|Brittany Corona, 2013 Publius Fellow
For January's Alumni Spotlight, we catch up with Brittany Corona, 2013 Publius Fellow and State Programs and Government Relations Director at The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Brittany catches us up on her latest work promoting parental choice in education and explains her passion for advancing classically liberal learning. We also discuss President Lincoln, her favorite memory of the late Harry Jaffa, and her thoughts on the presidential horse race.
What is your current position?
State Programs and Government Relations Director at The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman's legacy foundation.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
I'm involved in the political and policy side of education reform, because I believe it to be the means to preserving the substance of education—particularly liberal education. I developed this belief through my education in political thought and work as an education policy researcher at The Heritage Foundation, where I conducted policy research and writing on preschool, K-12, and higher education issues.
What are you currently working on?
I oversee 19 states to assess and determine needs to advance parental choice in education. I provide policy analyses of states and work with state partners and legislators to direct Foundation resources to meet their specific needs through research, bill design, coalition building, and education on school choice.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I see myself with an advanced degree in political philosophy, and working in political, policy, and academic spheres to define the proper end of advanced education reform. In short, I want to be working to restore family, education, and the religious associations that Tocqueville lauded as the only way to preserve mores and sustain self-government.
How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
I was introduced to the Claremont Institute through my studies at Colorado Christian University and work at the Centennial Institute in Denver as a 1776 scholar.
How has Harry Jaffa influenced you?
I consider Professor Jaffa to be my intellectual godfather. I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis on the Dred Scott case, and I cited much of Professor Jaffa's writing on Lincoln's statesmanship and the American Founding. When I met Professor Jaffa during my Publius Fellowship, he told me, "I want you [the Fellows] to be apostles of the Truth."
What's your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?
Spending time with Professor Jaffa. The morning after our Independence Day celebrations, I had breakfast privately with the professor. We discussed reason, revelation, and the parallels between the Jewish Exodus and the American Civil War. I also showed the professor a picture of 19th century painter Eastman Johnson's portrait of a black man reading Exodus called, "The Lord is My Shepherd" (1863), and the professor and I discussed its significance with much emotion. It is a memory I will carry forever.
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?
What makes Claremont unique is its work to restore the principles of natural right to academic discourse and American politics. Claremont's mission to study "statesmanship and political philosophy" continues the legacy of Leo Strauss and Harry Jaffa by engaging promising public leaders through Fellowships in the timeless Natural Law principles that are enshrined in the Declaration, protected by the Constitution, and ultimately guide great statesmen.
If you could have a drink with an American Founder, or any great thinker, who would it be, why, and what would you order?
President Abraham Lincoln, because the Civil War vindicated the greatest principle of the American Founding: the truth that "all men are created equal." Lincoln didn't like wine or spirits, and was only known to drink water in the White House. I'm sure we would have supper, so in respect to Mr. Lincoln's humble beginnings in Indiana, we would order chicken dumplings and gingerbread—favorites of the great statesman. Perhaps we could have an Indiana brew, too.
Who was more important for their time, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Why?
This is a false dichotomy. Both Washington and Lincoln were equally important for their times, but are also able to stand outside of time. That is what makes them leaders and statesman rather than merely politicians.
What do you think the current presidential candidates can learn from Lincoln?
They would all do well to learn from his statesmanship. Lincoln made enemies of both abolitionists and slavery-sympathizers, by placing the common good of the Union first. Lincoln knew preserving the principles of the Union would eventually require the eradication of slavery. But his political moves were prudential and respectful of self-government.
Do you have a favorite presidential candidate?
No, I think statesmen are truly missing from the helm in the presidential race. But I think the most electable presidential candidate is Sen. Marco Rubio, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz. I believe that Cruz is the most principled and intelligent of the candidates, but I fear his political tactics won't gain him favor among voters. A Rubio-Cruz ticket would be appealing to me.
What is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?
Destruction of the family is the greatest threat to self-government, and is the main crisis facing America—and the Western World—today. In his Politics, Aristotle referred to the man-and-wife unit as the cornerstone of the greater polis. The breakdown of the family is a breakdown of self-government. This is the primary reason I am involved in education reform. I understand parental choice in education as a political mechanism for restoring the family, and civil society broadly, by empowering parents to choose the best educational options for their children.
What books are you reading right now?
I'm currently reading Democracy and Education by John Dewey in preparation for a Liberty Fund seminar on "Liberty, Democracy, and Useful American Education." In my personal time, I'm reading As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg. The novel explores themes of reason and revelation in the story of a young Jewish boy in ancient Rome.