Advancing the Work of Freedom

by Shannon Linton

An Iraqi man held up his arm, showing Robert Alt ’98 a stub where fingers used to be. He had been in competition with Saddam Hussein’s favorite merchants—it cost him his hand. Not long after, in the northern Kurdish regions of the country, Alt saw the mass graves of thousands more Iraqis who lost their lives in Hussein’s chemical weapon attacks against his own people.

Alt traveled to Iraq in 2004 as an embedded war correspondent, determined to capture the oppression of the Iraqi people and offer accurate accounts of events in the war-torn nation. “I saw a people who had, through time and experience, been stripped of many of the features of their humanity, who had lived under tyranny for so long that it was difficult for them to adjust to having the freedoms we take for granted every day,” Alt explained. “It was a poignant reminder that we should be extraordinarily careful to protect the rights and freedoms we have under our constitutional government.”

Since graduating from Azusa Pacific, Alt has worked to do exactly that. From earning his law degree from the University of Chicago and writing for major publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and National Review, to working in government relations and legal reform at the Heritage Institute, Alt describes his varied career as different expressions of the same goal. “My work in law and politics centers on what we can do as a society to ensure freedom and opportunity for our citizens, allowing people greater freedom to do the things that are important to us, like raising a family and running a business.”

For Alt, investment in law and politics does not come at the expense of his faith. “I don’t see a tension between law and religion,” he said. “There is a great opportunity to do good in the law and for people—my faith is inextricably linked to all I do.”

As early as junior high school, Alt discovered he wanted to pursue a career in law, but he credits his time at Azusa Pacific and professors like Christopher Flannery, Ph.D., and David Weeks, Ph.D., with igniting his interest in politics, which has culminated in his current role as CEO of the Buckeye Institute. “The political science program that Drs. Flannery and Weeks had in place involved engaging with serious thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to modern philosophers,” said Alt. “Their classes caused me to grapple with some of the most important questions we face as human beings.”

“Robert was the kind of student who makes you want to be a better teacher,” said Flannery. “He was as hardworking as he was intellectually intrepid and morally admirable. I know he will do some good at the Buckeye Institute, as he has everywhere he has served.”

Alt’s work for Ohio’s Buckeye Institute, a free-market think tank, concentrates on finding solutions for the state’s toughest public policy challenges. “I focus on promoting liberty and opportunity in Ohio—making sure Ohioans can get back to work, start a business or get jobs, and send their kids to their school of choice,” said Alt. “We seek to create a vibrant economic environment that makes Ohio a better place to live and work.”

Although Alt’s different roles have allowed him to see and accomplish much ­­­overseas and in the U.S., he understands his work does not carry an end date. “It’s hard for me to imagine a day when I wouldn’t want to be involved in advancing a proper understanding of the Constitution and freedom for citizens, whether it’s in Ohio or anywhere else,” he said. “These are sacred ideas worth defending.”

Shannon Linton ’07 is a freelance writer and editor living in Covina, California. [email protected]