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Oliver North on Marriage and Family

  • Janet Chismar Senior Editor, News & Culture
  • Published Oct 06, 2003
Oliver North on Marriage and Family

Janet: You kind of started doing nonfiction and now you into writing fiction. Do you have a preference or it seems like you use fiction very skillfully to reveal truth?


North: I write a weekly syndicated newspaper column, I’m also working on for Fox, working on some nonfiction, I love writing. It’s a gift that I have, and certainly the Gold Medallion is a recognition that the gift has been appreciated. I think, my responsibility is to use that gift and those talents that I’ve got for the good and the glory of God. That’s my challenge. My son-in-law who’s the pastor of a church gave a sermon about that yesterday, reminds of that every day that I’m supposed to use those gifts for that purpose. So whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, whether it’s my weekly column or whether it’s broadcasting for Fox, that’s the purpose of using those gifts.


Janet: Switching a little bit over to you and your life. What would like to do, where would you most like to go in the next five to 10 years?


North: Well, gosh, listen, I’d be an astronaut. I’d like to. But I also realize, I’m probably going to get the opportunity to do more of what I do at Fox, and that’s hang around with heroes. That’s all I do for Fox is hang around with heroes for my show War Stories and for covering the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and I guess maybe Liberia next, I don’t know. Second of all, I plan to continue to write. For as long as my eyes hold up and my pen’s got some ink in it. Lastly, I, and actually firstly, I am blessed to be not only the husband of one and the father of four, but now the grandfather of three and soon to be the grandfather of two more. So those are the parts of my life that are important. The first two provide an opportunity for me to spend more time with those that I love so much. I keep doing it as long as I’ve got the strength to do it.


Janet: Yeah, I was just wondering if there was an area that you haven’t visited maybe that you’d like to.


North: I don’t want this to sound like I’m bragging, but I’ve had a pretty exciting life.


Janet: Yes, you have.


North: And there’s darn few people around who’ve had the chance to do as many things in life that I’ve had the chance to do. And certainly not all of them are pleasant, but they’re all experiences that allow me to put into books those kinds of things in a fairly realistic way because I’ve had that experience. And so, I know there’s a lot of people who are very gifted authors and writers who’ve never done them. I’m blessed that I’ve not only done them but I’ve had the chance to write about them as well.


Janet: Well, again, the last area I wanted to talk with you about, your bio states you’re most proud of being a husband and father, and you just mentioned that as well. How did you meet your wife?


North: I was actually introduced to my wife by my cousin, who worked for us. She was a retail sales manager of the Hecht company, which is a big retail department store. She was a business major, retailing major in college. And my cousin worked for her. And encouraged me to take her out on a date and I did, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I was instantly smitten and we’ve been blessed, as I said, with four beautiful children, three of whom are now married and two of whom have given us soon five grandchildren. And it’s been, I think one of those kinds of relationships that I could not have imagined when I was a young man, and I used to joke about the fact that I’d never fall asleep with a grandmother???? before and I’m blessed to do so.


Janet: How old were you when you met?


North: I was 25, and Betsy was 23.


Janet: How has your family, or how do they handle you being in the spotlight, through good times and bad times? I’m sure that’s part of the challenges.


North: Sure, I’m, I don’t know of another family in America that the national press corps camped in their front lawn for 9 straight months day and night, literally every single day, every day, Christmas, Easter, Passover, Lent, Tet???, I don’t think there’s ever, that’s ever happened to a family before. I don’t think that the consequences of that were necessarily as bad as some people intended that they be. I also have a great sense that what helped us a lot was family Bible study that we’d been engaged in since 1978, and some really good Christian friends that rallied around us. It’s still difficult to go out and walk through a crowded ballpark or convention center and not stop for, as Betsy reminds me, the fans, occasionally there will be someone who has, perhaps, a different perspective but 99.9 percent of them are fans and that’s


Janet: She has to share your time.


North: Well, sure. And when we go out to dinner, we go out to a movie or something like that, we went to watch Ricky Skaggs and the Chieftains play at Wolf Trap the other day, and it took us probably an extra 40 minutes to get out of there than did other crowds cause of people who recognized you, but that’s part of what comes with the terrain and being a very successful author and broadcaster.


