2023 Weekly Emails

The core mission of National Review Institute is to both maintain the legacy of our founder, William F. Buckley Jr., and educate the broader public about conservative principles and history. NRI sends weekly emails to our community to update them on various events throughout the country from Regional Seminars to debates and salon dinners in select cities. We also use these emails as an opportunity to write about important figures, moments, and events in conservatism—not just the life of Buckley, but the greater modern American conservative movement and the history of National Review as an institution. On this page, you can read all of the weekly updates from this year and learn about figures like Ronald Reagan, Edmund Burke, Winston Churchill, James L. Buckley, and Johann Sebastian Bach.


Full Text of the Emails


Subj.: “A Day of Gratitude,” November 23, 2023

Dear Friend,

Today is a holiday to remember the virtues of gratitude, stewardship, civility, and faith. We hope your Thanksgiving provides time to slow down, enjoy family and loved ones, and consider the multitude of blessings bestowed upon us from previous generations. We honor these blessings with our gratitude and dedication to uphold that in which they believed so deeply. That is why we are so thankful for you, and all of our other generous supporters, who believe firmly in the Institute and its mission to uphold the principles of our founder, William F. Buckley Jr.

Buckley, spoke 35 years ago about the need for a recovery of gratitude. He said, “We cannot hope to repay in kind what Socrates gave us, but to live without any sense of obligation to those who made possible lives as tolerable as ours, within the frame of the human predicament God imposed on us—without any sense of gratitude to our parents, who suffered to raise us; to our teachers, who labored to teach us; to the scientists, who prolonged the lives of our children when disease struck them down—is spiritually atrophying.” The huge debt that we owed to the generations before us could only, Buckley believed, be requited by gratitude for those who have cared for us, both living and dead.

He meant all of this as an encouragement to us, to acknowledge this patrimony and demonstrate our gratitude for it by our actions and our words.

Bill Buckley would have turned 98 tomorrow and it is fitting that Thanksgiving comes so close to his birthday. His was a life that modeled the very virtue of gratitude about which he wrote so movingly. It was one esteemed in friendship, civility, and good cheer.

So, on this day of thanksgiving, on behalf of our talented fellows and our exceptionally dedicated team at National Review Institute, thank you for all that you do to support our invaluable mission. We are deeply grateful for your support of this valuable and venerable institution.

P.S. Bill Buckley always enjoyed a good meal, and one of his and his wife Patricia’s favorites was Thanksgiving Pheasant. You can read details about this classic Buckley meal in this Esquire piece from November 1984.

Subj.: “With Gratitude for Our Veterans,” November 11, 2023

Dear Friend,

As a somber but patriotic day of both mourning and celebration, Veterans Day is a yearly date to consider, as patrons of the legacy of William F. Buckley Jr., his great veneration of the principle of gratitude. As Buckley once put it, “In America, we should count our blessings.”

Bill Buckley was quick to remind us that “the anonymous soldier who volunteers for a dangerous mission to enhance the prospects of the army that seeks to defend his nation is moved by a great passion to serve.”

When Buckley wrote the book Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our Country, arguing for universal voluntary national service 33 years ago, his case rested on the need of Americans to acknowledge their patrimony and heritage and to demonstrate our gratitude for it. Two years before he published that book, at the 35th anniversary dinner for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Buckley called conservatives to a rebirth of gratitude.

He cited our “ongoing failure to recognize that we owe a huge debt that can be requited only by gratitude—defined here as appreciation, however rendered, of the best that we have, and a determined effort to protect and cherish it—our failure here marks us as the masses in revolt; in revolt against our benefactors, our civilization, against God Himself.”

In a June 1981 commencement address, Buckley reminded business students at Ithaca that a “so often unforgiving, always jealous History will finally speak on the great question asked by Abraham Lincoln on the battlefield at Gettysburg, we know; we know that man was born to be free. To the end that he should remain so, we dedicate ourselves.”

At NRI, we dedicate ourselves both to Buckley’s principle and spirit of gratitude for our inheritance—Western Civilization, the Constitution, the rule of law—and to a determination to never forget those who have fallen to defend and uphold that inheritance against all enemies of freedom.

Subj.: “Steadfast Support of Israel, Then and Now,” October 13, 2023

Dear Friend,

In the wake of an historical, shocking and barbaric act of pre-civilization brutality against innocent, unarmed Israeli citizens by Hamas forces this past weekend, we as conservatives must remind ourselves why we have long been robust and stalwart supporters of Israel. It all starts with the founder of National Review, William F. Buckley Jr., who was a consistent and ardent friend of Israel.

In a 1972 column titled, “Why Not the 51st State?” Buckley wrote of the special relationship between the United States and Israel going back to the very creation of the state in 1948. He said that Americans needed to maintain their commitment to sustaining Israel because our relationship with Israel was “truly unique” and “should be cemented against the vagaries of public passion.” While Israel was created by the “enormous vitality and dedication of the settlers themselves,” the patronage of the United States was “indispensable to the survival of Israel.” The “Six Day War” of 1967 was proof of this. While the “bravery and ingenuity of the Israeli army” was significant, survival relied upon “American military might” neutralizing the Soviet Union.

