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National Review Institute Defends American Culture

Madeleine Kearns
A young writer on an NRI fellowship cherishes the community of conservatism.

If it weren’t for your generosity, there would be no National Review Institute. And if there were no National Review Institute, there would be none of the incredible journalism fellowships that allow aspiring writers like me to contribute to National Review and its vital mission of conserving the best of American culture. That is why I’m taking this opportunity to invite you to contribute to the NRI Annual Fund Appeal.

I graduated from New York University last June. Though I enjoyed my time at college and am grateful for it, I was frustrated by how frequently conservative ideas were dismissed as irrelevant, stupid, or evil. And so, after reading Buckley’s prophetic book God and Man at Yale, I was drawn into National Review’s orbit and felt a strong desire to follow in his footsteps; to stand athwart history yelling stop, and to enter a public debate that is as vital and ferocious today as it was in 1951, when that book was published.

But by what means could I do this? I was just a student, soon to be a graduate. Then I got the chance of a lifetime: I became a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow in Political Journalism at National Review Institute, which surely must be the best entry-level job in conservative journalism in the world.

NRI has been my springboard into a plethora of conservative excellence. NRI situates its Buckley fellows — this year, Theodore Kupfer and me — in the heart of a thriving liberal metropolis (New York City), where we are connected to senior fellows at the Institute and able to participate in a range of events that continually further the values of the conservative movement (e.g., our recent book launch event for Richard Brookhiser).

NRI also allows me to contribute to the intellectual life of National Review. So far, I have conducted a reported series for on transgenderism in child health care, reviewed books, interviewed thought leaders such as the moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and gone a bit Brexit mad. . . . I have also been privileged to write a number of times for the magazine (on humor, letters, the future of the Tory leadership, and British feminism). This has given me a chance to work with both Rich Lowry and Jason Steorts on the craft of writing and to benefit enormously from their editorial wisdom and oversight.

Of course, conservatism is a philosophy, not an ideology — we are united by principles, not mere views. Likewise, conservatism exists as a shared cultural heritage — and in National Review’s case, an intellectual one.

Earlier this year, I interviewed the world-renowned conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton and asked how I and my colleagues at National Review might continue the magazine’s legacy. He advised that we “should attend to the themes that are fundamental to conservatism, and which practicing conservative politicians continually neglect: culture, literature, architecture, the city, the values of ordinary everyday American life.”

He’s right, of course. Buckley would have said the same — politics is only part of the picture. But clearly this takes guts, as Sir Roger knows only too well. Months after I interviewed him, for instance, a thought-police crusade was launched to oust him from a government advisory role in Britain, purely because of the conservative views expressed in his books and speeches. Like Sir Roger, I come from the United Kingdom, where conservative views — even carefully expressed — can lead to total ostracization from public life.

Therefore, the strength and solidarity of American conservatism — as furthered by National Review Institute — has been a source of constant encouragement. Because of course, for a young writer, the only way to develop the necessary courage and conviction is to see it in action (hence the title of Whittaker Chambers’s book Witness) and to have the backing of a nationwide movement.

Without a doubt, one of my most treasured experiences with NRI thus far has been singing the national anthem at the fifth annual WFB Prize Dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center. Along with the astonishing beauty of the building, there is another reason for this. To me, an outsider, American reverence for the flag represents something more transcendent. It is a pledged commitment to the American spirit and all that it encapsulates: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and a shared cultural heritage:

O, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

With your help, the answer continues to be yes! So please consider donating to the NRI Annual Fund Appeal.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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