Janet: Absolutely.


North: That’s, as she reminds me when I get a little testy, their called fans, no fans no show.


Janet: Regarding your children and your relationship with them. What has been your biggest challenge and how have they weathered some of the storms of your life?


North: Well, I’ve been blessed. Betsy’s a very, very strong woman. This is, people say, gee, I was destined to do this, or it was fate. I don’t believe in fate, I believe that good Lord does pick a mate for us that would be, that we can work at and make it work and it takes two people to make a marriage work, it takes two people to pull it apart. In our case, Betsy’s a very, very strong woman, so even before I became well-known to the rest of the world, I was still gone a lot, I was gone on two different occasions for over a year at a time, and I was gone on multiple six-month deployments, seven-month deployments, I spent a lot of time in the field away from home. And I married a very strong woman who was able to make sure that the checkbook balanced, make sure that the house got kept up and raised four kids with dad being gone an awful lot. And almost, in many cases, for years on end, like a single parent. And yet, we still managed to hold it all together. Now, I wouldn’t pretend that’s it’s always been easy, I know. It’s probably been easier on me, than it is on them. And so, when I’m out, I’ve very conscious of the fact that there are going to be distractions from my kids. We went to the Fourth of July fireworks at a park nearby and my kids now have in some cases their own kids, know there’s going to come a time when granddad or dad is going to get distracted away by virtue of the fact that there is an obligation to your fans. And they’ve come to accommodate that. I’m not sure that would have worked as easy as it’s worked had Betsy not lead them all down the pathway where they could make their own commitments to the Lord. See, because ultimately, that’s the relationship that matters most. And our kids all understand that and that’s largely because of Betsy’s role in our marriage. And her role as a Christian mother.


Janet: Have all your children come to know the Lord?


North: Absolutely.


Janet: Ah, that’s wonderful.


North: They made their own commitments and they all came to it at different points, but they’ve all made that commitment. There’s enormous solace in that, knowing, as my son-in-law, who’s a pastor a church, says, at his sister-in-law’s wedding, he presided over here  few weeks ago, he said, ‘when you’re starting a whole new dynasty, when she and her husband stand before the altar of God and have that union blessed, that’s that whole part of leaving your mother and cleaving to one another and becoming a whole new family. And yet, the fact that Betsy was such a great mother and a great role model as Christian woman to each one of my three daughters and to my son and to let them know how a Christian woman is to be treated and to treat her husband, and how a Christian man is to treat his wife is a wonderful gift. It’s an enormous solace in that, when you look back at your life and as I can look back on a good bit of it at this point and say there’s great satisfaction.


Janet: Do you have any advice for fathers?


North: Be a dad. I mean, I think one of the big problems, I’m going to set aside my own personal situation, I think one of the big problems we’ve got in our culture today is that men refuse to be responsible for what they are. And we’ve got lots, being a father I tell my guys all the time, I spent most of my life with young men, infantry officer in the Marines, just got back from spending a whole war with young men in the army and marine corps. It’s easy to be a dad, that’s biology, basic biology, it’s tough to be a dad, and to the extent that we have more and more fathers who refuse to be responsible for their children and for their mates, then we’ve got a culture and a society that’s in deep trouble. And so, my admonition is grow up and be a man. And a real man is responsible for what he does, and the children that he brings into the world, and unfortunately in our society today divorce is so easy, it’s so easy to walk away from what you’ve created and just put it aside and ignore it. And it’s ultimately very, very destructive to our culture.


Janet: Well, those were all the questions I had. Is there anything that you would like to say that I haven’t touched on?


North: Well, my hope is that people reading “The Jericho Sanction” will see not only a great sequel to “Mission Compromised” but also at the end of the day, you and I, there’s two things. One, life is far too tough to get through all by yourself. And there’s some answers in there. And number two, as we fight this war on terrorism, you need to set aside some of the petty baloney that the noise in the background that comes out of the Washington Post and the New York Times, and focus on how are we fighting this war and are we doing it the right way? And ask themselves the kinds of questions you can page from this book.


Janet: Well, thank you so much.


North: My pleasure.