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Reflections on CFACT President David Rothbard, 1964-2018

The cause of liberty lost a very dear friend today.  David Rothbard was a powerful force for all that is right and good in this world.  When we founded CFACT together back in 1985, little did we know that our partnership would span decades and take us on adventures to distant places around the globe.  From crafting joint op-ed’s in leading newspapers, to testifying before state and federal panels, to stirring up grassroots activism on college campuses, to producing a hit movie, to raising numerous ruckuses right in the heart of UN international gatherings, David packed about four times more into a life than what might be considered normal.  He was an energetic, intelligent, passionate, generous and kind man, who loved his family and had a deep devotion to his Christian faith.   To me, he was more than a close friend, he was a brother.  I will miss him for the rest of my days.

Craig Rucker, CFACT Executive Director


It was always an honor, privilege and pleasure to work with David. From our 2003 trip to the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun onward, seeing this prankster with principles employ street theater and solid scholarship to convey vital lessons on energy, climate change, poverty eradication and other policy matters was a joy to behold. David left us far too early, but his legacy of CFACT, Collegians chapters on dozens of college campuses, free enterprise activism, and an abiding commitment to poor families in Uganda, the Yucatan and worldwide will be an inspiration to all who follow. In battling his years-long illness and facing death, David, Kelly and their daughters displayed unrelenting love, courage and faith that the rest of us can only hope to muster under such difficult circumstances.

I will miss David terribly, and think of him, his family and his constant (often mischievous) smile many times in the years to come. The lessons he imparted will always be part of me.

Paul Driessen, CFACT senior policy advisor


David’s passion and dedication to causes he cared about was contagious. His vision and guidance for CFACT has ensured that his passion will live on, through all of us that he mentored, taught, and led. David taught me to take time to enjoy the small things in life and to tackle the big things head on. Over the past decade I was privileged to watch David touch the lives of many- whether it was a group of students, villagers in Africa, thousands of Polish marchers, or even a small group of staff. He was fearless and genuine in all that he did and he certainly left his mark on this world.  So, David, in the words of Ray Boltz, “Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed. I am so glad you gave.”

Christina Norman, CFACT 


David Rothbard was a steady, polite, effective voice of freedom and common sense against the growing totalitarian insistence that only one dismal party line is permissible. To speak for freedom of speech, as Dvaid did, is to speak against the tyranny that ideologues and extremists would inpose upon us by force, if we were silent enough to let them. David was not silent. When history remembers those few who spoke for freedom as the blanket of the dark descended, David will be remembered with honor as one who fearlessly, cheerfully spoke up, spoke out and spoke on in the cause of that liberty that his forefathers won for themselves at the point of the sword. Only death could silence him, but even death cannot eradicate the memory of a true son of freedom.

Christopher Monckton, Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley


Truly a happy warrior in an age when that is rare.  Never afraid of the fray, but always with a smile and his patented chuckle. He was a mover and shaker and he will be missed.

David Bufkin, President and Co-Founder, ClearWord Communications Group


“We did not work with David as long as many of the others on CFACT’s staff, but we still have a deep appreciation for David’s work and vision in co-founding CFACT. In August of 2017 at our annual student leadership retreat, the Eco Summit, David gave one of the first speeches to our student activists of the conference. It was the best introduction and explanation of CFACT’s mission that we have ever heard. With incredible passion, David addressed the needs of the developing world and how free market capitalism is the only answer to advancing the lives of humans everywhere. He then flawlessly wove into that conversation an eloquent rebuke of those seeking to impose restrictions on energy and food development in the developing world in the name of supposedly ‘saving the planet.’ We were impressed by how far he was able to impact the students in a single speech. What we did not expect was to be so impacted by his talk ourselves. David will be missed.”

Adam Houser & Graham Beduze, CFACT


I’ve had the pleasure of serving with David on the CFACT board for many years. David was a thoughtful leader and careful steward of the organization’s resources. More importantly, David was a dear and longtime friend. I remember the early days, encouraging him to grow and mature the organization.  These meetings often took place in remote locations connected to U.N. conferences –  on the beach in Cancun, on a safari in South Africa, in a flat in Paris, and on the decks of our beloved Sea Lion. David will be missed and we will all do our best to carry on his legacy.