Thinking about what a strong and steadfast ally Israel was to the United States, Buckley wrote in a June 1967 column that, “Not only might Israel be of great military help to the United States in any future emergency, there is absolutely no limit to the psychological help she can be. Who else but Israel could have turned our doviest doves into tiger sharks?” He continued: “It is unfortunately true that the stunning victories of the Israelis are not likely to lead to any strategic tranquility. Israel will not settle for the old frontiers, and why indeed should she so long as the Arab determination persists to wipe out the Israeli state?”

In an October 1976 column, Buckley explained that while defending Israel in the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 against the surprise assault of Arab states was hugely expensive —with drains on the American military inventory and an Arab oil boycott that harmed our economy—it was our “finest hour,” and our commitment continued unabated.

National Review Institute continues this commitment to supporting Israel and our Jewish friends. The work of our NRI fellows and National Review contributors demonstrates our resolve in the face of the evil before us. Read more here:

The National Review Editorial: “Israel Needs a Long Leash to Destroy Hamas

From Elliot Abrams, “The Hamas Attack Changes Everything

From Michael Rosen, “For Israelis, this wasn’t 9/11, It was Worse

From NRI’s William F. Buckley Journalism Fellow Haley Strack, “The Blood of Innocents

From NRI Senior Fellow Jim Geraghty, “We Are Up Against an Axis of the Devils

From NRI Senior Fellow Andy McCarthy, “Jihadist War Against Israel: It is the Reason Hamas Exists

From NRI Senior Fellow Jay Nordlinger, “For Israel, ‘A New Era, A New World’”

Subj.: “A Time for Choosing,” October 27, 2023

Dear Friend,

Fifty-nine years ago, Ronald Reagan gave one of the most important speeches of his long political career and helped to put his stamp on American conservatism forever. On October 27, 1964, a week before Senator Barry Goldwater lost in a landslide the presidential election to Lyndon Johnson, Reagan gave a televised address which he called “The Speech,” and which has become widely known by the title “A Time for Choosing.”

The themes of the speech—no doubt influenced by Reagan’s reading of National Review—resound today: a robust defense of limited government, free enterprise, American exceptionalism, faith, and our founding ideals. Reagan immediately laid out the existential stakes of the fight for the West: “We’re at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.”

If freedom was lost here, Reagan said, it would be lost everywhere–there was “no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.” He consistently criticized the central planners, that “little intellectual elite” far away who thought they could “plan our lives better than we can plan them ourselves,” reminding his audience that a government program was “the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll see on this Earth.” Reagan added that the fight was not merely left versus right, but “up or down – [up] man’s old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”

This was our “rendezvous with destiny”—the simple challenge before us all: “We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”

At National Review Institute, this is a mission we proudly and courageously carry forward. As we head towards the end of 2023, it is a Time for Giving to an institution that knows and embraces our “rendezvous with destiny.” Please support NRI here. Thank you for being valuable partners in our work!

Read a transcript of the speech here.

Watch the video here.

Read Karl Rove’s 2019 history of the speech for National Review here.

Subj.: “Putting the Market in Politics,” October 4, 2023

Dear Friend,

On October 3, 1919, one of the more significant economic thinkers of the 20th century, James Buchanan, was born. Buchanan, along with his co-author Gordon Tullock, authored perhaps the most important work on public choice theory, The Calculus of Consent, in 1962.

Public choice theory maintains that a simple majority-based system imposes external costs and decision-making costs, whereas a unanimity-based system has little or no external costs, but considerable decision-making costs. Buchanan and Tullock’s basic thesis was that public choice theory was applicable to voting, public policy, and economic decisions.

Buchanan would go on to win the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in 1986. However, despite the influence of public choice theory in conservative circles, Buchanan had a distinctly libertarian worldview, rejecting all conceptions of the organic state and moral order that William F. Buckley Jr. and National Review held as its core principle.

As Charles Kesler put it in Keeping the Tablets, the collection of essays on conservatism he edited with Buckley in 1988, Buchanan was in the camp of thinkers to which Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Richard Posner belonged. They all believed “the justification for the market is its efficiency and utility in distributing scarce economic resources and goods” such that no “overarching moral theory was possible, or necessary, to justify it.”

Because freedom worked, libertarian economists like Buchanan argued the value of efficient work was apparent to every intelligent person. The other camp of economic libertarians, with thinkers like Richard Epstein and Robert Nozick, argued that the morality of the market was validated by reasoning deductively from the rights of man, which they felt were superordinate to any duties the state may legitimately impose.

Public choice has longer found its way into the writings and thinking of National Review writers. Recently, NRI Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow Journalism Fellows Dominic Pino employed public choice theory to write about the perils of protectionism and how the theory applies economic thinking to the world of politics. NR has also been stalwart in defending Buchanan,  along with Friedman, against attacks from leftist historian Nancy Maclean that his economic theory was racist.

