Answering America is an interview-style series highlighting the leaders supporting Friends of NRA, The NRA Foundation and the programs they fund. Learn about these high-profile influencers from the world of firearms and the shooting sports—in their own words. For this edition of the Q&A featuring retired USMC LtCol Oliver North, the questions were asked by participants in Session 2 of the 2018 NRA Youth Education Summit.
LtCol Oliver North is President of the National Rifle Association of America. He is a combat decorated U.S. Marine, best-selling author, syndicated columnist and former host of "War Stories" on the Fox News Channel. He will host the new NRATV series, American Heroes, beginning in Fall 2018.
What is your favorite period in American history and why? I’m a military historian, so I love the story of how the United States became a nation with freedoms defined in our Declaration of Independence and specified in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. But since the question is my “favorite period,” it can only be right now! The history of how we became the freest country on earth is important. But those of us living now will determine whether we can pass that freedom on to future generations. We can read history, we can write about history and we can make history.
In 1961 I took an oath as a U.S. Marine to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… [and to] bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” For 22 years I fulfilled that promise by defending our nation against foreign adversaries. Now, as NRA President, I’m one of 5.5 million of our countrymen helping protect our constitutional liberties against domestic adversaries who seek to eliminate—to repeal—the Second Amendment. In short, we’re making history!
Which Marine leadership trait is more important to you, loyalty or integrity? Integrity. Without integrity, nothing else matters. If integrity is absent, then loyalty, faithfulness, hard work, patriotism, even courage, perseverance and tenacity are all worthless. For a definition of integrity, see the Ten Commandments.
What is the most important part of your moral code? Knowing the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps, “Semper Fidelis,” is more than a slogan. “Always faithful” is a way of life.
The military impacts many people in different ways. What was the biggest impact the military had on your life? My service in the Marines taught me that the best leaders lead from the front. They are servants of those they lead. They must be selfless role models of the behavior and actions they expect of others. Great leaders must live by standards of conduct that inspire others to accomplish more than they thought possible and persevere in difficult—sometimes dangerous—circumstances.
What was the hardest life lesson you learned? The terrible challenge of holding a badly wounded U.S. Marine in rain-soaked darkness, praying that the helicopter searching for us would find us in time… Then, feeling him die in my arms and wondering, “Dear Lord, why?”
If you had to give a 16-year-old one piece of advice, what would it be? My wife of 50 years and I have four children and [as of now] 17 grandchildren. I try to show them how to: fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
How has the advent of social media and the expansion of technological capabilities affected how we carry out warfare? Much of what we now call “social media” creates vulnerabilities, because it is so easy for adversaries to rapidly disseminate false information. Social media does make it easier for deployed military personnel to stay in contact with loved ones at home. But the Marine Corps’ long tradition of sending a fellow Marine to personally notify the next of kin of a casualty can be thwarted by a tweet or e-mail. Such messages destroy morale and diminish the value of heroic sacrifice.
What is the biggest current threat to America, be it a country or a specific group? Weapons of mass destruction (e.g., ICBMs and nuclear warheads) in the hands of adversaries who place little worth in the value of human life are the number one threat to our nation. That clearly describes the despotic regimes in Iran and North Korea.
What can we do as a younger generation to preserve our freedoms? Get engaged in the political process by setting the example for others. Educate yourself about the issues. Ask for a five-year NRA membership for your next birthday, and, when you turn 18, vote!
Are you involved in shooting sports? If so, how did you get involved? Thanks to my dad and his father, I’m a hunter. If we can eat it, I hunt it. I have the best bird dog in the world: Casey, a Boykin Spaniel. She points, flushes and retrieves. My brothers and I started as kids with Chrissy, a beagle. She was a great rabbit, squirrel and varmint dog. I progressed through some wonderful labs. But Casey is the best water and upland game dog I've ever had. Lesson learned: If you hunt waterfowl from a canoe with a lab, be prepared to go for a swim when the lab jumps out of the boat. When the lab brings the duck or Canada goose back, you will certainly get wet again! That doesn’t happen with a Boykin!
What was the first firearm you collected? We weren’t “collectors.” We were hunters. As I recall, my first gun was a .22/.410 over-under. It was a great squirrel, rabbit and varmint gun for hunting with a beagle.
When was your first interaction with the NRA? What did it entail? NRA instructors taught marksmanship to our Boy Scout troop at an outdoor range. They must have been good instructors since my two brothers and I all served in combat (Marines, Army and Navy) and managed to shoot better than those who tried to kill us and our troops.
My most memorable NRA experience was in 1988 when U.S. Marine, Medal of Honor recipient, America’s leading fighter ace, former governor of South Dakota, inventor of the Super Bowl and NRA President Joe Foss called to inform me: “You’re now a life member of the NRA. Meet me in Richmond, Va.” I did as ordered. The rest was history. By the time Joe Foss passed to be with our lord and savior in January 2003, I was on the NRA Board of Directors and delivered a eulogy along with Vice President Dick Cheney and NBC News’ Tom Brokaw.
As the new NRA President, what future goals do you have for the National Rifle Association? Defend the Second Amendment of our Constitution. And promote the NRA School Shield program across our nation so every school in America will be as safe as the corridors of congress.
What experiences in your youth led you to become who you are today? My brothers, sister and I were blessed to be raised by God-fearing parents who loved us and showed us the right way to live.
Do you have a favorite quote? “Those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall soar on wings like eagles; They shall run and not grow weary; They shall walk and not feel faint” (Isaiah 40:31).