The Corner

Education

Big Deals

At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, September 20, 2018 (Rebecca Cook / Reuters)

Have you had teachers who are big deals in your life? I’m sure you have, and so have I. I have been blessed with many. I write about two of them on the homepage today: here. The title of the piece: “Back to School.” (Yes, a Rodney Dangerfield movie.) The subheading: “A former student (very former) Zooms in with two beloved professors from his freshman year.”

Really? Really. Once more, I am learning from two of my favorite people, in whose classrooms I sat almost 40 years ago: Barbara J. Fields, U.S. historian; and Maria Rosaria Vitti-Alexander, professor of Italian and Italian literature. What a privilege. Zoom ain’t all bad.

My latest Q&A podcast is with Jonah Goldberg: here. Jonah, too, is a big deal to me, and a great many others. I first met him when he was 23, 24 — something like that. He was working at the American Enterprise Institute as a research assistant. He was smart, kind, and funny. Just like now. I like to think I knew him when.

On our podcast — “in” our podcast? (Both, I think) — we talk about dogs, music, sports, food. The writing life. WFB and Charles Krauthammer. Conservatism and its fate. Some of the topics are not very happy. But there is a joy in Jonah, no matter what. Indeed, I title this Q&A “The Joy of Jonah.” There are some people who can smile through the catastrophe, to borrow a line from the late Jeffrey Hart.

I further remember a story that Jonah has told many times. Robert Bork said to Irving Kristol, “Surely we are witnessing the end of Western civilization, aren’t we?” “Of course,” said Kristol. “But it will take a long while, and in the meantime, it’s possible to live well.”

Ha, yes (and I’m not writing Western civilization off). (George Will describes himself as “a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist.” I know what he means.)

(Want to know some good news? The threat of radical political Islam receded faster than many of us expected. It still lurks, of course — what doesn’t? But I well remember the concerns of the first decade of this century. Many of us were settling in for a long twilight struggle. In any event . . .)

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