In Honor of Bre Payton
As family, friends, and colleagues gathered to remember her beautiful life and legacy this past weekend in Washington D.C., we at the Claremont Institute join in remembering Bre Payton for her intelligence, her courageous enthusiasm for discovering truth, her memorable wit, her winsome charm, and her kindness—not to mention the unforgettable way she rocked a stunning bold lip.
It was our privilege to host Bre as one of our 2018 Publius Fellows this past summer. As Ryan Williams wrote on the day we heard of her sudden passing, “She showed up and immediately charmed everyone with her unassuming manner; amused everyone with her dry sense of humor and wry smile; and impressed everyone with her poise, command of great books, and intellectual courage. We were all Bre partisans for life.” His words ring true for all of us.
Her December interview in our Alumni Spotlight gives a glimpse into who she was and the great work she was engaged in. After graduating from Patrick Henry College, she became a Staff Writer at The Federalist and quickly rose in influence, becoming a regular commentator on Fox News and other outlets. In our Alumni Spotlight, she wrote to us about what inspired her career. “I’ve always loved to write and tell stories. When I was a little girl that meant writing books, and forcing my siblings to play roles in the musical adaptation of them in our backyard, or jotting down notes in my diary of the day’s events while watching the evening news with my parents. Today that means writing about people and events at the forefront of the cultural fight we find ourselves in today.”
When asked what she saw as the greatest challenge facing America today, she insightfully noted, “There’s a growing sense of purposelessness that’s taken root in our society with deeper political fragmentations taking root, technology disrupting the way neighborhoods and institution work, a loss of community. The growing opioid epidemic and pessimistic attitudes in poll after poll speak to how deep this problem is. As a country, we’ve forgotten what it means to be an American, and we’ve lost the habits that are necessary to be free.”
I met Bre this summer at the Publius fellowship. I will never forget how gracious, witty, vibrant, and kind she was. In the short time I knew her, I experienced first-hand how she always took the time to appreciate everyone around her. She exemplified genuine kindness, yet her ability to make a winsome argument in service of the truth was striking. She was never afraid to ask the hard questions or explore new ideas. She made an impact on people daily—in and out of the spotlight—because of her genuine care for others.
The Claremont Institute Faculty and the 2018 Publius Fellows remember and honor Bre. Thank you for the incredible life you shared with us. You will never be forgotten. May you rest in peace.
“Bre lived the great commandment: loving God and loving neighbor. In the Publius classroom, she was spunky and inquisitive in her steady search for understanding. Outside the classroom, our late-night conversations about God, community, and family will remain some of my most-cherished memories from the program.”
– Brigid Flaherty, 2018 Publius Fellow
Bre could never seem to keep a smile off of her face. That’s the way that I’ll always remember her: an infectious smile that had the ability to spark up any room.
– Alex Titus, 2018 Publius Fellow
Of all her wonderful qualities, Bre had a genuine interest in people that made her, at a personal level, easy to talk to and delightful to know, and, at a political level, attuned to the sense of purposelessness that plagues contemporary society. If we exhibited a tenth of the kindness, courteousness, and concern she extended towards friends and strangers alike, we would go a long way in restitching the spirit of friendship frayed by our atomized, antagonistic culture.
– Charles Correll III, 2018 Publius Fellow
Bre was intellectually courageous like few people are, never unwilling to reach an inconvenient conclusion if it proved right. And the longer you talked to her, the more depth of mind and soul you saw, and you’d be in awe of just how rich and full a person she really was.
– Daniel Davis, 2018 Publius Fellow
She must have recommended I read Churchill’s “Mass Effects in Modern Life” half a dozen times. I finally did so only last week. I particularly loved this line:
I have no hesitation in ranging myself with those who view the past history of the world mainly as the tale of exceptional human beings, whose thoughts, actions, qualities, virtues, triumphs, weaknesses and crimes have dominated the fortunes of the race. But we may now ask ourselves whether powerful changes are not coming to pass, are not already in progress or indeed far advanced. Is not mankind already escaping from the control of individuals? Are not our affairs increasingly being settled by mass processes?
Would have been wonderful to speak about it with her, and learn exactly her reasons for loving it so.
At the gun range this 4th of July with Ed Erler, we received a lecture on 2nd Amendment.
E’re the contrarian, I asked Erler his thoughts on mass shootings.
Quietly, Bre Payton told me that most are done with Assault Rifle —which no one talks about regulating.
She was kind—even when chastising.
– Alexandra Hudson, 2018 Publius Fellow
Our class of Publius fellows was made immeasurably better by Bre’s presence. She brought a unique combination of wit and warmth, reflection and verve. We are better thinkers because of her acuity, better friends because of her humor, and better Americans because of her patriotism. Thank you, Bre. You are missed.
– Wells King, 2018 Publius Fellow
When Bre walks into a room, you’re undoubtedly struck by her fierce beauty… Little do you know it’ll soon be matched by the woman herself. Bre will undoubtedly be remembered as this force of nature, but what comes to mind most for me is the raw character she wore. She was open, shameless and bold with new friends and old in a way that was simultaneously intimidating and empowering. Her heart was no different – Bre’s empathetic kindness was second nature, not common for most women our age, especially in politics. This came out in the little ways: how Bre perceived others, how she reserved judgment – always. Yet another testament to this was her faith. Bre seemed to me fearless in her pursuit of conversion to Catholicism, most evidently, because she was just so excited to learn and to grow in the faith – it was inspiring to hear her talk about it. Bre was taken so early, but is assuredly at peace in Heaven with God. Thank you for blessing so many with your presence, Bre. We’ll miss you.
– Mary Monica Allen, 2018 Publius Fellow
Bre was an exceptional soul. You could see her passion for seeking and telling the truth in every action she took and with every word that she spoke. In the brief time I was blessed to know her, I was always moved by her sincerity and curiosity — she could weave between a discussion of Christian morality in one second and give you the ins and outs of DC politics in the next. I always learned something new speaking with her, and appreciated the many ways our friendship reminded me that there is so much more to life than politics.
To Bre’s family and friends, I offer my deepest condolences. There is no way to replace the joy she brought in each and every one of our lives. All we can do is carry on her memory — to finish the work she dedicated her life to and to live by the warm and shining example which she set. God rest her spirit and God bless you all.
– Ugonna Eze, 2018 Publius Fellow
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.