Politics & Policy

The Mystery of 80 Novembers

And now, a word from the White House.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Thursday, November 17, National Review celebrated William F. Buckley’s 80th birthday at the Pierre in New York City. Among those in attendance, paying WFB tribute, was Tim Goeglein, deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison at the White House. Below are his remarks, as prepared.

How do evil empires collapse?

How do California governors rise and emerge president of the United States of America?

How does a man who tells the truth about Hiss become the intellectual guardian of a new American conservatism?

How does a former Trotskyite become the intellectual leitmotif of a magazine that will improbably become the most important magazine of ideas in American in the 20th century?

How does Regnery Books become a national publishing house when publishing a book written by a Yalie who specifically takes on that institution in the most intellectually honest tone in a hundred years?

How do sailboats, J. S. Bach, peanut butter, goo goo clusters, harpsichords, Roselyn Turreck(sic) and Dick Wellstood, a shabby warren of offices with bathtubs and dumb waiters lines and infamous couches on East 35th Street in the heart of liberaldom; skiing in Gsstad, and Brooks Brothers ties crookedly eschew, fit into the unique brand of American conservatism almost impossible to explain or describe to anyone from another continent on planet Earth?

How is it that John Dos Passos, Gary Wills, George Will, Joan Didion, and Arlene Croce all came to write for a magazine that, in addition to getting all the big ideas right for a half century, also came to represent a trajectory of a commanding prose style of excellent writing that sets an effervescent high bar unmatched by The New Yorker and The Paris Review?

How does a purpose driven agenda of ideas become transformed into a movement of such width, depth, and breadth that its magnitude and scope actually match its idealism and vision?

How do you keep a staple of writers, editors, prophets, priests, and kings–the original definition of individualists of the first rank and of such self-evident excellence and verve–harnessed to the same big goal for 50 years?

How do you balance thought and action; ancient and modern; Jerusalem and Athens in such dynamic tension and equipoise that the result is a combustible and infectious energy that is almost Edisonian writ large?

How do you make limited government, low taxation, patriotism, a strong national defense, traditional values, and federalism rooted in the Constitution the program while also finding ample room for wit, and charm, and fun, and elegance that comes to define a paradigm that never misses the centrality of culture or the blessings of grace?

How do you walk to your mailbox every two weeks and open a blue-bordered truncheon for truth as if welcoming a friend from which, from whom, springs the most glorious melodies unheard, as relevant as this mornings’ headlines and as evergreen as the coming Advent of hope?

How do you come to see clipboards, red pens, the Brandenburg Concerto number four opening a television program, a run for the mayoralty of Gotham, a virtuous CIA agent called Blackford, and a hopeful, cheerful, gladsome conservatism as a work of art that is of a piece, and a beatitude, and a song?

The mystery of 80 Novembers, I suppose, comes down to an evening at the Pierre, on the verge of Thanksgiving, which is fitting for an evening of festivity such as this one. This is a birthday party rooted–like our guest of honor–in a spirit of gratitude and conviction and joy quite unlike anything anyone associated with editors, or journalists, or novelists, or sailors, or people who get a jolt out of a multi-syllabic word with multiple and complex meanings.

It is not “what” is the answer to all this. It is, rather, “who.” Bill Buckley has given–indeed, continues to give us–an infectious electricity, a friendship for making it new that sustains itself on an achievement of heart and soul that the angels of heaven are singing tonight, above the twinkling stars watching over the greatest country in the history of man!

We love you, Bill. God’s richest and choicest blessings on you and your dear wife and family. We wish you God’s sweetest music in the 80th year of your age.


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