Washington Fellows 2017: Session One

William F. Buckley Jr. and American Conservatism

Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Guest Discussion Leader: Lee Edwards, Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought, B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation

For sixty years, William F. Buckley Jr. was the voice of a conservatism that managed to be both sober and combative, committed to permanent verities and dismissive of a corrupt liberal orthodoxy. He brought style and intellectual penetration to conservatism as it emerged as a coherent movement after World War II. National Review, founded by Buckley and a cohort of friends in 1955, was—and remains—the flagship journal of a thoughtful American conservatism. This first session is dedicated to the thought and journalism of WFB and his role in shaping modern American conservatism.

Required Reading:

Kimball, Roger, and Bridges, Linda, eds. Athwart History (Encounter Books, 2012). pp. 6-8, 46-48, 203-205, 352-353, 405-407, and 460-462.

Recommended Reading:

Edwards, Lee. William F. Buckley, Jr.: The Maker of a Movement (Intercollegiate Studies Institute Books, 2010), pp. 9-16, 189-191.

Session One Required Reading

Session One Recommended Reading

 Discussion Questions

  1. What role does the conservative journalist, exemplified by Buckley, play in educating the public and in shaping a conservative politics informed by principle and prudence?
  1. How does Buckley compare to the typical (conservative) pundit today? Have we seen a decline in the character of the “commentating class”?
  1. Is “standing athwart history” a viable standard for conservative thought and action? How did Buckley’s “voice” change over the 50 years since that opening NR editorial?
  1. Does anyone come close to playing the role today that Buckley played in giving shape and coherence to the “conservative movement”?