The Seventh Annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner




Largest crowd ever participates in event to recognize James L. Buckley and Virginia James for their contributions to the conservative movement

National Review Institute hosts its Seventh Annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner as a “Gala at Home,” recognizing the Honorable James L. Buckley for Leadership in Political Thought and Virginia James for Leadership in Supporting Liberty.

PRINCETON, NJ, October 5, 2020 — National Review Institute recognized the Honorable James L. Buckley and Virginia James for their contributions to the conservative movement at the William F. Buckley Jr. “Gala at Home” Prize Dinner.

A small gathering was hosted at the home of NRI Board Chairman Peter J. Travers in Princeton, New Jersey. The event was partially live-streamed, along with pre-recorded and creative videos, to NRI friends and supporters across the country. Some participants hosted private dinner parties serving specialty cocktails and champagne and dressed for the occasion in their black-tie best.

In its seventh year, the William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner has become a marquee celebration for the conservative movement. Held in a different city each year, the 2020 gala was planned to take place in New York City. When it became apparent that a large in-person event was not an option, the organization embraced an interactive virtual format that included “fan cams” with greetings from supporters and fans across the country and world.

Serving as dinner co-chairs were Edwin J. Feulner, founder and past president of The Heritage Foundation; Leonard A. Leo, co-chairman and former executive vice president of the Federalist Society; and NRI Board of Trustees Chairman Travers. In total, over 600 friends and supporters tuned in for the live event.

The William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty, which recognizes conservative philanthropy, was awarded to Virginia James in recognition of her longtime and generous support of NRI and NR magazine, in addition to her many philanthropic contributions to other worthy organizations that are part of the broader conservative movement. An investor from Lambertville, NJ, Virginia is a notable philanthropist and serves as president of the Hickory Foundation, which supports dozens of organizations dedicated to economic freedom, education, and the arts. She is a strong advocate for limited government and is co-founder and chairman of the Club for Growth, a leading free-enterprise advocacy group. Her philanthropy has enabled numerous organizations to succeed and grow, energizing and uplifting the movement that Bill Buckley did so much to lead.

The William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Political Thought was awarded to The Honorable James L. Buckley. Fifty years ago this fall, Jim cast off a successful career as president of an oil exploration company to run for the U. S. Senate from New York. In a historic conservative victory, Jim became, as his brother anointed him, “the sainted junior senator from New York.” His victory is seen by many conservatives as a bridge from the Goldwater campaign of 1964 and Bill’s mayoral race in 1965 to the Reagan landslide of 1980. After his term in the Senate, Jim served as Under Secretary of State and as President of Radio Free Europe. In 1985, President Reagan nominated Jim to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit, on which his distinguished service made him one of the few people in American history to have served in all three branches of the federal government. Through all of this, Jim was unable to make any enemies. As Bill famously wrote of his older brother, Jim was “a benign presence before whose phlegmatic charm razors are blunt and arrows detumesce.”

James Buckley’s acceptance remarks included a somber warning about the state of our nation: “We have become a nation of constitutional illiterates,” Senator Buckley warned. “Few Americans have any understanding of the degree to which the Constitution’s safeguards are being whittled away. So we need to remind them of their existence and hammer home the urgent need to bring the administrative state under effective constitutional control. That will be anything but easy, but it has to be done.”

Senator Buckley concluded that he could think of no organization better able to meet this challenge than National Review Institute. “I urge you to focus all your considerable resources on reminding Americans of the constitutional sources of their blessings and of the utter seriousness of the present threat,” he said. “You have your marching orders. God bless you all.”

In addition to the honorees’ remarks and videos highlighting their impressive careers, the audience was treated to a performance by pianist Larry Perelman. Larry entertained at William F. Buckley Jr.’s dinner parties in New York City, and gave a special performance on Bill’s piano at Chairman Travers’ home.

National Review editor in chief Rich Lowry also moderated a panel with NR writers Andrew C. McCarthy, Kevin D. Williamson, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Charles C. W. Cooke. The writers discussed the important issues that our honorees have championed including limited government, federalism, and economic freedom.

Prominent virtual and in-person attendees included other notable National Review writers such John O’Sullivan, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Jay Nordlinger, Richard Brookhiser, John McCormack, and Kyle Smith.

Concluding the dinner, NRI Board Chairman Travers thanked guests for attending and for helping to raise over one million dollars in funds for the Institute. Guests continued the celebration via virtual “After-Party” reception rooms.

For his entire life, Bill Buckley sought to preserve and buttress the foundations of our free society. To honor his achievement and inspire others, NRI’s Board of Trustees annually award the William F. Buckley Jr. Prizes for Leadership in Supporting Liberty and Leadership in Political Thought. These awards honor their namesake and those who champion the principles Buckley advanced during his lifetime.

In addition to adapting to a virtual format to host this gala, NRI has been hosting successful virtual events since March 2020.


National Review Institute is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), journalistic think tank, established to advance the conservative principles William F. Buckley Jr. championed and complement the mission of National Review magazine, including by supporting and promoting NR’s top talent. NRI was founded by Bill Buckley in 1991, 36 years after launching National Review. In 2015, National Review, Inc. became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Institute.

National Review Institute
19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701 New York, NY 10036 | www.nrinstitute.org
For more information, contact Miranda Melvin, Director of External Affairs | miranda@nrinstitute.org | 571-302-0353

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