National Review has always been a venturesome enterprise. Its founder, and the founder of National Review Institute — which today commences its 2018 Fund Appeal, to which I encourage your generosity — spent his life not behind a desk but on the road as an apostle of ideas. Through speeches, debates, and conferences, and even on NR cruises, Bill Buckley sought to engage directly with readers and subscribers, friends and foes, the latter being those whom he sized up (often correctly) as awaiting conversion to conservative principles.
NRI takes this task of direct engagement very seriously, and the dozen or so Institute fellows, of whom I am one, spend a good amount of time away from the keyboard and the office in order to meet with you near you, to talk with you, to hear your ideas and the measure you have taken of the policies and prescriptions we advocate.
Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of criss-crossing the country to talk to audiences large and small about my new book, Melting Pot or Civil War? Though my name is the only one on the cover, the truth is that I couldn’t have written it without the support of NRI. As a Policy Fellow, I’m charged with thinking and writing about the institutions that undergird a free society, and how we might reform them to better promote human flourishing. For the most part, this is pretty solitary work that involves a lot of reading and writing in quiet rooms, interrupted occasionally by an interview or two. So you can imagine how thrilling it was when NRI dispatched me to various cities to meet with the supporters who make my work possible. My book tour reminded me that National Review is more than words on the printed page or pixels on a glowing screen. National Review is the beating heart of a movement, one that brings together a dizzyingly diverse group of Americans united by a shared belief in our republic’s constitutional ideals and a shared reverence for our cultural inheritance.
NRI also sponsors an excellent debate program. It has been my honor to participate in the series on immigration reform, where I served as wingman to our very own Rich Lowry, and on free trade, where I debated alongside Oren Cass, a rising star on the right and a frequent NR contributor. (Here is the video of our immigration debate, co-sponsored by the Hoover Institution, and our free-trade debate — both took place in the beautiful Debate Chamber at the Old Parkland complex in Dallas). Before and after our debates, we’re blessed with the opportunity to meet and engage with readers and supporters.
And there’s even more criss-crossing, thanks to NRI’s Regional Fellowship Program, which — through a course we call “Burke to Buckley” — seeks to help talented, mid-career conservatives develop a deeper understanding of conservative thought. The program (I should say programs — New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Dallas, and San Francisco are its sea-to-shining-sea locations) offers me and other NRI Fellows a chance to have serious, wide-ranging conversations with 15 or so exceptionally sharp men and women who, we are confident, will take the knowledge gained over the ten-week course and find their own, local ways to be advocates of the Buckley Mission.
Alas, I don’t need to tell you that America’s intellectual climate has seen better days. Reflexive rancor has replaced the spirited civil debate that was Bill Buckley’s trademark. Mainstream institutions are torching their reputations for fairness in a desperate bid for relevance, and conservatives find themselves on the defensive at a moment when they should be setting the national agenda.
To meet these challenges, National Review Institute is investing in the next generation of conservative writers and thinkers, who will share their thoughts on the Institute’s mission in the coming days. We are growing our presence at leading colleges and universities (thanks to NRI on Campus), where there can be enormous pressure to conform to the sensibilities of political and cultural Left.
I’ll close by telling you what you already know: That NRI is, in its essence, an influential and consequential journalism think tank. And thanks to your support, we are redoubling our commitment to the serious, thoughtful journalism you’ve come to expect.
It is simply not possible to achieve this without your help (which happens to be tax-deductible!). Can we count on you? Please donate here.