William Bennett

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William Bennett
Bill Bennett by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
In office
March 13, 1989 – December 13, 1990
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byBob Martinez
3rd United States Secretary of Education
In office
February 6, 1985 – September 20, 1988
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byTerrel Bell
Succeeded byLauro Cavazos
Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities
In office
December 24, 1981 – February 6, 1985
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byJoseph Duffey
Succeeded byJohn Agresto (Acting)
Personal details
William John Bennett

(1943-07-31) July 31, 1943 (age 76)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (1986–present)
Other political
Democratic (before 1986)
Spouse(s)Elayne Glover
EducationWilliams College (BA)
University of Texas, Austin (MA, PhD)
Harvard University (JD)

William John Bennett (born July 31, 1943) is an American conservative pundit, politician, and political theorist, who served as Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. He also held the post of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H. W. Bush.

Life and career[edit]

Bennett was born July 31, 1943[1] in Brooklyn, the son of Nancy (née Walsh), a medical secretary, and F. Robert Bennett, a banker.[2][3] He moved to Washington, D.C., where he attended Gonzaga College High School. He graduated from Williams College, where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Society, and went on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in Political Philosophy. He also has a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

From 1979 to 1981, he was the executive director of the National Humanities Center, a private research facility in North Carolina. In 1981 President Reagan appointed him to chair the National Endowment for the Humanities, where he served until Reagan appointed him Secretary of Education in 1985. Reagan originally nominated Mel Bradford to the position, but due to Bradford's pro-Confederate views Bennett was appointed in his place. This event was later marked as the watershed in the divergence between paleoconservatives, who backed Bradford, and neoconservatives, led by Irving Kristol, who supported Bennett. In May 1986, Bennett switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party.[4] Bennett resigned from this post in 1988, and later was appointed to the post of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by President George H. W. Bush. He was confirmed by the Senate in a 97–2 vote.

Bennett is a member of the National Security Advisory Council of the Center for Security Policy (CSP). He was co-director of Empower America and was a Distinguished Fellow in Cultural Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Long active in United States Republican Party politics, he is now an author, speaker, and, from April 5, 2004 through April 1, 2016, the host of the weekday radio program Morning in America on the Dallas, Texas-based Salem Communications.[5] In addition to his radio show, he was the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute. Further work at the Claremont Institute included his role as Chairman of Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT). He was also a political analyst for CNN until his termination in 2013.

He is a Senior Advisor to Project Lead The Way, one of the nation's leading providers of training and curriculum to improve STEM education in American schools; he is on the advisory board of Udacity, Inc., Viridis Learning, Inc. and the board of directors of Vocefy, Inc. and Webtab, Inc. He is also the Chief Education Advisor to Beanstalk Innovation, an international education company.[6]

Bennett and his wife, Mary Elayne Glover, have two sons, John and Joseph. Elayne is the president and founder of Best Friends Foundation, a national program promoting sexual abstinence among adolescents. He is the younger brother of Washington attorney Robert S. Bennett.

Political viewpoints[edit]

Bennett tends to take a conservative position on affirmative action, school vouchers, curriculum reform, and religion in education. As Education Secretary, he asked colleges to better enforce drug laws and supported a classical education. He frequently criticized schools for low standards. In 1988 he called the Chicago Public Schools system "the worst in the nation."[7] He coined the term "the blob" to describe the state education bureaucracy,[8] a term which was later taken up in Britain by Michael Gove.[9]

Bennett is a staunch supporter of the War on Drugs and has been criticized by some for his views on the issue. On Larry King Live, he said that a viewer's suggestion of beheading drug dealers would be "morally plausible."[10] He also "lamented that we still grant them [drug dealers] habeas corpus rights."[11]

Bennett is a member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and was one of the signers of the January 26, 1998 PNAC Letter[12] sent to President Bill Clinton urging Clinton to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power.


Bennett's best-known written work may be The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories (1993), which he edited; he has also authored and edited eleven other books, including The Children's Book of Virtues (which inspired an animated television series) and The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals (1998).

Other books

  • Tried by Fire: The Story of Christianity's First Thousand Years (2016)
  • Going to Pot: Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana Is Harming America with Robert A. White (2015)
  • Is College Worth It? with David Wilezol (2013)
  • The Fight of our Lives co-authored with Seth Leibsohn (2011)
  • The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood (2011)
  • A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears (2010)
  • The True Saint Nicholas (2009)
  • The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America (2008 with John Cribb)
  • America: The Last Best Hope (Volume II): From a World at War to the Triumph of Freedom (2007)
  • America: The Last Best Hope (Volume I): From the Age of Discovery to a World at War (2006)
  • Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism (2003)
  • The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family (2001)
  • The Educated Child: A Parent's Guide from Preschool through Eighth Grade (1999)
  • The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators (1999)
  • Our Sacred Honor (1997, compilation of writings by the Founding Fathers)
  • Body Count: Moral Poverty...and How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drugs (1996)
  • Moral Compass: Stories for a Life's Journey (1995)
  • The De-Valuing of America: The Fight for Our Culture and Our Children (1992)
  • James Madison Elementary School: A Curriculum For American Students (August 1988, as Secretary of the Department of Education)
  • James Madison High School: A Curriculum For American Students (December 1987, as Secretary of the Department of Education)
  • First Lessons. A Report on Elementary Education in America (co-authored in September 1986, as Secretary of Department of Education)


Bennett writes for National Review Online, National Review and Commentary. He is a former senior editor of National Review and wrote the book "To Reclaim a Legacy."