Subj.: “Sustaining Energy for the Fight against Collectivism,” September 28, 2023

Dear Friend,

Ethel Rosenberg, born 108 years ago today, was the first American civilian to be executed for treason as a Soviet spy along with her husband Julius. Both were active members of the Communist Party of the United States of America—a fact that Julius kept hidden while he served as a civilian engineer in the U.S. Army. For the rising coalition of anti-Communists who would become the backbone of the modern American conservative movement, the Rosenbergs’ conviction in 1951 was a significant moment in American history.

In his 1962 collection, The Committee and Its Critics, about the work of the House Committee on Unamerican Activities (HUAC), William F. Buckley Jr. considered the broader implications of the Communist threat during the 1950s. He wrote that the Rosenbergs, who were sentenced to death based on testimony against them given by Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, had done “incalculable harm to American—and Western—interests” given the nuclear technology gained by the Soviets and its implications for foreign policy.

The chairman of HUAC, Francis E. Walter, reported that the world Communist movement had benefited “enormously from treasonable acts committed by the citizens of the United States, mostly native born” even if all Communist Party members were traitors. A telling example is Harry Hold, the Philadelphia Chemist and Soviet Spy tried in the same series of trials that the Rosenbergs were found guilty in, had passed nuclear secrets in 1945.

Decades later in 1995, Buckley considered how decades later Americans had forgotten the moral stakes of the fight against Communism embodied by the Rosenbergs: “The traitor Alger Hiss writes a solemn indictment of the excesses of Reaganism in the letters column of Harper’s magazine. Flag-burning parties, so popular during the Vietnam years, are by no means extinct. There is more felt indignation in America over apartheid than over treason in the Navy, let alone excesses in Afghanistan. One has the feeling that in executing Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the United States used up its entire reservoir of capital energy.”

At National Review Institute, maintaining the memory of the fight against Communism and collectivism—and the continued significance of that fight—is part of our mission. We must sustain our reservoir of energy, reinforced by the knowledge of our forebearers, against such lecherous forces of evil.

Subj.: “With Reverence and Gratitude on Constitution Day,” September 17, 2023

Dear Friend,

On September 17, 1787, after three and a half months of intense debate, the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia came to a close, and the Constitution was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present to be sent to the states for ratification.

On Constitution Day, as American conservatives, we must consider our reverence for the central founding document of our republic and nation. National Review’s Russell Kirk wrote that all constitutions are in a sense conservative because they exist to maintain some sort of political order, but our Constitution is “especially and deliberately conservative of a social inheritance.”

The preeminent political theorist of the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville, reflected upon our Constitution that unlike European constitutions, the American Constitution restrained the egalitarian impulse against “democratic despotism” through its system of federalism and checks and balances.

In his 1990 book, Rights and Duties: Reflections on Our Conservative Constitution, Kirk wrote that the Constitution “was and is rooted in the experience and the thought of earlier times—which is a major reason why the American Constitution has not perished or been supplanted by some different political system.” The Constitution in this sense was not merely a written document or text to be defended and maintained, but a charter of fundamental law made up by custom, convention, charters, statutes, and habits of thought which maintain order, justice, and freedom.

In 1999, William F. Buckley Jr. called for conservatives to, “attritions notwithstanding,” dedicate ourselves to the preservation of our heritage, “with reverence and gratitude.” On this Constitution Day 2023, may we do exactly that.

Read NR, Inc. board member John Hillen’s contribution from last Constitution Day, “Miracle at Philadelphia,” here.

Read NR contributor and Hillsdale professor Adam Carrington on our founding inheritance from last Constitution day here.

Read American Enterprise Institute scholar and NR contributor Yuval Levin on the “greatest run on sentence” in American history here.

Subj.: “Standing by Principles to Honor their Memory,” September 11, 2023

Dear Friend,

Twenty-two years ago today, Americans and the world were shocked and forever changed by the actions of a group of terrorists who killed nearly 3,000 innocent people in New York City, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania.

William F. Buckley Jr. published his national column the day after the 9/11 attack, titling it “The Target: bin Laden .” He opened his reflections by noting, “It is generally acknowledged that if there was consolation after Pearl Harbor, it was that we knew who did it. During those minutes and hours when all of America watched the skyscrapers crumble, a wing of the Pentagon dismembered, New Yorkers by the tens of thousands scrambling for life while hundreds of thousands ached for knowledge of kin, there was the question incessantly posed: Who did it?” Buckley was clear that bin Laden, whether or not he was directly behind the attacks, was morally responsible for them.

Buckley told readers that two fundamental challenges lay ahead: one, the elimination of bin Laden, which would require dealing with the governments that harbored terrorists, namely the Taliban government in Afghanistan; and two, confronting the “sepsis of bin Laden’ s brand of Muslim fundamentalism,” which used suicide missions as a key tactic. Like the Japanese Kamikaze pilots of World War II, “the men who guided the airplanes into their final destination were deranged, and the consequences of what they did were horrible.” While some called the attackers cowardly, Buckley insisted they were not cowards but fanatics driven by a poisonous cause.

