Lincoln * Institute

Colin A. Hanna

Colin A. Hanna

Let Freedom Ring, USA


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Let Freedom Ring

A Tribute to Phyllis Schlafly

by Colin Hanna

With the passing this week of the incomparable and indefatigable Phyllis Schlafly, another of the Founders of the modern conservative movement has left us.

In addition to my role at Let Freedom Ring, I am the Chairman of Coalitions for America, the organization founded by the late Paul Weyrich that conducts the annual Weyrich Awards Dinner, and our 2015 dinner was an especially memorable one, because it honored Phyllis Schlafly. Her friends from all over the country came to Washington to praise and thank her. Even though she was frail as she walked up to the platform to receive her award, when she grasped the sides of the podium, it was as if she had plugged into a source of energy. And indeed she had: she plugged into the energy of the movement she helped found when, in 1964, she published A Choice Not an Echo.

Always both timeless and timely, she presented the dinner attendees with a new and updated version of the same book. And speaking of books, this remarkable lady wrote more than twenty of them — and her most recent one came out the very day she died. The organization she founded, Eagle Forum, is in the process of adapting itself to a new era that builds upon the foundation she laid.

Although she initially made her mark defending Goldwater and opposing the so-called Equal Rights Amendment — her full scope of issues was as wide as our nation. As a lawyer, she wrote knowledgeably about our legal system, and in particular, our Supreme Court. Her book about the excesses of judges and the constitutional abuses of the federal judiciary, called the Supremacists, remains one of the most insightful and readable treatises on the court system.

Her work on the cause of life and her opposition to legalized and taxpayer-subsidized abortion is without parallel. She founded the pro-life caucus within the Republican National Committee, known as RNC for Life. And she worked tirelessly and effectively on the Republican Party's Platform Committee for decades. Just a few months ago, in Cleveland, I heard her proudly and justifiably clam that the 2016 RNC platform was the most conservative and the most pro-life platform in the party's history.

On immigration, she was a fierce defender of our borders. I will never forget the time that she and her faithful troupe of fellow Eagle Forum members came to Washington when then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter was holding hearings on an immigration proposal. She came to me asking for help with the cost of transporting and housing her Eagle Forum colleagues. When I asked what she wanted to do, she said she and the other Eagles simply wanted to sit in the front row of the audience facing the Senators on the committee — and glare at them. We funded the trip, and Phyllis and her Eagles did exactly what they promised: they glared at Senator Specter and his colleagues with such intensity that they could not be ignored, and the hearing eventually went their way. Phyllis Schlafly was almost always gracious and kind, but when she needed to glare to make her point, there was no one her equal.

On patent reform, she was the protector of the individual inventor against the forces of the patent bar and corporatism. She marshalled the forces of the conservative movement behind the conviction that a patent should be awarded to the first to invent a new product or process, and not simply to the first to file a patent application. While she didn't win that fight in her lifetime, she didn't lose it either. The debate continues this day in the House Judiciary Committee, where had it not been for Phyllis, the issue would have been settled the wrong way several years ago.

Richard Viguerie said it well when he coined the phrase "the First Lady of American Conservatism" to describe her. There may never be another quite like her, yet her work will go on. Her legacy is secure in the political and intellectual history of the nation she so loved. She is now in the company of other saints, and we are all the better for having had the benefit of her intellect, her patriotism and her faith for more than seven decades of activism.

God bless you, Phyllis Schlafly.