The Professor and Friend

In summarizing the first three speakers at the Portsmouth Institute’s WFB conference, I observed their different styles. Among subsequent speakers, I’d say that, truly, E.J. Dionne and K.J. Lopez spoke much as columnists. They offered facts and quotations, giving their own opinions, and building overall arguments. None who’ve read their work would be very surprised at, essentially, their style of reading of their work.
Roger Kimball’s presentation was that of a compelling university lecture. It’s difficult to articulate the difference, but one can hear it in reviewing the speeches. The best that I can do is to say that the lecturer’s first objective is to edify, while the columnist’s is to state an argument. Perhaps another way to think of it is to see the lecturer as reading a chapter from a book; it’s still the presentation of an argument, but it’s a longer form argument, stretching beyond the bounds of an individual chapter.
Lee Edwards, of The Heritage Foundation, joins Mr. Kimball in that category.

The perspective of the personal acquaintance was particularly valuable in Mr. Edwards’s talk — which was, after all, billed in the program as “The William F. Buckley, Jr., I Knew.” It is, therefore, an obvious act to relay some personal anecdotes:

  • Young Bill and Trish Buckley’s adventure to secretly baptize house guests in order to save their souls: Stream, download (1 min, 3 sec).
  • In the line of Bill Buckley investing in the human capital of young conservatives, an anecdote involving Mr. Edwards’s wife and her hanging-up-the-phone disbelief that the celebrity would call her dorm: Stream, download (2 min, 28 sec)
  • Summing up much of what had been said of Buckley’s charitable nature and self-contradictions (that are not really contradictions at all, in the end): Stream, download (2 min, 22 sec).

Additionally, during the Q&A period, Mr. Edwards offered an abstract-type summary of his essay, “The End of Conservatism?” in which he describes five essential elements required for a movement, stream, download (1 min, 54 sec):

  • A philosophy
  • An infrastructure/constituency
  • A financial base
  • Media facility
  • Charismatic and principled leaders

Members of the budding Rhode Island reform movement could benefit greatly by heeding Mr. Edwards’s advice.

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