By David Halbrook.
Patrick Henry College
PHC alum Chris Beach (L) with Bill Bennett
Out stepped Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. Recalls Beach: “The next thing I knew I was standing on the sidewalk in New York City listening to Bill and Herman Cain laughing and talking about politics, and my first thought is ‘What am I doing here?’”
“What am I doing here,” is a familiar state of mind for Beach these days, whether it’s hiking trails with the former education czar outside of Aspen, staying in swanky hotels on a recent book tour, or simply bantering on-air with his boss about news and politics at Morning's studio in downtown Rosslyn, Va., across the Potomac from downtown D.C. Bennett is a former Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan, the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the first Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H. W. Bush. He is also the author and editor of 20 books, two of which -- The Book of Virtues and The Children’s Book of Virtues -- rank among the most successful of the past decade.
“It’s sort of like I almost have to pinch myself on a daily basis,” Beach confides, “just waking up and going to work for Bill Bennett. He’s a man of great faith and one of the intellectual giants of the conservative movement, with a depth of understanding of culture, education, and philosophy. He’s also a very down-to-earth guy, very funny, extremely engaging. The fact that I get to personally work one-on-one with a man I call the Benjamin Franklin of our times seems pretty surreal to me on a moment-to-moment basis.”
One recent “pinch myself” moment occurred on the book tour for Bennett’s new book, The Book of Man, about “rediscovering the need for real men in a society that has cast them aside.” The book is targeted as a thematic follow-up for the audience that read Bennett’s best-selling Book of Virtues 30 years ago, and it explores the extraordinary lives of men in war, at work, in play and leisure, and in prayer and reflection, among other settings. As it turns out, Bennett’s high regard for his “right hand man” placed Beach in the enviable and challenging position of leading and directing a team of present and former PHC students who wrote, researched and edited much of the 600-page manuscript.
“It was a huge job,” says Beach of the project that got started over a year and half ago. “Bill had just written the Fight of Our Lives, a political book about Islam, and he was looking to do a different sort of book. Hanna Rosin’s article “The End of Men” had just been published in the Atlantic, heavy with statistics about how men are falling behind women in education and success. Bill recognized a data trend suggesting problems with boys and men.”
Beach assembled a team of researchers that included PHC grad Nathan Martin -- a journalism major and former associate producer for Bennett -- David Carver, Shane Ayers, and PHC lit majors Olivia Linde and Brian Dutze. With Beach at the helm, the team began interviewing subjects and drafting profiles of notable men who had led courageous, honorable lives. One chapter by Martin features former TIME Magazine senior correspondent and PHC history professor David Aikman.
“The book is very classically oriented,” explains Beach, “with lots of source materials from Plato, Aristotle, Pericles, and Homer, which came naturally from our PHC education. I knew (the students) from PHC and I brought them in and they did an amazing job.”
In the book’s acknowledgments, Bennett wrote: “To my new team of researchers who provided invaluable contributions to this book throughout the entire process: Olivia Linde, Brian Dutze, Shane Ayers and David Carver. The future looks better in your capable hands. And also to David Nathan Martin, whose creativity and skill inspired and created many of the fascinating profiles in this book. And special thanks to the leader of this team -- Christopher Beach -- chief engineer of this project, who put many of the pieces together.”
Chris Beach signs a copy of The Book of Man at recent Newsmakers week at PHC
“The ability to write and edit under pressure allowed me to start writing promos and news briefs and scripts early on,” he added.
In coming months, his humble, laid-back manner and diverse skillset clearly won Bennett’s trust and respect, and today, nearly two years after Beach ascended to his full-time position as Bennett’s top producer and assistant, a sense of fatherly care and mutual affection is clearly evident. At PHC’s recent Newsmaker Interview Series with Marvin Olasky, Bennett poked some light-hearted fun at Beach while extolling his character and educational background.
“A college is measured by its graduates, and you (PHC) have done a very good job with this young man,” Bennett began. “He’s an extraordinary young man; part of it because of what his parents did, but part of it because of what you at Patrick Henry College did. It speaks volumes; he’s a man of balance and good sense -- remarkable in good sense and common sense beyond his years. It’s a testament to this College, and I’m grateful for him.”
“He’s the best, most gracious boss I’ve ever worked for, and his style is to take people under his wing,” Beach observes, noting that syndicated talk host Laura Ingraham, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and intellectual heavyweight Paul Ryan, chairman of House Budget committee, each got their start working alongside Bennett. “Bill’s always looking out for his employees, and he has looked out for me. I travel a lot with him, and I’m fortunate to be in the inner circle of the close team that he relies on. What I was doing in radio journalism at PHC absolutely helped get my foot in door, and the Lord and hard work has taken it from there. I don’t take any of it for granted, not for a minute.”
Watch Below: Bill Bennett endorses Chris Beach