In recent days, former colleagues, friends, and scholars gathered with students in New Haven to celebrate the the anniversary of the publication of William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale. The event was hosted by the newly minted William F. Buckley program — a student-run organization started by a small group of Yale undergraduates for the purpose of bringing “intellectual diversity” to Yale.
Remarks delivered by Neal Freeman were reprinted in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend. It’s a fine article and well worth reading in its entirety. Here’s an excerpt:
I have chosen to support the Buckley program… There are two reasons. The first is to keep alive a longstanding but fragile tradition here at Yale. Decade after decade, Yale has done almost nothing to encourage but just enough to permit a culture of conservative dissent. I like to think of Yale’s posture as a grudging but honorable acquiescence to the true spirit of academic freedom. I became a conservative while a student at Yale. Some of you in this room did as well. It’s possible. Not likely, but possible.
The second reason to support this program is that Bill would have loved it… The relationship between the precocious graduate and the historic university was marked for many years by simmering tension interrupted occasionally by awkward confrontation.
The ice eventually began to melt and ultimately Yale invited Bill to join the faculty. His course in English composition, which debuted in the fall of 1997, became popular with both the students and their instructor.
The process of reconciliation was completed in the spring of 2000 when Yale awarded Bill an honorary doctorate. How pleased was Bill? When word began to spread of the award, I called to congratulate him. He picked up the phone saying, “Dr. Buckley here. Any metaphysical problems I can help you with today?”
The Buckley program aims to bring prominent conservatives to Yale for a series of lectures and debates each year. I wish such a thing had existed during my years in New Haven. To learn more about the Buckley program, and to find out how to support the work they are doing, follow this link to the group’s official website.