Buckley closed his column by reminding Americans that the “broader perspective is indispensable, and it tells us to seek to honor the memory of Tuesday’s innocents by standing resolutely by the principles that made their country the object of the special odium of Osama bin Laden.” No better words could lay out the mission of National Review Institute than to maintain those principles in the face of all grave and great challenges.

Read here from NRI fellow Dan McLaughlin, who worked on the 54th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center and reflected two days later on how “They Tried to Kill Me,” and here, twenty years later, on how 9/11 brought him to National Review.

More on 9/11 from NRI senior fellow Kathryn Jean Lopez can be found here, and from NRI senior fellow Richard Brookhiser here.

Subj.: “A Great Society is a Free Society,” September 1, 2023

Dear Friend,

One hundred fifteen years ago, August 27, 1908, one of the foremost and significant liberal politicians of the 20th century, Lyndon Baines Johnson, was born. Opposition to Johnson’s expansion of the welfare state, known as “The Great Society,” above all else would help to bind the growing American conservative movement led by William F. Buckley Jr. and National Review in the 1960s.

Buckley, considering the massive growth of government under the “Great Society,” wrote that it “left America cold.” National Review’s editors put it succinctly a mere month into the Johnson presidency in December 1963: “The editors of National Review regretfully announce that their patience with President Lyndon B. Johnson is exhausted.”

Opposition to Johnson quickly led Buckley, other members of the magazine like Brent Bozell and Russell Kirk, and future president Ronald Reagan to support Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Realizing the impending defeat of Goldwater to Johnson, Buckley gave a speech to the Young Americans for Freedom on September 11, 1964, reminding conservatives that “Our intention is to take the clay God gave us and mold it into a better world,” and that the movement was “in the nature of an attempted prison break” which was “direfully perilous to proceed on the assumption that we will succeed.”

The lesson of the loss to Johnson was that American conservatives needed to develop an agenda that would promise to leave the country a better place. Sixteen years later, those efforts triumphed by putting Reagan, who emerged a rising political star himself in 1964 with his “Time for Choosing” Speech, in the White House. Standing against the “Great Society,” Reagan declared, “There’s only an up or down—[up] man’s old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”

In the days before the 1968 Presidential election (in which Johnson had declined to run), Buckley summed up his analysis of Johnson, writing that, “For its part history gave us Lyndon Johnson and his enormous appetite to dominate the affairs of America at every level.“

Making the coherent and winning case opposing the aggrandized state and promoting individual freedom is more important than ever, and continues to be a key focus in National Review Institute’s work to preserve the Buckley legacy.

Subj.: “Farewell, James L. Buckley,” August 22, 2023

Dear Friend,

Last week, James Lane Buckley died at age 100. He was an extraordinary individual and principled conservative statesman who managed the incredibly rare accomplishment of being a member of all three branches of the federal government over the course of his career: a United States Senator, a federal judge, and a member of the executive branch during the Reagan Administration, while championing Constitutional limits.

William F. Buckley Jr. called his brother Jim the “Man I Trust” and once said that he was “out of this world” and the “only person I have ever known who has no enemies” because he had “always persuaded everyone with whom he has contact that his fairness is, in a sense, a tribute even to those who are the immediate victims of that fairness.” He argued that despite Jim’s “instinctive modesty,” voters in New York in 1970 wanted Jim to represent them in a critical period in their lives the same way friends of Jim instinctively “wanted him around at critical periods of their lives.”

After a principled move that may have cost Buckley his Senate seat, being the first Republican to call for President Richard Nixon to resign in April 1974, the New York Times referred to Jim Buckley as a man of “great gentleness, unfailingly courteous and considerate” who was known as a “non-politician” to friends and foes alike. As NR’s editorial puts it, such a comment is manifest of Jim Buckley the patriot, the gent, the thinker.

For more on Jim Buckley, NationalReview.com has posted several tributes. In addition, we have gathered his lecture on federalism at the 2019 Ideas Summit, the 2020 Buckley Prize Gala honoring him for Leadership in Political Thought, and this year’s inaugural James L. Buckley Lecture on Principled Leadership given by the Honorable Michael B. Mukasey. And do not forget to enjoy the many interviews Jim gave to his brother Bill on Firing Line, including his first interview with Jim in 1971, their discussion of Nixon and conservatism in 1974, and Jim’s appearance as President of Radio Free Europe in 1982.

Jim Buckley was a special person, not only because he accomplished so much in his remarkable life, but because of the manner in which he did—being extremely thoughtful, committed to principle, and generous of spirit. As Dominic Pino wrote, “Rarely do men of such great stature conduct their lives with such humility.” We are grateful to have witnessed firsthand the example he set—an example that none who knew him can ever forget.

Such gratitude is an essential part of National Review Institute’s mission to uphold the legacy and principles of William F. Buckley Jr. In so doing, we endeavor to preserve and promote those he held closely and dear to the goal of a prudential and principled conservatism—men and women like Jim Buckley.

