North a big draw at Hundred Club dinner
BRADLEY — The Hundred Club of Kankakee County has attracted many notable speakers to its long-standing annual dinner, but few, if any, have drawn as much attention as Lt. Col. Oliver North.
North was the guest speaker at the latest dinner held Wednesday at the Quality Inn & Suites, and an overflow crowd of several hundred filled the tables to listen to his words.
Currently the president of the National Rifle Association, North previously worked as a contributor for the Fox News Cable network, where the program he hosted, “War Stories with Oliver North,” became one of the network’s most popular shows.
North first gained national notoriety in the late 1980s, when he served as a National Security Council staff member under President Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair and testified before Congress in what would become the biggest controversy of the Reagan presidency.
Before becoming a well-known public figure, North served in the U.S. Marine Corps and in the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal with Combat V and two Purple Heart medals for valor shown in combat.
During his speech, he praised the many first responders in the audience for their selfless service. The purpose of The Hundred Club is to help provide for the widows and dependents of public law enforcement officers and firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Prior to making the speech, North sat down with the Daily Journal to answer a series of questions. Here are his responses:
You planned “to hit the ground running” when you became NRA president five months ago. How has the run gone to this point?
I single-handedly keep United Airlines in business by flying so much. It’s going very well. We are growing membership. We have 5.6 million members. That’s twice the size of the active military. Our goal is to double our membership.
Last week, in advance of the midterms, you released a one-minute video titled “We Are The Cure” (available for viewing on NRATV and YouTube). How high are the stakes in the Nov. 6 election?
Well, look. If the far left, which has got $3.5 billion from Bloomberg, Soros (and other notable donors) wins the House, they will impeach the president and do away with the Second Amendment. That’s their story. That’s what the left does.
Gun violence is prevalent. There are those who claim NRA principles contribute to the violence. How do you respond?
Before you start blaming the NRA, look what the NRA is doing to prevent it. (North mentioned the NRA “School Shield” program it has developed where NRA members who also are safety experts assess the nation’s schools, identify vulnerabilities and make recommendations to make the schools safer. The program also distributes grant money to schools and the NRA last month announced $600,000 in funding has been shared).
You spent many years working in television before taking the NRA presidency. Do you miss it?
I love what I did at Fox. Sean Hannity thinks he had the best job but I did.
You first entered the public spotlight though the Iran-Contra affair. All these years later, is there any one lasting memory or lesson from the experience?
I have four kids and 17 grandkids. They got dragged through the same thing (new Supreme Court Justice Brett) Kavanaugh did. What Kavanaugh went through my kids went through and I feel for him. For months (after the hearings) we were threatened and couldn’t back out of the driveway without being hounded by the national press.
You are a highly decorated Vietnam veteran. Our area is home to a good many Vietnam vets. Do you share in the special kinship that seems to particularly exist among those who served there?
(North called a friend, Chicago area dentist Dr. Jim Leonard, forward before answering the question and his voice cracked as he did. North got emotional again later when he introduced Leonard to the Hundred Club crowd). The Vietnam veterans were described as potheads and murderers by people like John Kerry. I’m alive because of this man (Leonard was North’s radio man in Vietnam). Do you think that means something special?
This area, just like all parts of America, has high school students who are nearing graduation and considering military service. Any advice?
Finish high school first. You can’t join the military anymore without a high school diploma. If you can finish college do that too because then you can come in as an officer. The very best guys I know were leaders in the military.”
Anything you would like to add in closing?
Join the NRA. What are you waiting for?