William John Bennett (born July 3, 1943) is a formerly prominent conservative writer and former public official in the United States. A former Secretary of Education and the first person to occupy the post of "drug czar," he was once celebrated for his books and other writings which denounced a perceived lack of virtue in American society, particularly among young people. Long active in United States Republican Party politics, Bennett held various appointive offices during the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations.
Bennett's schtick as a self-appointed arbiter of virtue all but ended, and Bennett was widely ridiculed as a hypocrite, after he was exposed in 2003 as a compulsive gambler who had lost millions of dollars playing slot machines in Las Vegas.
After Bennett's gambling habit became public knowledge, and after he admitted having lost as much as $8,000,000 within a one-year period, he claimed he was never addicted to gambling and compared his gambling to responsible drinking. Bennett did, however, say that he does not believe that his habit sets a good example and he now claims to have quit gambling for good.
Bennett's best-known work may be The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories, which he edited; he has also authored and edited several other books.
Bennett is a staunch supporter of the War on Drugs and has been criticized for his extreme views on the issue. On a radio show, he said that a listener's suggestion to behead drug dealers would be 'morally plausible'.
Bennett was born in Brooklyn and attended Williams College, the University of Texas, and Harvard Law School. While a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Texas, Bennett, then a rock fan, was set up on a blind date with Janis Joplin, who was then at the height of her singing career. According to People magazine, the date "must surely rank as one of the least likely blind dates of all time." In later life, Bennett would condemn rock fans as immoral and now enthusiastically supports the incarceration of low-level drug possession offenders. When asked what he and Janis did on their date, Bennett said, "Hey, that really is none of your business."