Subj.: “Remembering the Presidency of ‘Silent Cal,’ 100 Years Ago,” August 2, 2023

Dear Friend,

On August 2, 1923, President Warren Harding died at the age of 57, from a heart attack brought on by the effects of a stroke. Upon his death, Vice President Calvin Coolidge assumed the office of the Presidency and took the oath of office the next day at his home in Vermont.

“Silent Cal” would prove over the next five years to be one of the greatest American conservatives to be President. Coolidge had proven his conservative bona fides as Governor of Massachusetts during the 1919 Boston Police Strike, writing to labor leader Samuel Gompers that “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time . . . I am equally determined to defend the sovereignty of Massachusetts and to maintain the authority and jurisdiction over her public officers where it has been placed by the Constitution and laws of her people.”

Coolidge’s record showed him to be a principled fiscal and constitutional conservative. He opposed federal farm subsidies, flood control, and progressive taxation, famously saying that the business of America was “business.” Coolidge also had a positive record on civil rights, having supported federal anti-lynching legislation, signing the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act, and stating in his first annual address to Congress : “Under our Constitution their rights are just as sacred as those of any other citizen. It is both a public and a private duty to protect those rights [of black citizens].”

Most powerfully, upon the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Coolidge gave a celebrated address in honor of the timeless founding principles of self-government, warning that free government depended on the “heart of the people” and therefore: “The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy.”

William F. Buckley Jr. once referred to “Silent Cal” as the “quintessentially reserved Mr. Coolidge.” In his autobiography, Coolidge wrote that he approached the presidency with an “increasing sense of humility that he is but an instrument in the hands of God.” May we let such virtuous leadership remain a paragon of American conservatism for another one hundred years.

Our 2023 William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner honoree for Leadership in Political Thought, Amity Shlaes, wrote the definitive biography of Calvin Coolidge. Her latest piece for National Review, “Calvin Coolidge and Us,” appears in the August 14 issue of the magazine.

Subj.: “The Workings of a Great Mind and the Movement of a Great Heart,” July 28, 2023

Dear Friend,

36 years ago, the National Review universe lost one of its earliest prominent editors and conservative theorists, James Burnham. As Jeffrey Hart put it, Burnham was second to only William F. Buckley Jr. in significance to National Review, having been “absolutely central” in helping to create the magazine.

James Burnham was an ex-Trotskyite NYU professor who was a notable writer long before he joined William F. Buckley’s new magazine in 1955 as one of its original editors. In 1941, Burnham wrote Managerial Revolution: What is Happening to the World just as he was beginning to move away from Marxism. Burnham warned of the rise of a managerial class of technocratic elites destroying the productive capacity of capitalistic society, saying of the New Deal: “There can be no doubt that the psychological effect of New Dealism has been what the capitalists say it has been: to undermine public confidence in capitalist ideas and rights and institutions. Its most distinctive features help to prepare the minds of the masses for the acceptance of the managerial social structure.”

Years after joining National Review, Burnham published the conservative classic, Suicide of the West, in 1964. The book issued another warning—this time that civilization, having surrendered so much to the Communists, was disintegrating and that liberalism was incapable of stemming this corrosive trend because it in fact accelerated it by dulling our will to survive.

Buckley wrote in 1979, just after Burnham retired from National Review due to his second stroke, that there was “no doubt” Burnham had been the “dominant intellectual influence” on the magazine.

Buckley continued with prescient words which can guide our actions today: “Notwithstanding the gentleness of his manner, he brought great passion to his work: not ungovernable passion, because Jim doesn’t believe that passion should be ungovernable. But his commentary, during such crises as are merely suggested by mentioning Budapest, Suez, Berlin, the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, was sustained by the workings of a great mind and the movement of a great heart.”

Subj.: “Freedom, Virtue, and the ‘Sharon Statement,'” July 21, 2023

Dear Friend,

Nearly 63 years after its publication, the Sharon Statement—the concise set of conservative principles drafted at William F. Buckley Jr.’s home on September 11, 1960 by the Young Americans for Freedom—is back in the news. The drafter of that statement, however, should not be forgotten.

Medford “Stan” Stanton Evans, known as M. Stanton Evans, was born July 20, 1934. Evans entered the nascent modern conservative movement first as an editor for Frank Chodorov’s The Freeman in 1959 before joining National Review as an editor the following year.

Evans wrote the Sharon Statement as reflective of the philosophy of “fusionism,” an idea that would become associated with his co-editor Frank Meyer after the publication of “The Defense of Conservatism” in 1962. Evans believed freedom and virtue were not opposed, but rather both were necessary components to sustain a moral society.

As he wrote, a conservative does not “share the authoritarian’s readiness to coerce his fellow men into virtue, but neither does he share the libertarian’s commitment to freedom at virtue’s expense. The conservative believes man should be free; he does not believe being free is the end of human existence. He maintains that man exists to form his life in consonance with the objective order, to choose the Good.” Crucially, conservatives, unlike libertarians and authoritarians, maintained a belief in the fallenness of humanity and thus concluded that men and the governments they controlled required restraint, as the American Constitution so boldly laid out.

The Sharon Statement is reflective of the values laid out by Evans elsewhere. It declares reverence for “certain essential truths,” with the foremost among the transcendent values being “the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force.”

Evans’ influence upon the conservative movement continued beyond the Sharon Statement, founding the American Conservative Union in 1964 and, as head of the ACU, creating the Conservative Political Action Conference in 1974 and the National Journalism Center in 1977. Through the NJC, Evans was a mentor to notable conservative journalists Ann Coulter, Steven Hayward, John Fund, Greg Gutfeld, William McGurn, and even liberal luminaries like Malcolm Gladwell.

“Reflections on Revolutions,” July 15, 2023

Dear Friend,

Two hundred and thirty four years ago today, a mob of angry French peasants stormed the Bastille, a notorious French prison, setting off the beginning of the French Revolution. Within a few years, the Revolution moved from the abstract claims of universal rights of man seen in the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” to the “Reign of Terror” of public executions and mob violence.

These events are remembered by American conservatives both as a warning sign against the totalitarian threat of egalitarianism and mob rule, and the fatal revolutionary actions which gave rise to Edmund Burke’s eloquent and timeless response, Reflections on The Revolution in France in 1790.

As Burke wrote, “Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate a madman, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty?”

The French Revolutionaries believed 1789 to be “Year Zero.” As Russell Kirk put it,  Revolutionary France under the guidance of Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau had replaced Christian humility with the “ethics of vanity,” destroyed “all the old obligation of children to parents, servants to masters, citizens to magistrates,” and showed that their caricature of love was a “cloak for government terror.”

Burke’s rejection of abstract rights and egalitarianism in favor of existing society and traditions buttressed by natural rights has been a light of modern American conservatism.

Burke believed that Jacobinism—where the state is “all in all” and everything—and the triumph of evil happened because good people did not act. National Review Institute recognizes the challenge of what Kirk called “ideological despotism” and understands that today’s revolutionaries similarly must be met with Christian humility which defends and upholds the very civilization we have inherited.

Subj.: “Witness to the Necessity of Faith and Freedom,” July 9, 2023

Dear Friend,

62 years ago, on July 9, 1961, the inestimable Whittaker Chambers died at 60, depriving American conservatives of one of their brightest lights. David Brooks once noted that William F. Buckley Jr. often quoted Chambers in his finest speeches, each quotation a “gem” introduced “with an unmistakable tone of devotion.”

Chambers, an ex-Communist and convert to Christianity, was one of the early editors of National Review. His autobiography Witness (Random House, 1952) was one of the great conservative works of the 20th century—remaining on President Ronald Reagan’s ranch bookshelf to this day.

In his notable “Letter to My Children,” Chambers considered the greater significance of the trial of Communist spy Alger Hiss to human history: “Human societies, like human beings, live by faith and die when faith dies. At issue in the Hiss Case was the question whether this sick society, which we call Western civilization, could in its extremity still cast up a man whose faith in it was so great that he would voluntarily abandon those things which men hold good, including life, to defend it. “

Chambers viewed the Hiss case as a contest between two “irreconcilable faiths,” Communism and Freedom. In agreeing to testify against Hiss, a man of high reputation, Chambers faced character assassination, threats to his life, and poverty.

Faith in God was Chambers’ ultimate answer to the challenges America faces in protecting freedom. As he put it, “The crisis of the Western world exists to the degree in which it is indifferent to God…The Western world does not know it, but it already possesses the answer to this problem (the crisis of materialism)—but only provided that its faith in God and the freedom He enjoins is as great as Communism’s faith in Man.”

The West of today faces a continued crisis of faith with new moral challenges born of a progressive secular moral view. National Review remains a vital center for conservatives to take on these fights and stand athwart history saying “Stop!”

Subj.: “Providentially Blessed and Guided,” June 5, 2023

Dear Friend,

President Ronald Wilson Reagan passed away 19 years ago, on June 5, 2004. This was nearly ten years after our 40th president penned his letter to the nation announcing that his Alzheimer’s diagnosis would lead him into “the sunset of my life.”

The last time William F. Buckley Jr. saw his good friend was in October 1990 for a Firing Line taping in Los Angeles, focusing on Reagan’s newly published autobiography, An American Life (Simon & Schuster, 1990). They discussed the success of Reagan’s economic program (Reagan said “I knew it was succeeding when they stopped calling it Reaganomics…”), winning the Cold War (Reagan credited the “philosophy of peace through strength as opposed to mutually assured destruction”), and Reagan’s firm belief that America is Providentially blessed and guided. Reagan closed by quoting a letter he received from a grateful citizen: “‘You can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Italy, but you can’t become an Italian.’ And he cited all of them, Japan, Turkey, all these. But he said, ‘Anyone, from any corner of the earth, can come to America and become an American.’”

At the conclusion of The Reagan I Knew (Basic Books, 2008), Buckley’s final book before he himself passed away, Buckley reflected on his friend’s legacy and the ‘triumphant decade’ in which he led the nation: “Ronald Reagan had strategic vision. He told us that most of our civic problems were problems brought on or exacerbated by government, not problems that could be solved by government. That of course is enduringly true. Only government can cause inflation, preserve monopoly, and punish enterprise. On the other hand it is only a government leader who can put a stamp on the national mood. One refers not to the period of Shakespeare, but to the period of Elizabeth. Reagan’s period was brief, but he did indeed put his stamp on it. He did this in part because he was scornful of the claims of omnipotent government, in part because he felt, and expressed, the buoyancy of the American Republic.”

May it be fitting for us American conservatives to remember, following Memorial Day and on the impending anniversary of D-Day, how much our 40th President believed in the Providential Greatness of America, its people, and its guiding principles.

Subj.: “Embracing Gratitude this Memorial Day,” May 29, 2023

Dear Friend,

Memorial Day, going back to its Civil War origins, is an occasion for considered reflection of each American patriot as to the personal and material sacrifices required throughout the generations to maintain and renew the American experiment. It embodies the spirit of a virtue that Bill Buckley felt was immensely important for American conservatives to embrace: gratitude.

Our gratitude is for the very permanent things that we as conservatives are trying to defend and uphold in order to preserve them for future generations of Americans—the principles of a free society, based in Judeo-Christian morality and ethics, which our American founding sought to be the basis for a sound republican society.

In his book, Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our Country (Random House, 1990), Buckley advocated for national service in order to unite the privilege of being a citizen in the American republic with responsibility—granting a “kind of nobility” that would be widespread and universal. Buckley felt that while “materialistic democracy beckons every man to make himself a king; republican citizenship incites every man to be a knight.” That is, Americans growing into their citizenhood need persuasive reminders to acknowledge their heritage and patrimony, and asking them to make sacrifices not only reflects gratitude, it reminds all Americans of the debt they owe to those who have sacrificed before them and died in service of liberty for all.

Whether one agrees with Buckley substantively on the merits of national service, conservatives should recognize the underlying principle: that gratitude is a necessary virtue to making good republican citizens, which must be cultivated and maintained rather than assumed. As Buckley observed, the idea of national service went back to the founding. George Washington backed national service as a means of military preparedness to defend against foreign and domestic threats.

Buckley concluded by reminding readers that more than schooling was required to preserve the ideals of the American experiment, and to make citizens “vessels for preserving the principles that generated the disposition to sacrifice.”

Watch this 1990 episode with Milton Friedman of Firing Line on “What Do We Owe Our Country?”

Subj.: “Anniversary of MLK’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,'” May 22, 2023

Dear Friend,

Sixty years ago, on May 16, 1963, while sitting in jail, Martin Luther King Jr. sent to local pastors in Birmingham, Alabama a letter addressing civil disobedience. The “Letter from Birmingham Jail” offered crucial insights into not only the non-violent protest tactics of the Civil Rights movement, but the overtly Christian moral core to King’s philosophy. As Bill Buckley wrote after the assassination of Dr. King, in the wake of his death “not a single commentator on radio or on television has mentioned what one would suppose is a critical datum, namely that Mr. King was an ordained minister of the Christian faith.”

King’s letter was a response to an earlier statement from eight white Alabama ministers called “An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense,” which advised an end to demonstrations in favor of local negotiations and court actions.  King responded that he went to Birmingham because “just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.” As King famously put it, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

King responded to criticisms of civil disobedience by reference to the ancients and Saint Augustine, arguing that Socrates taught that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind to move past the “bondage of myths and half truths,”and noting Augustine’s division of moral and unjust laws. However, the open breaking of laws gave great pause to conservatives like Bill Buckley. Buckley wrote in 1969 that King was a “hero and a martyr in many respects,” but in others—namely the celebration of civil disobedience—he was “the spokesman for a point of view on citizenship which in the opinion of some—e.g., me—is mortal to civil society.”

As conservatives, we can therefore appreciate, as Buckley said, the courage, moral strength, and great eloquence of Dr. King while rejecting an assault upon the rule of law.

You can click here to listen to the reading of the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and read the text of the letter here.

Subj.: “Celebrating Winston Churchill, Who 83 Years ago ascended to Prime Minister,” May 13, 2023

Dear Friend,

Eighty-three years ago, on May 10, 1940, Adolf Hitler invaded France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The same day, Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and was replaced by Winston Churchill. Days later, on May 13, Churchill gave his first speech to the British House of Commons as Prime Minister.

WIlliam F. Buckley Jr. reflected on the significance and greatness of Churchill upon his death on January 21, 1965. For Buckley, Churchill, was “everything. The soldier who loved poetry. The historian who loved to paint. The diplomat who thrived on indiscretion. The patriot with international vision. The orderly man given to electric spontaneities. The man who flunked everything at school and then kept a generation of scholars busy interpreting his work and his words. The loyal party man who could cross the aisle and join the opposition when principle called. The Tory traditionalist revered in his old age by the neotetric levelers.”