Radio and television programs[edit]

Bennett began hosting Morning in America, a nationally syndicated radio program produced and distributed by Salem Communications, in 2004.[13] The show aired live weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. Eastern Time, and was one of the only syndicated conservative talk shows in the morning drive time slot. However, its clearances were limited due to a preference for local shows in this slot, and the show got most of its clearances on Salem-owned outlets. Morning in America was also carried on Sirius Satellite Radio, on Channel 144, also known as the Patriot Channel[14] Bennett retired from full-time radio on March 31, 2016.[15] In 2017, Bennett launched a podcast, The Bill Bennett Show.[16]

In 2008, Bennett became the host of a CNN weekly talk show, Beyond the Politics. The show did not have a long run, but Bennett remained a CNN contributor until he was let go in 2013 by then-new CNN president, Jeff Zucker.



In 2003, it became publicly known that Bennett was a high-stakes gambler who lost millions of dollars in Las Vegas.[17] Criticism increased in the wake of Bennett's publication, The Book of Virtues, a compilation of moral stories about courage, responsibility, friendship and other examples of virtue. Joshua Green of the Washington Monthly said that Bennett failed to denounce gambling because of his own tendency to gamble. However, Bennett and Empower America, the organization he co-founded and headed at the time, opposed an extension of casino gambling in the United States.[18]

Bennett said that his habit had not put himself or his family in any financial jeopardy. After Bennett's gambling problem became public, he said he did not believe his habit set a good example, that he had "done too much gambling" over the years, and his "gambling days are over". "We are financially solvent," his wife Elayne told USA Today. "All our bills are paid." She added that his gambling days are over. "He's never going again," she said.[19]

Several months later, Bennett qualified his position, saying "So, in this case, the excessive gambling is over." He explained "Since there will be people doing the micrometer on me, I just want to be clear: I do want to be able to bet the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl."[20]

Radio show abortion comment[edit]

On September 28, 2005, in a discussion on Bennett's Morning in America radio show, a caller to the show proposed that "lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years" could preserve Social Security if abortion wasn't permitted following Roe v. Wade. Bennett responded that aborting all African-American babies "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were the sole purpose—you could abort every black baby in this country and the crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down."[21]

Bennett responded to the criticism saying, in part:

A thought experiment about public policy, on national radio, should not have received the condemnations it has. Anyone paying attention to this debate should be offended by those who have selectively quoted me, distorted my meaning, and taken out of context the dialogue I engaged in this week. Such distortions from 'leaders' of organizations and parties is a disgrace not only to the organizations and institutions they serve, but to the First Amendment.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "William J. Bennett." American Decades, edited by Judith S. Baughman, et al., Gale, 1998. Biography in Context, Accessed 28 July 2017.
  2. ^ Sobel, Robert; Sicilia, David B. (2003). The United States Executive Branch: A-L. ISBN 9780313325939.
  3. ^ "Time". 1996.
  4. ^ "Bill Bennett Finally Turns Republican". The Washington Post. June 27, 1986. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  5. ^ Group, Salem Media. "SRN's Bill Bennett to Step Back from Morning Microphone, Hugh Hewitt Moves to Mornings". www.prnewswire.com.
  6. ^ "Bennett, William J."
  7. ^ "Schools and Education". www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org.
  8. ^ Montague, William (September 9, 1987). "Administrators Rebut Bennett's Critique of Burgeoning Bureaucratic 'Blob' - Education Week" – via Education Week.
  9. ^ "Michael Gove vs the Blob". The Spectator. January 13, 2010.
  10. ^ "William Bennett". www.nndb.com.
  11. ^ Balko, Radley (2010-12-20) Beyond Bars, Reason
  12. ^ "The Indy Voice..."Be the change you want to see in the world." » Project New American Century". Archived from the original on August 22, 2006.
  13. ^ "USATODAY.com - Bennett lends voice to 'Morning' radio". usatoday30.usatoday.com.
  14. ^ "Sirius Channel Listing".
  15. ^ "Hugh Hewitt, Larry Elder in Salem Radio Network Shake-Up". The Hollywood Reporter.
  16. ^ Ink, Radio (February 23, 2017). "Podcasting Partnership Sees Launch Of The Bill Bennett Show".
  17. ^ David von Drehle (2003-05-03). "Bennett Reportedly High-Stakes Gambler". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  18. ^ Joshua Green (2003). "The Bookie of Virtue". The Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on 2003-05-03. Retrieved 2008-04-08.
  19. ^ "GOP moralist Bennett gives up gambling". CNN. 2003-05-05. Retrieved 2008-04-08.
  20. ^ Benen, Steve. "Are Bill Bennett's gambling days over or not? - The Carpetbagger Report".
  21. ^ McNamara, Robert. Multiculturalism in the Criminal Justice System, McGraw-Hill, 2009. ISBN 9780073379944
  22. ^ Transcripts: CNN Saturday Morning News [1]. October 1, 2005

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Duffey
Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Humanities
Succeeded by
John Agresto
Preceded by
Terrel Bell
United States Secretary of Education
Succeeded by
Lauro Cavazos
New office Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
Succeeded by
Bob Martinez