David French: The American Ideal

There are few men who have lived a life as interesting and, in so many ways, heroic as National Review senior columnist David French. Those familiar with his work can attest to his brilliance and capability with the written word, however those familiar with his personal story can attest to much more—his deep sense of compassion, duty, and honor.

A graduate of Harvard Law, French has spent much of his career in the depths of academia, having served as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and as a lecturer at Cornell Law School. In 2005, however, French retired as president of FIRE, citing plans to serve in the United States Army Reserve. Though a successful author, academic, and attorney, French sacrificed his career and time with his family in order to serve our country as an Army lawyer in the JAG corps. He was awarded a Bronze Star following his deployment to Iraq in 2007. However, his numerous accomplishments throughout his career as both a civilian and Army officer still do not reveal the full story of a truly one-of-a-kind man.

In 2010, French and his wife, Nancy (an accomplished and talented writer in her own right) adopted an Ethiopian girl named Naomi. In the pro-life movement, we often cite adoption as the no-brainer alternative to abortion, yet how many of us are willing to put our money where our mouth is and take part in such a blessing? My guess is fewer than are willing to glorify it as a perfect solution to a horrifying problem. The Frenches, however, were able to recognize that what many of us might see as a tremendous burden is actually one of the greatest blessings God can bestow. As French argues in a 2016 piece for National Review, an “available” foster child is only available because of a series of dreadful events, and these dreadful events will almost inevitably lead to some form of trauma later in life. Despite the challenges and complexities that arise through the process, the Frenches made the decision to adopt, and their lives have been eternally blessed by the addition of an angelic young girl. However, such a blessing does not come without its trials, and even the best of hearts are not repaid in kind.

In 2013, French wrote a scathing denouncement of the hypocrisy of some who insist that a white, conservative, Christian family cannot raise a black child. He describes the disgusting attacks he and his wife received following Naomi’s adoption, ranging from online comments to in-person confrontations at the hands of angry progressives. French mentions that not only has his family become a beautiful example of interracial bliss, but the congregation at his conservative church (he and his wife are Evangelical Christians) has become an idyllic representation of a group of people who truly do not see color, but only humanity. He remarks that, while the progressives who tout their own virtue by claiming to support ethnic and racial diversity responded to their practicing of such lofty ideals with hatred and contempt, the supposedly bigoted, backwards conservatives responded only with love and acceptance. Though one might assume that the adoption of a child would be a point around which all people could gather and rejoice, French’s experience is yet another example that nobility and virtue rarely avoid controversy.

The hallmark of goodness is doing good even, and especially when, it is the more difficult path down which to embark. David French did not have to give up a cushy career at the top of academia. He did not have to surrender a steady and rewarding legal practice. He did not have to serve our country overseas in significantly greater danger and for significantly less pay than he was making in private practice. He did not have to accept the overwhelming responsibility of adopting a child into his family that already included two children. He did not have to sacrifice so much for his fellow man, yet he did. David French is the kind of man we should all emulate—selfless, courageous, brilliant, and noble. It is my greatest hope, and my absolute expectation, that one day little Naomi grows up to recognize what an incredible blessing her father is to her, and she to him. The world is changed by men and women who see beyond difficulty and recognize duty. Though we all have the potential, David French is one of those men.   


Special thanks to Nick Briscoe and Daniel Bruce who assisted in writing, researching, and editing this article. Nick is my law firm manager and a graduate of the University of Alabama. Daniel is a consultant at the firm and a Political Science and Economics student at Auburn University. Both plan to attend law school in 2019.