Together with his appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, yet another Trump administration official has ties to the Acton Institute. The Washington Free Beacon reported today that President Trump has appointed Victoria C. G. Coates, Ph.D., to serve as senior director for strategic assessments at the National Security Council (NSC).
An art historian by training, she has a long record of service in foreign policy circles. While blogging pseudonymously at RedState.com, her work attracted the attention of Donald Rumsfeld, who later asked her to work as a researcher on his 2011 autobiography, Known and Unknown. She advised Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign, then became an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the foreign policy think tank founded by Clifford May. Coates then served as a national security adviser to Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and in his Senate office.
On more than one occasion, Coates has also shared the insights produced by her uniquely blended passions with the Acton Institute. Last November 3, she explained the thesis of her book David’s Sling: The History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art – that democracies, and not merely autocracies, had produced great works of art – as part of the Acton Lecture Series. Her presentation, filmed inside Acton’s Grand Rapids headquarters, may be viewed here. She also discussed her lecture in an episode of Radio Free Acton.
Coates touched on some of the most consequential issues in modern diplomacy – including creeping socialism, Brexit, negotiating with hostile regimes, and the core of modern Western civilization – as part of a distinguished panel at the Acton Institute’s “Crisis of Liberty in the West” conference in London on December 1.
“The British and American elections” of 2016 “both addressed issues of sovereignty and national identity, as the electorates were asked if they wanted to succumb to the gravitational pull of the soft socialism emanating from Brussels and Washington, and accept a future of safe but inescapable mediocrity,” she said.
That popular rejection is rooted in the core of our shared, transatlantic identity as part of Western civilization – which “at its best … rests on three interrelated foundation stones: liberty, the Judeo-Christian moral code, and the equal value of each individual – all of which are actually inclusive, not exclusive.”
Her wide-ranging lecture intertwined Renaissance statues and the diplomatic protocol demanded by Iranian president Hasan Mouhani; how Michelangelo’s artwork reflects the tension between the classical republicanism and the Medicis’ dynastic machinations; and the subtext of Raphael’s Transfiguration as “a call to liberate the Eastern Orthodox Church from the infidel” – a project still notably incomplete.
Five centuries later, “there are external enemies that are targeting our countries for precisely those principles our populations have just voted to defend. Those totalitarian and zealous foes consider freedom and equality anathema, and it’s not enough for them to reject them; they feel compelled to eradicate them from the earth.”
The Western patrimony – in art and with its affirmation of objective standards of excellence – “should be fiercely protected and celebrated as something … exceptional that can be offered to, but not imposed on, any peoples.”
Her speech, which was recorded, may be viewed here. It begins at approximately the 78 minute mark (1:18).