ADF’s Alan Sears and LI’s Morton Blackwell Friends in Liberty

It is often said, our role models challenge us to become our best self. In the case of Alan Sears, one of his role models taught him valuable lessons to be successful in conservative politics.


Alan Sears, former President of Alliance Defending Freedom (1993-2017), first crossed paths with LI President Morton Blackwell in 1967 in Kentucky. They’ve been through the gamut of conservative politics through the years – on campaigns, in the Reagan administration, and as presidents of two non-profits.


“When I worked in the Reagan administration, when I worked in the private law firm, everything I have done had the hand of Morton in it,” Alan said.


Back then, Alan was a college student and left school for a few semesters to work on a campaign in Kentucky. At the same time, Morton was the Executive Director of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) and ran the youth campaign for Louie B. Nunn for Governor of Kentucky.


“My relationship and knowledge of Morton Blackwell dates back to, unbelievably, 1967 in Kentucky,” Alan recalls 50 years later. “My family is from Kentucky, I went to the University of Kentucky, and I actually dropped out of school twice, two semesters, to work for Louie.”


“Every time I was with Louie,” Alan continued, “he would sit there and every time, it didn’t matter who it was or what they were doing on the campaign, he would tell us about a man named Morton Blackwell. He would tell us, ‘everybody needs to be like Morton.’ Morton got him elected to office against all odds.”


At that time, liberals and unions ran the state.


“Morton had really pulled off a miracle to help Louie get elected as Governor in this really hardcore Democrat state, with a very strong union presence. So I kept in contact with the guy,” Alan said.


Morton went on to develop the Youth Leadership School (YLS) out of his success running youth campaigns and training student leaders during his time with the CRNC. The YLS became known as the “bootcamp of politics” because of how much valuable experience-driven training Morton packed into this two-day training. He made the YLS the flagship school of his Leadership Institute.


After they saw the value of Morton’s youth campaign strategy, Kentucky Governor Louie B. Nunn and many other leaders began to send young people to Morton’s Youth Leadership School.


“I’ve referred countless people to the Youth Leadership School,” Alan said. “Morton is a builder. He is a guy who understands the importance of personnel.”


In 1972, Morton came up with the maxim, “personnel is policy.” That’s something Alan heard from Morton and took to heart, especially running his own organizations.


“Personnel is policy. It is the life blood of every organization that I have ever run,” Alan said. “Whether it was government, private practice, charitable, or ministry. I have adopted that slogan.”


In between political campaigns, his work for U.S. Senators from Kentucky, and helping on President Reagan’s 1976 and 1978 campaigns, Alan completed his degree and became a lawyer.


Morton’s tenure as Special Assistant to the President on President Reagan’s White House Staff (1981-1984), Alan began working at the Department of Justice. He worked under both AG William Smith and Ed Meese. He served in both Reagan and Bush administrations before turning his attention to Alliance Defending Freedom.


For 23 years, Alan ran Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a faith-based organization dedicated to defending religious liberty. Leadership Institute and ADF often partner on college campuses to find, support, and defend conservative college students struggling under the liberal bias rampant there.


ADF has won over 400 contested legal matters with private campuses or universities,” Alan says. “In addition to that, Morton has helped many students know that they have rights under the Constitution and that universities cannot just walk over them.”


Alan says of all the lessons he’s learned from Morton, “Being steadfast is a big one. Morton has withstood the storm in Washington, D.C. Once people get into the Beltway they get enamored with relationships in the Beltway and they become people pleasers. They lose their energy. Not Morton Blackwell. Morton is steadfast.”


“Morton is a great friend to me and to the entire liberty movement.”