Culture

Reflecting on an Essential Virtue

National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. (National Review)
Gratitude is all-encompassing. It’s about policy and beauty and excellence.

I pulled a muscle the other day and immediately thought of gratitude. It’s only natural — my work at National Review Institute has me constantly keeping gratitude in view, from geeking out with amazement at the likes of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” or the Oxford English Dictionary, as William F. Buckley was prone to do, or working to protect America’s founding principles.

One of the tremendous blessings National Review Institute has afforded me over these past few years is going around the country speaking about gratitude with our Burke to Buckley fellows — participants in NRI’s marquee educational program, which teaches the foundations of conservative thought.

These classes never cease to be fascinating to me: In San Francisco, it’s something of a clandestine gathering — so hostile the culture is to conservatism. One year, there was rejoicing in finding others who believe in God and go to worship services and even do ministry! In Dallas, once I walk in the door, people start talking to me about their gratitude for faith. In D.C., they will get into more political arguments. In New York, they will be true students of the readings, so hungry they are for substance. In Philadelphia, there always seems a delight in our founding principles, and in Chicago, there is a willingness to fight for them.

But what I love most about the opportunity to talk about gratitude with our extended NR Nation is to see the inspiration it provides. People are distressed by so much we see these days, but we can choose to live gratitude. That’s how we raise healthy leaders — for politics or for family life and all things in between.

I’ve written a bit about religious persecution over the years and even with our challenges here in the United States, we are still a beacon of hope. To remember that will make us more generous and rigorous in our civic outreach. The American Experiment is one worth keeping alive, and we all have a role to play in it.

I’m always amused at the end of our sessions — the discussion on gratitude is the final seminar. Talking about and considering living gratitude in a more serious way does light a fire under people who didn’t fully realize, or perhaps had forgotten, the power of personal virtue and stewardship.

National Review Institute in this way is a necessity. We don’t just react here; we remember. We don’t think we are the ones all of humankind has been waiting for; we want to learn from those who came before. We see our lives as gifts. We see all life as a gift. Besides talking — and living — gratitude, National Review Institute provides platforms and opportunities for robust policy discussions and working groups to deliberate on the best ways to support the family as our most important institution. We highlight critical issues such as foster care, adoption, and financial challenges for families. The most frequent dismissal of pro-life Americans is that we supposedly don’t care about a baby after it is born. At NRI, I can assure you this is not the case. We work to help the mother and the child and to strengthen the family unit as much as possible.

Gratitude is all-encompassing. It’s about policy and beauty and excellence. It helps wake us up in the morning and love one another and get us building on the treasures we’ve inherited.

Will you help support National Review Institute, knowing our responsibilities for the patrimony, as Bill Buckley would put it? This current fundraising appeal is essential for our future success in convening people for constructive collaborations and relationships, sharing resources, and educating. Please consider joining us by giving a tax-deductible donation to NRI before June 30.

After more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, help us to combat the pandemic of ingratitude, which blinds us to all kinds of blessings we are surrounded by. I’m sure grateful that faith was so important to the way WFB operated, because he made it so that at National Review Institute, we never have to put aside that which is most essential to the human person and flourishing.

Join us in gratitude, and support the NRI mission here.

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