“Give me liberty or give me death” — uttered by American patriot Patrick Henry, in March of 1775 at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia — is a phrase that still inspires. 223 years later after they were spoken, these words roused the launch of the Patrick Henry Center (PHC). Henry was an outspoken advocate of free speech and consistently campaigned to reveal corruption in government.
PHC President Gary Aldrich, a 26-year veteran of the FBI, founded the Center in 1998 after his book, "Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House," exposed scandals within the Clinton Administration. After revealing much the Clintons wanted to conceal, Aldrich became something of an outsider. Which is one of the reasons the Center was founded.
The Center focuses specifically on the ethical matters of “identifying, encouraging, supporting, and protecting those who believe in free speech,” according to its web site.
Four distinct programs accomplish the goals of the PHC — most notably, the “whistleblower” program. According to Aldrich, the PHC has “assisted many federal whistleblowers and a few involved in local or state agencies whose cases warranted action.”
Whistle blowing — exposing wrongdoing at personal risk — has received a bad rap in recent years after Linda Tripp outed the Monica Lewinsky scandal. However, the practice can serve an important service in keeping government agencies and organizations on task.
Aldrich said there is “no easy way to answer the question of why we don’t encourage whistle-blowing more.” He said in federal agencies, there is an “us against them” mentality stemming from corrupt politicians and others only in it for personal gain.
While the PHC strives to protect whistleblowers, Aldrich said these individuals can never feel truly secure. Though the PHC can help protect them from “retribution” and help them change careers, reputation is difficult to salvage.
“Once you blow the whistle you are pretty much washed up in a society that thinks The Sopranos is a humorous television show suitable for primetime viewing,” he said.
That is why the PHC is so important: whistleblowers need to be understood and encouraged after making that tough decision.
The Broadcasting Initiative, another PHC program, boosts the conservative message in traditional and new media, including Internet, talk radio, print media and public speaking arenas. The Fairness Doctrine – which would regulate talk radio and television — and issues of liberal bias in the media make this program more important to this election year.
The Legacy Program exists to educate interested parties on the life of Patrick Henry. Most recently, they created a documentary film — “Liberty or Death” — available free to educators. It was filmed on location at the site of the Second Virginia Convention at the church where Henry gave his famous speech. Aldrich said in the past year, the PHC has been able to “remind millions of the life and legacy of Henry and…this year we will remind millions more.”
The PHC also contributes significantly to the restoration of Patrick Henry historical sites as well as covering the cost of admissions for school children to visit his home and office. Keeping the sites open and in good condition is costly and the Center relies on donations to maintain them. The sites are important scenes from Henry’s life — where he studied, lived and participated in events.
“He is an important man for our times, and when patriots realize this, they open their wallets,” said Aldrich. “Most of our funding comes from the heartland of America – from citizens who still believe we are the greatest nation on the face of the globe.”
The Center also hosts the Caucus for Campus Freedom program, which combats liberal bias in free speech on college campuses. The outreach movement exists to hold academia accountable, challenging them to “true intellectual diversity.” They sponsor programs and speakers, educate students, promote the legacy of Henry and hold a yearly retreat.
James Dickson, a Michigan State University alum and currently an ISI fellow at The American Spectator, attended the retreat last summer.
“The Patrick Henry Center provides great networking and get-to-know-you opportunities for conservative college students,” he said. “They also provide students the resources and the ammunition to bring the mountain to Muhammad, if you will, on the college campus.”
Dickson said the PHC is there for student groups. For example, he said, if a group wanted 3000 American flags planted on campus to represent the dead from 9/11, “they would make sure you got the flags.”
But all this may never have come to be had Aldrich not uncovered several of the abuses occurring in the Clinton White House.
In interview with Human Events, Aldrich spoke candidly of the Clintons.
“In their time in the White House they violated so many rules, policies, social norms and laws that there is no need to talk about anything new,” he said when I asked him about uncovering new scandals about Hillary Clinton. “Our job is to remind people about the dozens of major Clinton scandals already well-documented and proven.”
He said leaving the FBI and the White House to become a whistle blower was “one of the hardest things I ever did.” Not only did it end his career, but it affected his family and conjured major personal criticism. The unconditional love some hold for Bill Clinton caused disregard for this blatant evidence.
“Speaking …as an individual and not as the president of a non-profit organization…it breaks my heart to think the citizens of the country would consider allowing these borderline criminals back into our White House,” said Aldrich. “In a perfect world, I believe they would be in jail for what they have done to this country.”
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter