All Hail Fowler the Great!

by Rich Lowry

The NRI ideas summit provided an occasion to toast Jack Fowler, our esteemed and beloved vice president and publisher emeritus. NRI board member Peter Travers was the toaster:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  I am Peter Travers.  On behalf of the Trustees of the National Review Institute, I join Lindsay in welcoming you, and thank you for your support of National Review

More particularly, however, I would like to seize a brief moment to draw your attention to the immense contributions over many years to National Review and to the conservative movement of our Publisher-Emeritus and newly-minted Vice President — the estimable and sometimes ineffable, Jack Fowler.

Many years ago, our founder William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote an effervescent little book about his season as an American delegate to the circus at Turtle Bay.  United Nations Journal: A Delegate’s Odyssey was Bill’s delectable evisceration of the insufferable pomposities and unearned moral pretensions of the United Nations.  I read the book four decades ago, but Bill’s description therein of the sainted junior senator from New York was, as he would say, lapidary: his brother Jim, Bill wrote, was “a benign presence before whose phlegmatic charm razors are blunt and arrows detumesce.”  Well, it may be that Jack has not always achieved the Full Phlegmatic, but his disarming affability and avuncular manner have put so many of us at ease, and so often blunted the sharpness of the exigencies confronting the great enterprise National Review.

I first encountered Jack in 1989 when, having fallen into a bit of financial good fortune, I thought to pass some of it along to my favorite magazine (an impulse, come to think of it, I heartily encourage all of you to indulge.) I had begun reading National Review in 1965, and it had been instrumental in my education, and influential in my understanding of the American Project.  Jack was so nice and made such a fuss over my trifling gift that I was taken with a bit of concern that perhaps National Review was in greater need of funds than I had thought.  But, in fact, Jack understood profoundly that there was a community of us out in the country who were an essential part of this patriotic and idealistic venture, and who deserved as much attention as he could muster.  And, he has been doing that for 36 years.  Simply put, my first encounter with Jack so many years ago confirmed my belief that any organization with such an outstanding fellow as this must be just as excellent as I had imagined.

Through the years, I have had many more occasions to observe, chat, work and interact with Jack.  Each has deepened my appreciation for his rumpled tenacity and organic good-guyness: one might even say, yes, his phlegmatic charm. There is no way to sugarcoat it: Jack has been a stalwart for National Review, keeping the lights on, the cruisers cruising, the presses rolling, the coffee brewing, through thick and thin. All the way through, as many of you know well, Jack has been a blessing to his friends, colleagues and family.

Recently, I was reading through the most recent National Review related book, and Fowler project, A Torch Kept Lit, in which James Rosen has gathered many of Bill’s obituaries for friends and luminaries.  In one entry, there was a typically discerning Bill comment that, again, made me think it might have been written about Jack Fowler: “It is awesome to extrapolate,” Bill wrote, “from one’s own experience of his goodness the sum of what he did for others.”

So, my big idea to contribute this evening is to pronounce that these proceedings will henceforth be recorded as the “Jack Fowler National Review Institute 2017 Ideas Summit.”  And, in the spirit of our founder, I offer to Jack on behalf of the National Review Nation this “exiguous token” of our great esteem.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to raise your glasses and offer with me a toast to my friend, the redoubtable Jack Fowler.  

Here is Jack accepting said exiguous token:

And here is the token itself, wherein Jack gets the Roman Genn treatment:

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