Jeri Goetz, CFACT Board


David was a man of principle and discipline. We all laughed at the intensity of his editing and proofreading regimen, but inevitably David found errors and misspeak no other reviewer had noticed.  He also just knew the right word for conveying the positive CFACT message.
In sum, David was my spiritual brother. I knew instinctively his heart for people and his sincere faith that the work we were doing was having positive impacts on people’s lives. I will miss our adventures.
Duggan Flanakin, CFACT
This shows how active David was to build CFACT in only those few years he has been in life, I can say he has been the father to build a better tomorrow for us in Africa by setting us projects we have sorrow on our hearts.
Craig Joseph, Uganda (See comments below)
Indeed, my heart sank when I heard of the news of Dave’s passing yesterday.
My memory, though not very long, on Dave is extremely positive as I have
watched him from  near and far in handling our common enemies that defy both science and god alike with such total calm and wholesome grace with no presumptions nor any arrogance of talking down to even our enemies. I know Dave will be watching all of us from the heaven and my deepest sorrow is to know that his family must endure the deepest pains that separate this world of ours and the kingdom of God.
My sincere condolence to Dave’s and the CFACT families.
Dr. Willie Soon, Scientist and fellow freedom fighter
I knew David for about 25 years.  There are many memories, but by far the best was the gathering at Kyoto, Japan in December 1997.  David, Craig, and I were among a few hardy souls there to cover the lunacy surrounding the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.  There were nightly visits to the sake tasting bar at the conference center, and one memorable evening David, Craig, and I went to a Japanese “diner” for dinner, washed down with beer and sake.  The food, drink, and company were fabulous.  The diner’s owner knew only one word in English, “boss.”  And he pointed at me and said “boss.”  David, Craig, and I laughed about that for two decades.

We will miss David.

Bonner Cohen, Ph.D.  CFACT senior policy analyst

I am so saddened with the loss of David, but blessed beyond measure to have known him.  He was one of my closest friends, both personally and in this public policy world.  David left a big footprint with his amazing smile and passion for life.  David came to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior early in his adult life.  He had an intense love for God and an powerful love for those around him.  He wanted to make his faith part of  all he was doing.  Beside David’s huge contributions to his family, his church, CFACT and public policy, his faith propelled him to figure out ways to help the most needy.  He did this in Mexico and loved it so much he started Churches and Villages Together  .This group would work with churches and individuals to provide support for the poorest of the poor in places like Uganda and  Rwanda.  David went on to help start pineapple farms, piggeries, and fisheries that the native Africans owned so they could create income.  He would find ways of digging wells so people could have clean water and not have to travel far to get water.  In the last few years, he has been going in detention centers in the Baltimore area, reaching out to troubled youth, making a difference in their lives.  One of David’s mottos was, “it didn’t matter who got the credit, just so the job got done.”  The thing I will miss most about David is praying with him.  Craig Rucker and I would pray with David about once a month and sometimes for many hours.  There were times we literally felt we were on holy ground.  Now I am glad he is with the Lord face to face.

Chris Rogers, Producer, CDR Communications


I am so sorry for your loss. The last time I saw David was at the premier of Climate Hustle. As always, he beamed humor, warmth, and hope to his many friends and colleagues. I had no idea he was ill.
I have fond memories of first getting to know you and David in Buenos Aires, in 1998. Our top goal back then was to keep America Kyoto free. CFACT was instrumental in winning that battle and many others, and in advancing the case for the energy policy turnaround America is now enjoying.   CFACT was a brilliant idea and has long been an irreplaceable resource for the liberty movement.
Sadly, I seldom connected with David in recent years, but I am honored that he always greeted me as a friend.  Please share my condolences and appreciation with David’s family and your colleagues at CFACT.
Marlo Lewis, Jr., Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
“I am at a loss. David has passed. A man in the prime of his life, so vital and productive and — so vital to the cause of rational science and freedom from overregulation. As a CFACT founder and president, David was a true visionary in every sense of the word. He had the vision of creating CFACT and he, along with Craig Rucker, became a force of nature in battling the overreaching environmental regulatory and distorted science scare campaigns. David was a key brick that anchored the skepticism of man-made climate change and so many previous green scares. One of his passions was bringing development and hope to the poorer parts of the world. David was a man of deep faith who has gone on to his next calling and he leaves behind his loving family and so many friends and a grateful public.
We miss you so much David, but your legacy lives on!”
Marc Morano, Climate Depot
I am very saddened to learn of David’s passing. Although I knew David, I learned even more about him from the expressions of love and esteem that I frequently heard about him. David embodied everything I admire about CFACT. He was a man of integrity who fought for truth. He was a man of compassion who fought for the right reasons. He was a man of God who never forgot God’s mercies. David’s passing leaves a void in so many hearts, but we can take solace knowing he is with the Lord, even as we miss him.
James Taylor, President, Spark of Freedom Foundation
David was a steadfast champion of freedom and a source of inspiration to me.  His three decades-long fight against global warming alarmism and for energy abundance is important in its own right.  However, it was only a part of his wider concern to lift people in all countries out of poverty and oppression by promoting policies that advance free markets and the rule of law.  I will miss working with David.  His death removes an important humanitarian voice and creates a huge gap in the freedom movement.
Myron Ebell, Competitive Enterprise Institute
I met David in 2004, and we soon became friends. From the beginning, I was fascinated of his visions, values, ideas and courage. In times, when the environment was seen by many as an extremist cause, he developed an entirely new and much more humane approach to it. He showed the world how a smart use of political and economic ressources could serve both the environment and the people. Much earlier than many others he also realized the dangers of a misunderstood environmentalism. His truly innovative approach to politics inspired many people around the world, from all walks of life, including me over here in Germany. There is no doubt his legacy will go on.
Holger Thuss, President, European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE)
 I miss David already. A man of passion. Of principle. Of great humor. And, for too short a time, a friend. About the only thing negative I could say about David is he sometimes lacked patience. But he got things done. Important and good things that can’t afford to wait to be done, because the battle is at hand. And David was always at post, ready to fight the battles that needed to be fought for truth and freedom. But just as important, if impatience was a vice, he more than made up for it with wonderful grace. In this he carried well the image of his Savior. I am comforted by the knowledge that David fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. And now he sees the Lord, face to face.
Eric Langborgh, ClearWord

