Monday, June 04, 2007

An up and coming Catholic hero, Nick Hahn III

The following article, written by Tom Roeser, is reprinted (with permission) from the May 24, 2007 issue of The Wanderer.
It Can Be Done...DePaul Student Mounts Successful Orthodox Counterattack\
CHICAGO — Last August 6, I wrote about a 19-year-old freshman student at DePaul University who came to this largest "Catholic" university in the country from out-of-town, looking forward to getting a Catholic education. Nicholas Hahn III — a ramrod-straight Ronald Reagan devotee — found just the opposite — no crucifixes on the wall, coed dorms with widespread sexual fraternization, heavy drinking, and no formal chapel for daily Mass. Then there was the "Coming Out" ball sponsored by DePaul featuring emerging gay men and lesbians giving each other high fives to celebrate their homosexuality. Forthcoming was to be Ward Churchill, the radical Colorado professor, who celebrated the terrorists who piloted planes into the Twin Towers, saying America deserved the carnage.To say he was stunned, shocked, and anguished is an understatement. Here his Mom and Dad had made him proud to be the fourth generation of his family to be educated there in the true verities of the Church. His father, uncles, grandfather, and grandmother had gone there; his great-grandfather graduated from DePaul law school. His grandfather played for the legendary Blue Demons basketball team which was coached by the man who trained George Mikan, Ray Meyer.Overwhelmed, Hahn fell to his knees when he was alone and prayed hard trying to discover what he should do. But the scenario began to brighten from its darkest point.
The bacchanalian decadence stirred the tall (6 feet 2 inches), slender (150 lbs.) Hahn to launch a counterrevolution. He waged it with such unremitting brilliance, taking on the university's left at every strategic point and winning, that he has come near to being a campus hero.For let this old former university lecturer (older than Nick Hahn's proud grandmother, a Wanderer reader, who greeted me last week) tell you that kids of all types love a counterrevolution like Nick's. It brings excitement, stirs the blood, and reaffirms intensity of conviction.Right now Nicholas Hahn is one of the best-known students on campus as a dynamic, fighting conservative. And the leftists, rubbing their scabs, know it better than anyone else does. They simply don't have anybody to rival him.
Last week as a number of us old DePaul alums sat in an auditorium proudly (with Nick's parents and grandma), Hahn's counterrevolution hit a phenomenal high at the culmination of a series of lectures by authentic Catholic scholars during a special Hahn-induced "Catholic Week." The young student raised $11,000 to bring orthodox speakers for that week on campus. DePaul's president was there. Fr. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, a man who was not known for standing up to the left, was my table-mate and promised to give me an interview for The Wanderer to delineate his plan to return DePaul to the Catholicity it once boasted when I went to grad school there.
How did this quiet, rangy kid — unfamiliar not just with DePaul as a freshman but with Chicago (he hails from Ohio) — begin to turn things around?It started with the Ward Churchill invitation. Immediately Hahn got busy and joined with the sparsely numbered DePaul College Republicans to try to get the university to cancel Churchill's appearance. They lost. Undaunted they designed posters advertising Churchill's most outrageous claims, such as the one that said those who died in 9/11 deserved what they got because they were part of a huge, corrupt U.S. empire of fascism. The posters went up refuting Churchill — but the DePaul administration defeated them again by citing a university "rule."The "rule" said...get this...that the posters were disseminating "propaganda and we don't approve of propaganda." Nicholas Hahn got legal advice and discovered that the "rule" was written after the posters went up ex post facto. Another battle lost. But Hahn recruited buddies who joined with him to form what they called "The DePaul Conservative Alliance." The first thing the alliance did was to plan an "Affirmative Action Bake Sale" to ridicule the precept dear to the hearts of the left that the U.S. has managed an economy so discriminatory that its citizens should pay recompense.Becoming PopularSo Hahn and the conservatives put the principle to dramatic use. They and their conservative girlfriends baked brownies and sweet cakes and charged the students varying prices depending on race and gender. White males had to pay a higher price for their brownies as a penance for "years of discrimination" waged against females and minorities. Women students paid less to make up for "years of male oppression." At first it looked like the Bake Sale got the conservatives into trouble because it spurred a university-wide probe by the Office of Student Affairs for "harassment and racial discrimination."But the ridiculousness of the issue backfired and the good sense of that student office returned. As the first shot in a victorious battle, the conservatives' case was spread campus-wide to all 15,000 students who had never heard of the conservatives before. The upshot: The charge of "harassment and discrimination" was dismissed but the conservatives were censured and put under sanction. That was a victory. Why?Because there's nothing sweeter to a conservative and authenticist Catholic counterrevolution than being comrades at war with the leftist establishment. Quickly, Hahn and his group began to capitalize on their notoriety...and the notoriety quickly turned to popularity. Hahn and his movement acted to take advantage of their popularity through political action. He was elected a student senator. Each senator is supposed to represent a certain campus department, university school, or class. Hahn represents a once all-but-dead group — now speedily revived — called "University Mission and Values." By sticking to his convictions and adroitly using the left's tendency toward overkill, Hahn rose to a leadership role in the university. He shrewdly merchandised his victory on Chicago talk radio where he gained attention blasting Ward Churchill and vowing the fight against radicalism had just started.
At the same time, the president of the now fast-growing DePaul Republicans went on the national Fox News talk show Hannity & Colmes. The left discovered it was in for a battle with colleagues who knew how to frame issues.While the university left was reeling, Hahn coolly telephoned the office of the DePaul president as a newly elected student senator and arranged a meeting. That's where Hahn's sagacious political negotiating side took over. In a series of meeting with the president, Hahn got an agreement for a series of formal university seminars featuring outstanding Catholic spokesmen and scholars. The university's agreement...that Catholicism would officially be featured at once-Catholic now secular DePaul — was the first battle won by the conservatives. Quickly Hahn scored others.He got named to a "Free Speech Task Force" at the university where a new code was drafted to permit conservative dissent over the objections of the once-dominant left.
At the same time, as a senator he pitched headlong into a controversy involving the left concerning the university's contract with Coca-Cola, which was trying to win renewal of its contract as the "official" soft drink vendor on campus.Coke was fighting a controversy on the campuses of 19 universities with left-wing student radicals after the company denied allegations of "human rights violations" in Colombia and India by running a "sweat-shop" and causing "pollution."The left wanted to keep Coke out and abrogate a contract with any competitor because it opposes the free market, declaring all corporations are fascist. As a member of the negotiating group, Hahn reached out to competitor Pepsi, which gave the university a better deal in supporting DePaul athletic programs than Coke. While the left spent its time railing at Coke, Hahn veered, executed a brilliant turn-about stratagem and pitched Pepsi to outpoint Coke. Pepsi got the contract, which won for Hahn. He not only espoused the free market but made it triumph to outmaneuver both Coke and the left to win fresh, even better-financed support for the popular athletics program.
Counterrevolutionary Speakers
Back wearing his "Catholic hat," Hahn was told the university would accept a Catholic format of seminars, but he would have to raise the money to pay outside speakers himself. So he launched a campaign to raise the needed funds to pay nationally known scholars to come. He reached out to the grassroots organization Catholic Citizens of Illinois where Mary Anne Hackett, its president, secured a significant contribution from the organization. (Disclosure: I serve as chairman). CCI leaders such as Kelly Ames Smith, Karl Maurer, and Susan Jordan pitched in. The requisite money was raised and Hahn scheduled his seminars.The list of speakers at the university-wide seminars included Michael Novak, a well-known author who spoke on "War and the Church: Asymmetrical Warfare and the Just War," which launched a robust debate with DePaul professors; Dr. Thomas E. Woods, "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization," the title of his best-selling book; Dr. Paul Kangor, "How Reagan and Catholics Won the Cold War"; and a final address by George Weigel on the historic value of the Catholic Church to Western civilization.
As a prelude to the series, the 19-year-old arranged for Francis Cardinal George to send a message of greeting to the forthcoming Catholic seminars — a wise and prudent move that impressed the university administration.To publicize the seminars, Hahn appeared on Relevant Radio, the national Catholic radio network. He was then invited to appear on EWTN's program Life on the Rock, which he will do in the future.Never stopping to catch his breath, Hahn, while compiling sky-high grades at DePaul, spoke about his counterrevolution at the prestigious Young America's Foundation conference held in Minneapolis, receiving a standing ovation and winning its top award. This in addition to his undertaking an internship at a prestigious Chicago law firm off-hours and Saturdays. In his spare time, he signed up as a member of the Illinois Steering Committee of Sen. Sam Brownback for president.
The question on DePaul's campus now is: When does he sleep?The Young America's Foundation, composed of nationally known conservative leaders, has purchased the Reagan ranch in Santa Barbara which it operates as a historical museum. Hahn won a free trip to the Reagan Rancho del Cielo. Then he won the prestigious Phillips Foundation Ronald Reagan Scholarship of $5,000, which will pay for his being an intern at a top office in Congress next summer.The battle to return DePaul to orthodox Catholicity has just begun, but Nicholas Hahn III — one beanpole-sized kid with spiky hair and an aw-shucks Reaganesque demeanor — has shown all of us how to brilliantly orchestrate a counterattack on one of the most secular university campuses in the nation.
As we sat listening to George Weigel last week, I paid particular attention to the young DePaul president, Fr. Holtschneider. His eyes were shining and his applause for the event seemed to evoke an indication that things are on the upswing for Catholicism at DePaul. Presiding over the event that culminated what by all odds was the most authentic display of Catholic faith at a university long regarded as beyond redemption even of missionary activity, Nicholas Hahn III was smooth, cordial, generous, and eloquent. His entire family, mother, father, and grandmother — all DePaul alums — sat entranced. As was I. Fr. Holtschneider sees there is a conservative and authentic Catholic constituency, necessary if he is to provide necessary reforms.The next time you think a) our modern generation is flaccid, and b) our once Catholic university system cannot be reactivated, think of Nicholas Hahn III who has yet to observe his 20th birthday. Nor does he come off as brash, cocky, or full of boilerplate answers. He's reflective, modest, thoughtful, and could be misinterpreted as introverted — until he starts wooing backers on a project.
Never Sell Out
As we had lunch last week celebrating the first leg of his stunning victory at DePaul, I asked him what he learned from his experience. He said, "The way to be a proud conservative on campus these days is not to change minds but to have the unique ability to spark university-wide debate on issues that would otherwise go unnoticed. We are carrying the tide toward a true marketplace of ideas to make Catholicism vitally present and operative."While influential lay leaders of the Church see a full-time role for Hahn as a layman devoted 100% to Catholicism, he is noncommittal about his future. He wants a career in law. When we had lunch last week, I asked this quietly modest young fellow who's younger than my oldest grandson if a rumor I heard was true — that he was contemplating a career in politics."Well," he said, "it's occurred to me. So much of my work getting things done at DePaul has involved the art of politics. I think it would be fun."Speaking as a crotchety old surrogate grandfather to him, I said: Promise me, Nicholas...promise me you won't until and unless you do one thing first. Put off running as a candidate for a good long while.His eyes widened. "Coming from you?" he said. "You spent more than 50 years either covering politics or being a part of it yourself. You're discouraging me from getting involved in politics?"I said: No, but I want you to promise me you won't until you do one thing first.He said: "Okay. What is it?"I replied: Follow the advice of a very successful politician I knew many years ago — one who never caved in to people who tried to sway him with big contributions. One who did what he thought was right and was so independent that he couldn't be bought or rented. Who went on to become a great legislator and a great governor of his state. He never sold out.He said: "That's what I want to do, never sell out. Shouldn't be hard to do, should it?"I commented: Very hard. Problems will arise in politics that will make you go to the money well — and there'll be people who will be glad to help you, for a price. That's where you get into trouble.He frowned. "How did your friend solve that dilemma?"I said: He got into business, became an entrepreneur, and made about $50 million first. Then he was sufficiently independent so he could remain true to his ideals. He financed much of his own campaigns. He ran for the legislature, got in, made a great record and took contributions only from those who shared his ideals and who wanted nothing whatsoever from him. He became governor and after his term returned to make millions more. At his death, he was regarded not only as incorruptible but true to himself and his ideals. Promise me that you will make your financial stake first.Nicholas looked at me for a long time and then said: "Well, if you say so. Fifty million, you say?"I have no doubt this kid will make it no matter what he wants to do.(To read more articles by Thomas F. Roeser, log on to links:

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