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Yale 62

Neal Freeman Examines Bill Buckley’s Legacy

National Review Founder, William F. Buckley, Jr.

By Lee Bolman

Classmate Neal Freeman, author and chairman of the Foundation Management Institute, recently published an article in the National Review under the title, “The Enduring Legacy of William F. Buckley, Jr.”   Describing Buckley as both friend and mentor, he argues that “Bill Buckley did not resuscitate American conservatism. He did not rejigger it. He created it.”

Neal opens his article with a vignette about the FBI file that was created when he was nominated for a presidential appointment.  Among the Bureau’s interviewees was Bill Buckley, who described Neal “as one of my closest friends”, and closed with a flourish in response to the agent’s last question: would the subject be likely to do anything to embarrass the administration?  Replied Buckley, “I should think the reverse would be much more likely.”

Buckley first came to national prominence with his 1951 book, God and Man at Yale. In it, he developed an argument that is still prominent among political conservatives:  that professors were pushing students toward a liberal, collectivist and secular ideology.

Buckley had graduated from Yale in 1950 after serving in the United States Army during World War II.  As an undergraduate, he was a conservative activist, formidable debater, and chair of the Yale Daily News.  His influence is still felt at Yale, exemplified in the “Fight for Yale” group, an initiative of the Buckley Institute, which criticizes the university on many fronts, with headlines like: “Neither lux nor veritas: Yale pairs speech-protective policies with a culture of intolerance.”

In his article, Neal describes his own intellectual journey:  “As I read more history, I began to hear the American story as one endless and endlessly fascinating conversation between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. The question that engaged them was this: Where in the American society should we place the locus of power? Should we place it at the periphery, with what we hope is the enlightened individual, as Jefferson argued? Or should we place it close to the hub, with what we hope is a benevolent central authority, as Hamilton argued?  The correct answer, of course, is: Neither of the above…. Because it is axiomatic that if one side wins, both sides lose. Social order without personal freedom becomes tyranny just as surely as personal freedom without social order becomes anarchy. It is precisely the tension between these two powerful impulses that animates American society.”

If you have thoughts about Neal’s article or Bill Buckley’s influence on Yale and beyond, please weigh in with a comment.

 

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