Skip to comments.George Will's Acceptance Remarks at the 2005 Bradley Prizes Awards Ceremony - (eloquent)
Posted on 04/18/2005 8:26:42 PM PDT by CHARLITE
Thank you, Mike. Thank you, Fred.
Brevity is not only the soul of wit and the essence of lingerie, it is, in moments like this, when you stand between an audience and strong drink, mandatory. But let me just say this. If I were empowered to design the perfect day, this would just about be it. It began in Mesa, Arizona today at HoHoKam Park with five beautiful words: Cubs pitchers and catchers report. And it concludes with the privilege of sharing the stage with Ward Connerly, Robert George and Heather Mac Donald.
Ward mentioned his family in his remarks. You may not know that his four grandparents were the following. One person of African descent, one person from Ireland, one person part Irish, part American Indian, one person French Canadian. The mother of two of his grandchildren is half Vietnamese. The Connerly family is a melting pot in and of itself and he is uniquely qualified to be the nations tutor about the moral imbecility and intellectual folly of practicing identity politics based on the false clarity of race.
Robert George is going to go down in history Im sure as the finest American and Princeton professor since the Reverend Witherspoon who died in 1794. The Reverend Witherspoons students included 12 members of the Continental Congress, five delegates to the Constitutional Convention, one president, James Madison, one vice president, Aaron Burr, 49 U.S. representatives, 28 United States senators, three Supreme Court justices, one Secretary of State, three attorneys general, and if Robby George is as effective and hes just the man to be, the republic is truly saved.
Heather Mac Donald is simply reproached to the rest of us journalists. Most of us in journalism are fungible as utility infielders. She is the definite article, the indispensable journalist. I know that Charles de Gaulle said the graveyards are full of indispensable people. He never read Heather. She is uniquely qualified to burn away the cant and political correctness that so follows our discourse. I am often asked what I believe on this events subject and I frequently say I havent the foggiest idea, Heather hasnt written about it.
I am the son of a professor of philosophy and began life intending to be the same. When I left Oxford I applied to a northeastern law school and Princeton in philosophy and attended Princeton because it was midway between two national league cities. After a brief stint teaching I turned to journalism, or as my father thought, sank to journalism. But I think Im still in the same business. In three-and-a-half decades in this town, I am more convinced than ever, not just that ideas have consequences, but that only ideas have large and lasting consequences. Popular government rests on public opinion and opinion is shiftable sand. And were all in the business of shifting the sand with the enormous and heroic help of the Bradley Foundation.
About 30 years ago my dear and much missed friend Pat Moynahan said something astonishing is happening in America. And conservatism is becoming the source of the driving of ideas of Americas politics. Quite right, and it is the Bradley Foundation that has done more than any other single group, to pull American politics up from being a mere maelstrom of material interest, to a genuine clash of ideas. There never is a day when I do not see in the news of the day the nugget of an idea that traces its pedigree back to the American founders. There is in our country today a palpable hunger for articulated principles. A hunger to be reconnected to the founders. Look at the astonishing and altogether gratifying public response to doorstop thick biographies of the founding fathers. When the President refers as he frequently does to the author of our liberty, he means God, which is fine. Some of us think that Madison is coauthor. And we know that good judgment comes from experience. But that experience for nations often comes from bad judgments. And almost all of Americas bad judgments are alike. They are apostasies from the principles of the founders.
Now we are uniquely privileged at this time to live as our parents and grandparents did not live. In an age in which there is no rival model to the American and Madisonian model for organizing a modern society. Al-Qaeda has no such fame. It is a screaming howl of rejection of modernity. In 1945 we divided the city of Berlin, the country of Germany, the continent of Europe, indeed the whole world and have a social experiment of uncommon clarity. Attesting to ideas on the one side the statist and collectivist idea, that that society is best run by commands issued from an elite from above. Opposing it, the American idea. A maximum dispersion of decision-making as an information market allocating wealth and opportunity. The results are in. Were here; theyre gone.
The Soviet Union tried to plant Marxism in Europe for 70 years. There are today more Marxists on the Harvard faculty than there are in Eastern Europe. But now is the time to help the Bradley Foundation to make sure that the Madisonian revolution and our politics are properly understood abroad, but also at home. Before the Madisonian revolution, political philosophers were agreed that if, and it was an enormous if, democracy were to be possible anywhere it had to be on a small face-to-face society free of factions. Rousseaus Geneva, Pericles Athens. Madison came along with a different kind of catechism. He said, what does the worst outcome of politics: tyranny? To what form of tyranny is democracy prey: the tyranny of a stable, oppressive majority? Answer: dont have stable oppressive majorities, have shifting coalitions of minorities.
And so it be said in Federalist 10 the first object of government is to protect the different and unequal capacities of acquiring property. Different and unequal capacities, different factions, a saving multiplicity of factions and so it be said in Federalist 51, we see throughout our system the process of supplying by opposite and rival interests the defect of better motives. Thats good as far as it goes, but there is something else. There is political leadership that summons the better angels of our nature. The phrase, of course, is from Lincoln, who on September 30, 1859 addressing the Wisconsin Agricultural Society in, I believe, Milwaukee, the home of the Bradley Foundation, told the story of the oriental despot who summoned his wise men and charged them to go away and not to come back until they had formulated a proposition to be carved in stone, to be forever in view and forever true. When they returned, the proposition they offered him was: And this too shall pass away. How chastening in our pride, said Lincoln, and how consoling in our grief, and yet, he said, perhaps not true. Because, he said, if we Americans cultivate the moral and intellectual world within us as assiduously as we cultivate the physical world around us, perhaps we will endure. Perhaps we will escape the damage done by what he called the silent artillery of time.
The Bradley Foundation exists to provide armor against the shells fired by the artillery of time. It is doing the fine work of elevating and dignifying our politics. It is wonderful and gratifying to be the recipient of the Bradley Foundations approbation. I can now tell you from personal experience it is very fine to receive the Pulitzer Prize. It is even better to receive the Bradley Prize.
Thank you very much.
Precisely what they warn against is why it should succeed.
George provides a fine thoughtful balance to essential bombthrowers such as Coulter and Steyn. A roster needs both flamethrowers and finesse pitchers to keep the opposition off-balance. Just as long as they're all righties!
I'm going to Princeton next year and am looking forward to taking classes from Robert George. I am very excited about that, and even more so after seeing what George Will has to say about him.
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