Two of the finest people I’ve come to know through my work with Patheos are David and Nancy French. When we decided that we would publish columns at Patheos, David was the first columnist I sought. I had come to know David and Nancy through their work with Six Seeds — as I was getting to know www.sixseeds.org better and explore ways in which we might work together (Patheos’ Family Portal is now produced by Six Seeds). I thought that David would turn me down; he’s a high-octane constitutional lawyer specializing in free speech issues, for FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) and then ADF (Alliance Defense Fund) and now the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice). He’s also a military reservist (not many Harvard-trained lawyers volunteer to join the military and go to Iraq, but David did) and the father to three children, one of them adopted.
To my complete surprise, David explained that my timing was perfect and he would take up the offer. His columns were often controversial; David is passionately committed to some opinions that are not politically correct. But he’s a first-rate thinker, an excellent writer, and a man of extraordinary principle. Love him or not (and I love him), David has the courage of his convictions. He drew the largest audience of all my columnists. We also became friends, as we share many passions: God, politics, the Lord of the Rings, sci-fi/fantasy in general, and computer gaming (a passion, sadly, I cannot much pursue these days). When David moved to the ACLJ, we moved him to a blog with Nancy at The French Revolution. Since that time, I’ve actually gotten to know Nancy more than David, and his great insight and judgment are proved by the quality of the wife he won. David writes regularly now at The Corner at the National Review Online, and I collaborate with David and Nancy on Evangelicals for Mitt.
Well, David just won a magnificent honor: the Ronald Reagan Award from the American Conservative Union, awarded to him at CPAC. The Reagan Award is the highest award given at CPAC. The recipients are not always well known, but as David Keene (then director of the American Conservative Union) said in 2008: “The winners of this award, our highest honor, are not household names, but the men and women working in the trenches who sacrifice and, in so doing, set an example for others.” (Another friend, Ruth Malhotra, was co-recipient of the award in 2009, as it happens.)
David delivered an impromptu speech that was funny and moving and compassionate all at once — while his adopted daughter Naomi nearly stole the show behind him. Check it out:
Apparently Nancy knew that the award was coming, but had to keep it a secret from David. What a secret to keep! Major congratulations to the entire French family and major thanks for their sacrifices on behalf of our country.