The conservative movement lost one of its giants, David Rothbard, co-founder of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT).

David wasn’t a giant because he employed hundreds of people.  He wasn’t a giant because he oversaw a budget running in the tens of millions.  He wasn’t a giant because he received honors from the conservative movement.

He was a giant because he REALLY made a difference in the fight for liberty.

Coming of age during the Reagan Revolution, David understood – unlike many other think tank executives then and now – that the conservative movement will never prevail over the left by simply writing white papers, hosting seminars and sponsoring conferences.

You don’t win by taking a knife to a gun fight.

He and his colleagues observed the left, learned what made their organizations tick, and then developed effective counter-measures.  As a consequence, CFACT developed effective defund the left campaigns, sponsored grassroots training, sponsored rallies, built an army of student activists and more recently, hosted news aggregators sites (such Climate Depot) and produced documentaries.

Thanks to David’s leadership (and Craig’s), CFACT is no ordinary think tank.

David was quick-witted, kind and fun to be around.

There are few people I’ve enjoyed working within the conservative movement than David.  Like my wife, Amy, who passed away almost exactly a year before he did, David personified one of President Reagan’s favorite quotes: “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

The world is a better place because of David Rothbard.  It will be worse without him.

My prayers are with David’s wife, Kelly, and three daughters, Emily, Ashley and Lydia.  A family strong in faith, they know this isn’t the end, but the beginning.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God.  Trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14: 1-3

David Ridenour, President, National Center for Public Policy Research


I met David many years ago when I visited Washington DC on a business trip.  As a result of that I was invited to cooperate with CFACT.  So began a happy relationship.  I was subsequently invited three times by David to visit the US for CFACT cooperation.  I did.  Once I stayed with David and his wonderful family over Easter.  Every Easter since I have thought about David and his family.  There were such fantastic Easter meals, full of significance.

What a wonderful Easter it was in that warm happy family.

David then visited South Africa with a CFACT group and met more South Africans who collectively still talk highly of him.  David, to my eternal amazement, induced me, together with three or four others to jump out of an aeroplane and to parachute onto Durban beach as a publicity stunt for the media.  It worked.  It was my one and only jump ever.

David had a great mixture of the ability to get excited about crazy ideas but also to think in a totally calm strategic manner which impressed me.  He was a great public speaker who could captivate an audience.

Over and above all of the competence of David as a person, he was a really fine fellow.  In all respects he was a really fine fellow.  The world needs more like him.  He has left a mark of significance.

Dr. Kelvin Kemm, Chairman, South African Nuclear Energy Corporation


There are very few people who are simultaneously giants and yet little known, and very few who are simultaneously giants in the secular and the religious worlds, and very, very few who are giants in both and yet little known. David Rothbard, because of his humility, was little known in either, but because of his passionate love for people, especially for the world’s most vulnerable, was also a giant in both. I’ve known him for nearly a quarter of a century and have never once known him to show self-importance, pride, mean spiritedness—despite the fact that policy opponents often lodged scurrilous and false attacks on his character and activities. What characterized David Rothbard most? Love—love for his Savior, Jesus Christ, and love for the poor and downtrodden to whom he ministered so effectively for decades. He was a man of fervent prayer, brilliant thought, and effective action. I’ve known many scholars with long strings of letters after their names, but few had the combined wisdom and insight David had, which made him one of my most trusted friends and advisors. I shall miss him dearly, but I have good reason to believe that his legacy will endure for generations to come through the many people whose lives he touched, not only in America but also in sub-Saharan Africa, and not only in public policy circles but also—and far more importantly to his mind—in the circles of spiritual need, where he was always ready to share his faith in Jesus Christ and the good news that Christ had died to reconcile sinners to God through faith.

In Christ,

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., Founder and National Spokesman The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation