The Jesse Helms Lecture at The Heritage Foundation

The Jesse Helms Lecture series was established, under the auspices of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at Heritage, to highlight the foreign policy issues that Senator Helms believed were important and for which he fought throughout his 30 years in the Senate.

2018 speaker
As part of the 30th Anniversary
lecture series
March 15, 2018 | Washington, D.c.

Senator Marco Rubio
Countering Authoritarianism and Advancing U.S. Interests in Latin America

While serving as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Helms championed the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 that imposed sanctions on the Castro government and provided assistance to promote democracy and economic freedom in Cuba. Unfortunately, more than 20 years later, repression continues in Cuba despite overtures under the Obama Administration. Moreover, we see its terrible legacy in Venezuela where the Castro regime's leadership has helped turn it into the world's youngest dictatorship as well as increasingly authoritarian tendencies in Bolivia and Nicaragua.

We were proud to host Senator Rubio as he discussed why such repression matters to America and what we should do to counter and overcome it.


Previous speakers

  • Ambassador John Bolton
  • Senator Mike Lee
  • Senator  Ted Cruz
  • Ambassador Ron Dermer
  • Member of the European Parliament Daniel Hannan


Does this protect our national sovereignty?

Our founders understood from the first days of our nationhood that no one can speak for America, but America. We can never be a party to any organization or agreement that removes, from this nation, the absolute authority to make our own decisions. While it is appropriate to seek cooperation with other nations with compatible goals, it is never in our national interest to be a part to agreements that would give any other entity authority over our troops, our trade, our tariffs, our citizens or policies.


Does this promote a strong national defense?

The pages of political history stretching to antiquity illustrate the truth that there is no virtue in ignoring the danger created by insufficient defenses. Nations who have lowered their defenses, with the best of intentions, inevitably found themselves vulnerable to attack by nations with the worst of intentions. Our nation must be firm in its resolve to never have its autonomy or freedom threatened by any enemy. That resolve must be demonstrated by a military force ready to respond to threats to our domestic peace and tranquility from any place, and of any kind. Our military must have the personnel and materials required for any contingency and our people must prize both freedom and the responsibility for insuring it.


Does this promote the pursuit of a moral foreign policy?

The pursuit of a higher good has always been a part of the American ideal. We are a nation of immigrants, seekers of freedom who have made it our business to welcome the newcomer. We are a nation of idealists, who believe that every human hungers for the freedom we take as our American birthright. We are a nation of brave men and women who know that words of comfort without action are hollow and useless. We are people who cannot ignore the plight of the abused or the threats of tyrants. The United States of America must always measure its foreign policy against the faith guided tenets of our heritage, not against the vagaries of current opinion or self-interest.