Jack Valenti, that rather…excitable gentleman who formerly headed the Motion Picture Association of America, explains how he taught his son about the importance of military sacrifice. He took the lad to Omaha Beach, and delivered himself of this speech:
"John, I want you to know why I brought you here." He looked puzzled. I said, "I wanted you to understand that these boys, who never knew you, nonetheless gave you the greatest gift one human can give another. They gave you the gift of freedom. They bought and paid for that gift in blood and bravery. They made it possible for you and millions like you to never have to test your own courage to see how you would react when the dagger is at the nation's belly and death stares you right in the face. You owe them a debt you will never be able to repay."You might think that this story would end with the fruit of Valenti’s loins joining the service and going boldly forth to fight the Hun. But the reality’s a bit more drab:
We never spoke about this again until one day years later, he phoned me. "Dad, last night I saw Saving Private Ryan. You were right. They never turned back, not a one. They kept coming." His voice trembled as he spoke.In other words, Valenti went to all the trouble and expense of traveling to Normandy in order to give his kid a deeper appreciation of a Spielberg movie.
Somehow, my own voice cracked a bit with gratitude. My son remembered.
Having demonstrated these bona fides, Valenti asks, "Does the next generation value the sacrifice of war?"
I guess we'll have to wait and see how choked up they get during Live Free or Die Hard.
Incidentally, John Valenti had a brief career as an actor. His most notable accomplishment was playing his father in the film Path to War, which was about the Johnson administration’s decision to escalate the Vietnam War.