If memory serves, I first heard about National Review watching Firing Line in the 1980s. I went down to the local drugstore looking for a copy, and to my chagrin it carried The New Republic, not NR. I had to resort to my high-school library, where they had copies in those old hard vinyl binders. The first issue I remember had a cover story on the Kissinger Commission on Central America (not exactly the most alluring subject matter).
As was the case for so many of our readers (some of them share their stories of their first copy of the magazine in this issue), NR was an education. An earnestly active reader, I underlined what seemed the most important bits. Whenever I didn’t understand something, I took it as a challenge, not an affront. I used NR as a bibliography for a conservative education, finding my way to Henry Hazlitt, C. S. Lewis, Whittaker Chambers, and others through its pages.
I kept each issue as if it were a collectible and steadily built my pile of NRs. We occasionally get calls from subscribers who have done the same thing and ask whether we have some use for the years’ worth of issues they have accumulated. (In case you are wondering: If they are from before 2000, yes, we do.)
For me, and for so many of you, NR is more than a magazine. It is a cause and a community. With this issue, we mark 60 years of our joint enterprise, undertaken with you,
We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming — this issue has no Week, no columns, and no book reviews — to mark the occasion with dozens of interesting and brilliant people writing about our civilization and our politics, as well as their own intellectual development.
If there is a sense of being embattled to much of it, that’s to be expected. Our situation isn’t as dire as it was in the Cold War, when we were facing down nuclear-armed totalitarianism, but it is dire in different ways. Liberty, the rule of law, and high cultural standards aren’t inevitable or even natural, at least to judge by the experience of most of human history, and will always be under threat from enemies foreign and domestic.
Our defense of them should be high-spirited — always clear-eyed, but never depressive. Bill Buckley liked to say that to despair is a sin.
One of his most important themes was gratitude. This is as good a time as any for me to express some of my own: Thank-you to all of you for reading, and — to many of you — for contributing above and beyond the price of a subscription to keep us afloat; thank-you to all of our editors and other staff, who make it possible to put the magazine to bed fortnightly and publish constantly online; thank-you to our publisher, Jack Fowler, who has the heart of an angel and the accent of a cop from Bronx Precinct 52, and who has poured himself into NR for 25 years now; and thank-you to our writers — they have ensured that my education via the pages of NR has never ended.
When Bill Buckley was still with us, I made a point of occasionally dropping him a note thanking him for the privilege of editing his baby. You will sometimes hear sports enthusiasts say that when they get into sports as a profession — say, a baseball fan joins a team’s front office — the game loses some of its charm. But I have never entirely lost the sense of wonder at this little magazine that I felt when I first discovered it decades ago.
– Rich Lowry