‘I Believe in the Thing’

Jay Nordlinger
Jay Nordlinger donates to NRI, and you should too.

National Review Institute could use your help — a donation. (Here.) I never ask anyone to give to something that I myself don’t give to.

Can you end a sentence with a preposition, as I just have? If you’re speaking and writing English, yes. You are not under the jurisdiction of Latin schoolmarms. And if you want to split an infinitive, go ahead and do that, too (as the Star Trek people did: “To boldly go where no man has gone before”).

What was I saying? Oh, yes: I, too, am an NRI donor. Have been for years. I’ll tell you why.

In brief, I believe in the thing. You might too. Let me quote from the Institute’s website: NRI “was founded by William F. Buckley Jr. as a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 1991. NRI’s mission is to advance the conservative principles he championed, complement the mission of the magazine, and support NR’s best talent.”

NRI runs educational programs all over the country, including on campuses, which of course is vital. Bill Buckley traveled to campuses constantly — from shortly after his own college graduation in 1950 until his final earthly days, nearly 60 years later. He loved doing this, and they loved him, and he affected not a few lives. We must not write the campuses off.

(There I go again, with my prepositional sentence-enders.)

It is a particular pleasure — here I am speaking personally — to work with young people at National Review and NRI. We have Buckley Fellows and Rhodes Fellows. The latter are named for Dusty Rhodes (Thomas L. Rhodes, more formally), our late president and friend. If you could meet Jibran Khan, Madeleine Kearns, and Theodore Kupfer — I have named three young people in our offices today — you would be pleased and reassured. You might even sigh a bit.

Speaking selfishly — although not too selfishly, I hope — NRI supports my own work. I do a great deal of reporting and writing. I spend an unusual amount of time on political prisoners, dissidents, and democracy leaders. Earlier this year, I visited a Russian family, the Bitkovs, imprisoned in Guatemala. Their case is harrowing and important. More recently, I’ve written about Antonio Ledezma, the former mayor of Caracas. He was imprisoned for almost three years by the chavista regime, and then contrived to flee. I talked with him in New York.

I also do some writing on culture, high and low. In the current issue of the magazine, I have an essay on encores — those musical desserts, served after a printed program. Are encores high or low? Well, it depends. They’re usually delicious, regardless.

Bill Buckley was a big, big person — containing multitudes — and it’s natural for his enterprise to reflect that bigness. National Review Institute funds our “back of the book”: the Books, Arts & Manners section of the magazine. In the years when WFB was reading the magazine more than editing it, he always read this section first. Without a worthy culture, politics is hopeless.

John Dos Passos was a famous novelist, with the U.S.A. trilogy, among other successes. He also wrote journalism (of an elevated kind). Starting out on the left, he ended up in the Buckley/NR orbit, as so many did. He covered the Goldwater convention — San Francisco, 1964 — for us!

One of my favorite collections of journalism is by Dos Passos, and I love its title: “The Theme Is Freedom.” In 2016, I wrote about this collection, in a five-part series: Here is the last part, which will lead you (backward) to the others.

There are other themes in life besides freedom — but freedom is a big one, and I am happy to sound it, along with my colleagues. Grateful to sound it, too. If you can make a donation — again, the link is here — thank you.


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