Buckley lamented that this great man did not have that “final ounce of strength to deliver Europe from the mess in which he left it after the greater war” as the continent, the United Kingdom included, headed towards embracing of the folies of socialism. Buckley believed in 1965 that while Churchill had “stirred the world’s imagination as he, at that critical point in world history, to press for the final goal the war was fought to achieve—the elimination of the source of aggressive evil that finds us today,” a generation later, it had become “uncouth, dislocative, warmongering, to bellow against injustice even on a vastly magnified scale.”

Buckley, of course, was talking about the evil of Communism. Churchill’s weakness late in life was that he had “no appetite left to fight real enemies, enemies whose health he had, God save him, nourished by that fateful shortage of vision which, in the end, left him, and the world, incapable of seeing that everything he had said and fought for applied alike to the Russian as to the German virus.” Churchill was a man who earlier in his career understood the way no other could at the time the representative of evil that was the abominable Joseph Stalin, but by 1945, was incapable of impeding the consolidation of Stalin’s power in territories he had overrun during the war, which ensured the expansion of the Communist system over formerly free European nations.

Bill Buckley, in a way that speaks to us, used the greatness of Churchill to illustrate a profound difficulty in free societies—how do democracies mobilize public attitudes in such a way as to inform foreign policy in directions that are essentially moral and to help them understand society is slipping into a dark age? Buckley reminded his audience that Churchill said he was willing to “make a pact with the devil himself to defeat Hitler,” as he did with Stalin, while American leaders, “far from thinking of Stalin as a devil, began to find great qualities in him, who before long became ‘Uncle Joe.'” Fortunately, the United States would produce such a leader capable of essential moral challenges in foreign policy, as Buckley wrote of Ronald Reagan in 1984 that he spoke about the Soviet Union “much as Winston Churchill used to speak about the Nazis. That is to say he tells the truth.”

Ultimately, Churchill is rightly remembered for his orations. As Buckley commented, there was “little in politics that is truly beautiful. A great oration, every now and then—one or two of Churchill’s qualify.”

Subj.: “Remembering Russell Kirk, the ‘Wizard of Mecosta,'” April 28, 2023

Dear Friend,

Twenty-nine years ago, on April 29, 1994, Russell Kirk, the conservative intellectual giant known as the “Wizard of Mecosta,” died. The publication of Kirk’s first book, The Conservative Mind, seventy years ago in 1953 offered a view of American conservatism as a non-ideological disposition that sought to preserve what T. S. Eliot called those “permanent things.”

The young William F. Buckley Jr. took notice of Kirk’s Conservative Mind and flew to Mecosta, Michigan to convince Kirk to join National Review upon its launch in 1955. Kirk became the education editor and wrote a column for the magazine for 25 years on the state of American education. As Buckley recalled, he felt “so elated by (Kirk’s) spontaneous and generous willingness to associate his august name with that of a wizened ex-schoolboy known mostly for an iconoclastic screed directed at his alma mater.”

When Kirk died, Buckley wrote that his passing left the “conservative community desolate.” Buckley described Kirk as a man who “maintained a lovely presence ever so marginally bohemian,” the “orthodox husband of a beautiful wife” and father to four daughters. He had an “obdurately professional” demeanor, yet “who paid special notice never needed to wait too long before catching a wink, in what he said, and how he said it.”

After leaving National Review in 1980, Kirk continued to be productive into old age, writing a hundred essays, giving a thousand speeches, and marking the conservative landscape. Buckley thought, however, in the end Kirk defined conservatives as those who believed in an “enduring moral order,” which he himself “subscribed as a wholehearted Christian.” Kirk noted that, “The Resurrection is critical both to my personal faith and to the whole elaborate edifice called Christianity” because it proved that “Jesus the son had transcended matter and was divine.”

The conservative of any faith must, Kirk thought, acknowledge custom, convention, and continuity and believe in the principle of prescription, which Buckley thought “relieves us of the daily autodidactic chore of evolving rules of personal and civic behavior.” Kirk, as a scholar and admirer of Edmund Burke, held as his tenth canon of conservatism that the “thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be reconciled in a vigorous society,” evidence Buckley felt that Kirk may have been rooted in Burke, but was “not confined by him.”

Two years before his death, at the first anniversary dinner of the Acton Institute, Kirk introduced Bill Buckley as someone who had been a “comrade in arms for four decades,” almost precisely forty years after their first meeting at the home of John Clark in East Lansing, Michigan. Kirk noted the parallels of his life and Buckley’s: both served in the army in World War II, both served as college instructors, and their first books were both published in 1951 and exposed the “errors of higher education.” Both founded magazines in the 1950s with Modern Age and National Review , which Kirk said had done more “to defend the permanent things in American politics and society than any other publication in the history of this country.” Both had syndicated columns that started in 1962, both were active in the campaigns of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, both ran for office in the 1960s, and both spoke thousands of times at college campuses.

You can view the video here.