History of NRI’s Summits

The Margaret Thatcher Weekends

In the years following her tenure as Prime Minister, Bill Buckley invited Margaret Thatcher to chair an annual conference, alternating between America and Europe, at which distinguished public figures, intellectuals, and younger conservatives (with the occasional formidable liberal to add spice to the argument) would hold critical debates on fundamental topics such as nations and nationalism, virtue in politics, welfare state versus welfare society, and so on. It was a little like an international version of Firing Line. Mrs. (later Baroness) Thatcher accepted this invitation and for six years these conferences were held with such participants as Gertrude Himmelfarb, Norman Podhoretz, Henry Kissinger, Robert Bork, Robert Conquest, Charles Krauthammer, Mickey Kaus, John Gray, Fareed Zakaria, Roger Scruton, Theodore Dalrymple, Antonio Martino, Kate O’Beirne, George MacDonald Fraser, and many others. One participant described these weekends as “like being in a George Bernard Shaw play about a riotously intellectual country house weekend.” Many of the papers were subsequently published in National Review and elsewhere. Margaret Thatcher came back fighting and re-established herself as Britain’s dominant public figure in or out of office. The conferences were as follows:

The World After Communism
Stapleford Park, England
October 11-13, 1991
Speakers included: Henry Kissinger, Kenneth Minogue, John O’Sullivan, and William F. Buckley Jr.

Nations and Nationalisms: From the break-up of the Soviet Union to multiculturalism in the US
Florence, Italy
October 23-25, 1992
Speakers included: Irving Kristol, John Gray, and William F. Buckley Jr.

Virtue and the Free Society
Bath, England
December 10-12, 1993
Speakers included: Mickey Kaus, William B. Allen, William J. Bennett, and Charles Murray

Issues and Themes for the 90s
St. Michaels, MD
November 4-6, 1994
Speakers included: Larry Kudlow, William Kristol, Richard John Neuhaus, and William F. Buckley Jr.

Anglo-American Conservatism: Does it have a Future?
Northampton, England
September 13-15, 1996
Speakers included: Mark Steyn, Christopher DeMuth, Robert Bork, and Gary McDowell

Shaping the Mind of the Next Millennium
Charlottesville, VA
December 12-14, 1997
Speakers included: Norman Podhoretz, Michael Rothschild, Mark Steyn, and John O’Sullivan


Conservatism Fights Back: NRI’s First Generation

On the weekend following the first Clinton inauguration, the New York Times published a full-page story describing in nervous tones the first reaction against Billary: an 800-strong conference of conservative leaders and activists in Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, a few blocks away from the White House, under the auspices of the new National Review Institute. With four plenary sessions and no fewer than sixteen breakout debates – on subjects ranging from gay rights to foreign policy interventionism – every faction in the conservative movement from libertarians through social conservatives to neo-conservatives had its say that weekend. By general agreement, this conference gave new heart and spirit to the conservative movement nation-wide. Over the next four years, NRI took the show on the road. It held the first generation of NRI conferences in Charleston, Chicago, San Diego, Dallas, and in Hollywood itself with such speakers as Jack Kemp, William J. Bennett, William Kristol, Rob Long, and Pat Sajak, and introduced new stars such as Rich Lowry, Larry Kudlow, Ramesh Ponnuru, and the great Mark Steyn. At the 1997 International Conservative Congress in Congress, National Review Institute brought together over 400 conservative activists from as far afield as Australia and Czechoslovakia, and featured stirring speeches by conservative leaders such as Newt Gingrich and Margaret Thatcher. In January 2013, National Review Institute hosted the NRI “Future of Conservatism” Summit – a conference designed to assess the conservative movement’s priorities and discuss the way forward. While liberalism ruled in Washington, NRI kept the flag of resistance flying throughout the heartland and across the seas. The conferences were as follows:

Washington Conservative Summit
Washington, DC
January 23-24, 1993
Speakers included: Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, William J. Bennett, and Newt Gingrich


Midwest Conservative Summit
Chicago, IL
June 26, 1993
Speakers included: Russell Kirk, Tommy Thompson, Frank Luntz, and Lamar Alexander

San Diego Conservative Summit
San Diego, CA
August 28-29, 1993
Speakers included: William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Arianna Huffington, and Jack Kemp

Challenges to Conservatism
Washington, DC
March 5-6, 1994
Speakers included: Newt Gingrich, Charles Krauthammer, Ed Koch, and Richard Brookhiser

Will the South Keep Rising?
Charleston, SC
June 25-26, 1994
Speakers included: Carroll Campbell, Kirk Fordice, Joe Wilson, and Jeff Sandefer

Hollywood and American Culture
Los Angeles, CA
October 8-9, 1994
Speakers included: Pat Sajak, Ben Stein, Rush Limbaugh, and David Horowitz

After the First Hundred Days, What Next?
Dallas, TX
March 4-5, 1995
Speakers included: Rick Perry, William Kristol, Karlyn Bowman, and Richard Brookhiser

Washington, DC
April 5, 1995
Speakers included: Bill Rusher, John Fonte, Lamar Smith, and Kate O’Beirne

Advertising and the Media in an Open Society
New York, NY
May 3, 1995
Speakers included: John O’Sullivan, Digby Anderson, Norman Vale, and Karl Zinsmeister

Has America Realigned?
Washington, DC
June 3-4, 1995
Speakers included: Bob Dole, Grover Norquist, Michael Horowitz, and Robert Rector

International Conservative Congress
Washington, DC
September 28, 1997
Speakers included: Margaret Thatcher, Newt Gingrich, and William F. Buckley Jr.

National Review Institute Conservative Summit
Washington, DC
January 26-28, 2007
Speakers included: Jeb Bush, Rudy Giuliani, John Boehner, and Mitt Romney

The Future of Conservatism
Washington, DC
January 25-27, 2013
Speakers included: Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, and Ted Cruz
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