Profiles in Liberty: Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring
Colin A. Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring USA, Inc., a non-profit public policy organization committed to promoting Constitutional government, free enterprise and traditional values.
As a leader in the conservative movement, Mr. Hanna lead last year’s Cut, Cap, and Balance campaign in an attempt to add a spending limit to the U.S. Constitution. Let Freedom Ring was formed to counter the attacks of anti-conservative groups on patriotic candidates as well as attacks on the important issues of our day – those that affect the core of our society: the family, marriage, the economy, energy, abortion, health care and foreign policy. They also work to keep constituents and the media informed about what our founding fathers’ intentions were and how history shapes laws and our culture today. Through seminars, workshops, ad campaigns, leadership and grassroots training and educational materials, Let Freedom Ring strives to motivate, activate and educate those who are interested in keeping America the great nation it has always been.
Follow Let Freedom Ring on Twitter @lfrusa.
(Image source: Gage Skidmore)
Matt Naugle: How did you become a conservative?
Colin Hanna: I was on an Ivy League campus during the Vietnam War. As a midshipman during the war, I required to wear a uniform one day per week on campus. That was a time of great harassment toward anyone in the military. As long as you wore the uniform, you were going to be jeered at and spat upon.
So I decided to keep the uniform on and I firmed up beliefs. I knew it was time to stand up for what is right.
MN: You served our country during Vietnam in the Navy. What lead you to the Navy, what was position, and how was the experience?
CH: I joined the Navy because I wanted to be a pilot. I wanted to be a pilot since I was a little boy, and was named for my uncle who was in the Royal air force in England. I flew privately and first soloed at age 16.
I was a first officer in the Navy. I went to fly school where I excelled… until I failed a physical. So I was taken out of the flight program.
Then, I joined the Chief of Information Office in the Pentagon, and did a daily radio feed for about 500 radio stations which provided Vietnam causality reports and other news update.
There, I also worked with other television networks who wanted access to Navy facilities. I worked with overseas networks. I worked with 20th Century Fox on the filming of Torra! Torra! Torra!. I worked with Frank McGee of NBC on the Pueblo Incident, and a variety other of public affairs contacts between the navy and the media.
MN: What sort of advertising work and entrepreneurship were you involved in?
CH: I actually met an executive at CBS who was in the Navy Reserve, and I ended up being hired by CBS radio in New York. I literally had a weekend between the Navy and CBS radio. My hair didn’t have enough time to grow out!
I worked for CBS for 7 years in both NY and Philadelphia. I left after being offered the presidency of an advertising agency in Philadelphia.
After 7 years, I sold my share to the other partners and started a series of small businesses which all involved marking and communications. One was a computerized barter exchange, the other was a marking consulting agency, and I ran a specialty search firm specializing in marketing executives.
Then, I started a small computer company were we built our own PCs and did network installations for small businesses. I sold this business when I entered elected office.
MN: From 1995 until 2003, you were a County Commissioner in Chester County, PA. What advice do you have for local elected officials who want to apply conservative principles to the county and city levels?
CH: I was a part of the Republican Party of Chester County as precinct captain for 5 years, before running for office in 1995.
A vast majority of county government works on the delivery of state mandated services. So, the tax dynamic is a little different. But we stressed accountability and quality of services. In addition, we instituted an employee freeze to keep the county from growing for several years.
In addition, I was very active in the pro-life movement. We had an issue about a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic using public block grants to build its location, which I fought against. We also instituted policies for the county prison which restricted all elected abortions, unless the life of the mother was at risk.
MN: What was your legal battle against the ACLU?
CH: The same historic architect who designed our county building, as developed the US Capital Dome. Outside, it had a full display of the 10 commandments.
The ACLU filed suit, saying it was an endorsement of religion. We lost in the first circuit, but won an unanimous reversal at the 3rd circuit.
When we won, we hosted a celebration and removed the shroud from the 10 commandments.
In the process, the county’s legal costs were quite small, as we already had a lawyer and received assistance from outside groups.
MN: Does a conservative movement exist? If so, can it be successful?
CH: Not only does it exist, it is the largest single current in American politics today.
Current is a good metaphor, because it is not tightly defined. But it is what connects 21st century society with our 18th century founders.
The conservative movement rests on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and therefore is the primary bulwark against ever-larger government and the primary champion of the vision of the founders, which was limited government.
MN: Perhaps more than anyone, you have proven that social conservatives can work with libertarians to fight for economic liberty. What is the key to maintaining and expanding this sort of fusionism?
CH: A coalition doesn’t agree on every issue. A coalition is an assembly of people with generally shared basic values, so a coalition does not require one to make the same argument.
Libertarians make a cogent article in defense of economic liberty, and can stand next to social conservatives and second amendment conservatives. Each of those groups has different interests, but each is compatible in defense of liberty.
They should function together and understand the compatibility of their views. But it takes constant attention to the need for compatibility, which is more effective than splintering into unique groups who don’t talk to each other.
This is why I’m involved in former Attorney General Ed Meese’s Conservative Action Project, which has done more to unify right-leaning groups than anything I’ve seen.
MN: Will there ever be a balanced budget amendment added to the Constitution?
CH: Oh I hope so! I think it’s important to have the balanced budget amendment tied to the size of the economy, so the argument for limited government isn’t sacrificed in the name of balance.
In other words, if we tie tax receipts to expenditures, it could mandate tax increases. Public support for the idea that the federal government has to maintain the type of discipline they do is high. And we cannot run perpetual deficits. The amendment needs to return spending to a level of sanity, while being tied to a certain percentage of the size of the economy.
MN: Let Freedom Ring was instrumental in the latest defeat of the Law of the Sea Treaty. What else is LFR focused on?
CH: We were very active in pulling groups together in defense of Cut Cap and Balance, the only workable comprehensible solution to set us on an effective an enforceable path to limited government.
This year we are very interested in finding ways to reach the swing voter- the ideologically centrist voter- who believe in the principles of the founding.
We are also educating voters about President Obama’s treatment of pensions for non-unionized employees.
MN: Final words of wisdom from Colin Hanna?
CH: If every member of Congress, and every senior level official in the executive branch, and ever senior level official in the judicial branch, all read the Constitution in full, in a single setting, more than once per year, most would become conservatives. The rest would at least understand why we believe conservative values are American values.