Babs Hough

2021 Publius Fellow

What is your current position?

I am a Capital Campaigns Consultant for American Philanthropic.

What inspired you to choose this career path?

I had worked at a think tank, done a brief stint in the Administration, and worked in Congress; consulting for Conservative organizations seemed like a practical next step. I have been pleasantly surprised by how inspiring my work is; seeing the aims and successes of non-profit organizations in “flyover country” has given me hope.

What are you currently working on?

Helping several non-profits assess the feasibility of launching a campaign or implement one. One of the most inspiring projects I’m working on right now is helping a crisis pregnancy center find a new building to move into with more space for ultrasound machines.

How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?

I think I first heard about the Claremont Institute from my father who introduces me to most things that are worth paying attention to.

What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?

My fondest memory from Publius is the Fourth of July boat trip followed by reading speeches. It’s typical of Claremont to make events both enjoyable and meaningful, but the Fourth was exceptional.

There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?

More than other fellowships and programs, Claremont seems to attract fellows from a wider variety of schools, professions, and life stages. The knowledge that our time together is distinct fosters a deeper appreciation for learning and fellowship. The fact that we all had different paths outside of those three weeks in California was a reminder of our common cause and encouraged us to not take the time for granted.

What would the artifact be, if you could hold one piece of history from the early founding of our country and why?

I would love to have an early copy of the Star Spangled Banner. The lyrics always remind me of the reality of America’s early years and give me hope. And, as a point of pride, Francis Scott Key helped found the Church I attend.

What do you believe is one of the greatest challenges facing the United States?

The best way that I can think to describe it is the sequel to “Bowling Alone”: not only is there associational or community instability, but there’s also widespread individual instability and unhappiness. Frankly, American men and women seem like they are going insane. Women aren’t getting married or having children, and they’re spending countless hours on social media. Men are not only working less than women, they’re not even looking for jobs. Their brains are rewired by videogames and pornography, and China is more than happy to supply opioids to these listless American men. Attention span, faith, IQ, and health are on the decline and it’s taking a toll politically.

Instability has plagued this country before and been overcome. What frightens me about this particular moment is that we may not have the political will or instruments to overcome it. In a broad sense, we lack a shared language. Generational and demographic differences are to be expected, but the chasm between young and old (or Twitter user and non-user) is enormous. It feels like as constituencies we’re not just talking past each other; we’re not even speaking the same language. If Americans find the language of the Founding and the shared beliefs it inherently conveys to be completely alien, why would they believe in its continuity? Plagued by an inability to believe, why wouldn’t they feel insane?

At risk of sounding more hopeless than I feel, I believe the greatest challenge is that the United States is living out W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”. I hope that it’s not too late to rewrite.

Many opinion commentators believe we are slowly becoming a nation of political will as opposed to a principled nation of law and order.  What are your thoughts on this issue?

I don’t think we are slowly becoming a nation of political will—we already are one. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone could watch the events of the past two years and think this is still a nation governed by the rule of law. The structures necessary for being a principled nation still exist; I am hopeful they can be recaptured.

How would you respond to the push towards ESG (Environmental, Societal, Governance) scores?

I worry a lot less about ESG scores than I do cancel culture. Corporate embrace of ESG scores seems to mostly be virtue signaling. I imagine if investors find that a very profitable company has a low ESG score they’re more likely to lobby to inflate the ESG score than pull their investment. The notion that a dedicated employee would get fired for a ten-year-old tweet and be replaced by a 20-something with a degree in women’s studies has far worse implications.

What book, speech, or movie has left a lasting impression with you and why?

I read A History of the American People by Paul Johnson my sophomore year of college after recognizing that I called myself a conservative but knew little about American history. I had grown up overseas, but my shallow patriotism was frankly inexcusable.

Johnson opened my eyes to the genius of the founding. The history inspired me to learn about the American experiment, the philosophers behind it, and its comparisons. I became fascinated by the chasm between classical and modern political philosophy and where America and her manifest destiny fit.

Not only did the book teach and challenge me, it has given me a lasting hope for America. Johnson closes the book beautifully: “The great American republican experiment is still the cynosure of the world’s eyes. It is still the first, best hope for the human race. Looking back on its past, and forward to its future, the auguries are that it will not disappoint an expectant humanity.” This conclusion never fails to move me; I reread it often.

What books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom and The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman.

Do you have a favorite quote?  Why does it resonate with you?

One of my favorites is a Rabelais quip “Science sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme”—the play on words is lighthearted, but really captures a failure of modernity. The focus on science and reason at the expense of the things which ought to accompany them (con-science), does ruin the soul. In addition to reason endowed by our Creator, faith and revelation have a role in human pursuits.

What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in the state where you grew up that you genuinely admire?

Michiganders give tremendous amounts of their time and money to help others and think nothing of it. When my middle sister was married last year my parents hosted a reception in our front yard—the next-door neighbors came over and set up all of the food and drinks while we were at the ceremony; they treated it almost as a common courtesy.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Hopefully I’ll be a stay-at-home mom, taking an active role in children’s education.

And just because …

Please share one of your fondest memories from your time spent in Istanbul, Turkey.

Growing up my parents would frequently take us to museums and ancient sites. I distinctly remember going to see an exhibit of 19th century Russian art including Ilya Repin’s “Barge Haulers on the Volga” – it’s an unforgettable painting. And, if memory serves, we took the ferry back home across the Bosphorus feeding seagulls and counting jellyfish along the way.