In the summer of 2000, my wife Tracy and I packed up our dog and our belongings and moved to Washington, D.C. Over the previous year, I had taught Bible classes at a private Chrisitian school in Columbus, Georgia, while she was a claims agent at an insurance company. We had good jobs, good friends, an AMAZING apartment for just $615 a month, and we were living the dream.
Why move? Like all good stories, because we had an even bigger dream.
Tracy and I met in college and were married soon after graduating. My original plan was to go to seminary for a masters degree and a Ph.D., and then to teach about the doctrines of grace, man’s need for a savior, and God’s perfect provision in Christ. These were the waters, as one of my professors would say, “in which a child can wade and an elephant can swim,” and I looked forward to spending my days splashing around and plumbing their depths.
These were also the days of the 2000 presidential election. I had never really paid attention to politics before, but found myself increasingly interested in the candidate debates—and in foreign policy specifically. It was fascinating thinking about how the world works, the role of the United States in that world, and how our government might secure its own people while also doing good for those beyond our borders. It didn’t take long before I was hooked.
So I did what every rational, red-blooded American 22-year-old would do: I convinced my bride that we should sell most of what we own and move to the nation’s capital so that I could pursue a career with the FBI. Now, the FBI hadn’t actually offered me a job. In fact, when we moved, neither of us had jobs (more on that in a minute).
There were two reasons I wanted to be a G-man: 1) FBI agents get to carry a gun (and that’s cool), and 2) I was trying to find some logical way of making my BA in theology and philosophy relevant to foreign policy, and the best I could come up with was trying to work on counterterrorism at the bureau. That’s it. That was the totality of my genius plan. And so, much to the chagrin of our parents, we loaded up the U-Haul and headed north.
As I mentioned above, neither Tracy nor I had jobs when we showed up in D.C. We had rented a little hole-in-the-wall apartment on Capitol Hill with literal holes in the wall, and we thought we could figure it out from there. Within a couple of days, we were working double shifts at a popular restaurant in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia—enjoying a free meal with every shift—and looking for our dream jobs when we weren’t slinging hot beer cheese, Joe’s turkey and ham club, or chicken Louisiana. Eventually Tracy landed an event planning position with a non-profit organization and I got an entry-level job as the “nations editor” at a database company.
My new employer had three products: a daily digest of defense-related news articles, in-depth analysis on specific military weapons systems, and longform reports on every country’s military “order of battle”—inventories of different countries’ planes, tanks, etc. It was my job to compile these “order of battle” reports using the internet and other unclassified sources. Our clients included news organizations, government agencies, and tons of defense contractors. It wasn’t fancy, and it could be a real slog, but it felt like I was at least near foreign policy, and that was good enough for me!
One day in early 2001, because I still had my eye on becoming one of J. Edgar Hoover’s boys, I asked my bosses if I could start building a database on terrorist groups. They said I could, and I began working on the project.
On September 11, 2001, I had published two reports: one on Hezbollah, a group most people had at least heard of, and another report on a small terrorist group that had bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and then a U.S. naval vessel in Yemen in 2000. The group’s name was al-Qaeda. Within weeks, I was called into the Pentagon, interviewed by a bunch of very serious men and women who didn’t tell me their names, and later offered a job to be an intelligence officer in the Department of Defense’s new Joint Intelligence Task Force–Combatting Terrorism.
Over the next decade and half, I deployed around the world looking for Osama bin Laden, provided oversight to the nation’s counterproliferation and covert action programs, worked with the White House and National Security Council staff in the so-called “war of ideas,” and even got a masters degree and taught grad school for four years. It was an awesome career, full of amazing people, and it was more than I could have ever dreamed of sitting in my large, comfortable apartment 45 minutes south of Atlanta.
Since then, I’ve been the national security advisor to a U.S. senator and worked for two think tanks, where I get to spend my days reading, thinking, speaking, and writing about the issues I find most interesting and that are increasingly the most relevant to our nation’s national security. It’s pretty crazy, and some days it’s still hard to believe this is my life.
Why have I shared all of this? Because I’m thankful.
I’m thankful that I’ve had the privilege to serve our nation and to do my small part in preserving its freedoms and opportunities. I’m thankful that I get to have a career where my labors and my interests overlap, and where I am able to provide for my family. I’m thankful for the lessons I have learned, the friends I have made, the places I have seen, and for the way all of these have shaped me into the man I am today.
And this year I am especially thankful for the wonderful team at The Dispatch. It is an immense privilege and responsibility to be able to share my thoughts and ideas on this platform every week. The fact that anyone cares what I think about anything is nuts.
Never in a million years would 22-year-old Klon, teaching at a small Christian school, have even considered the possibility that one day he’d be writing alongside Jonah Goldberg, Steve Hayes, David French, or Kevin Williamson. And to call these men, and the rest of the amazing team at The Dispatch, my friends is a privilege I still can’t really comprehend. And yet it’s real, and so I am profoundly thankful.
But all of this is made possible by you. Without readers, I’m just some dude firing off thoughts into the digital void. Thank you for reading. Thank you for subscribing and for sharing this newsletter with others. Thank you for the insightful and kind questions and comments I get every week. Thank you for encouraging me in my work and for giving me this immense privilege. I am thankful for each and every one of you, and you will always have my gratitude.
Finally, as we celebrate this Thanksgiving Day, I trust we can all give thanks for the privilege of living in this great nation. We’ve had our challenges and we’ve certainly got others on the horizon. But there is no nation that has ever existed on the face of the Earth where freedom, prosperity, and human thriving were more available to more people. Our union is not perfect, but it is good and for that, we can all be grateful.
One of the Thanksgiving traditions in our home is, before the meal is served, I read President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. I find it a fitting way to pause and to truly consider the many blessings that have been given to us, and to reorient my mind toward what truly matters. I’ve included this proclamation below in full.
Thank you again for everything, and have a very happy Thanksgiving!
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
That’s it for this edition of The Current. Be sure to comment on this post and to share this newsletter with your family, friends, and followers. You can also follow me on Twitter (@KlonKitchen). Thanks for taking the time and I’ll see you next week!