when it was over the company was barely there anymore. I was out of work, my savings were gone. No one would return my phone calls–I’m sure that’s never happened where you work.
I kept trying, of course, I was always good at trying. But one day I was sitting at home, at my desk, staring at nothing, my stomach in a knot, my hands trembling, and I realized I was breaking down, as my father had. I feared I had failed my father, and my mother, and my Grandmother. And my greatest fear was that I would fail my sons. I was afraid they would see me come apart, as I had seen my father come apart, and it would be something they could never forget.
I got down on my knees; I had nowhere else to go. And I prayed a simple prayer. I said, “Lord, all I care about right now are those two boys. And maybe they don’t need to grow up in a house with a tennis court and a swimming pool. Maybe they need a little house with one bathroom, or no bathrooms at all. Maybe they need to see what a man does when he gets knocked down, the way my father showed me. But I pray, if I go down, let me go down not on my knees, but with my flag flying.”
And I got up, and I began to write the words that led me to BRAVEHEART.
On the crucifixion of Jesus:
If we took a freeze frame of Golgotha, on the day that Jesus was crucified, and showed that picture to anyone unfamiliar with the story and asked them to judge who the victor was in that scene, they’d be unlikely to say: “The one hanging on the cross in the middle.”
It was from that cross that Jesus cried, “My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
That cry does not amaze me. What does amaze me is that while one of the two thieves hanging on either side of Jesus mocked Him, the other acknowledged the justice of his fate and asked Jesus for help; and Jesus, in the agonies of the crucifixion, told him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” That does more than amaze me. It makes me believe that any Power that could enable Jesus to say that, then, could do anything