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Let Us Talk of Many Things:
It's impossible to think of the modern conservative movement without the deep influence of William F. Buckley Jr., founder of National Review and host of the television series Firing Line. Yet Buckley's evangelizing didn't just occur on the printed page or go out on the airwaves; he gave countless numbers of speeches during the second half of the 20th century. Several dozen of the most significant are collected in Let Us Talk of Many Things, from a 1950 address at Yale University hinting at themes that would be developed fully in God and Man at Yale to a 1999 talk to the Heritage Foundation (on the meaning of heritage, appropriately enough). In between, there are comments on Joseph McCarthy, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, the failure of the drug war--and on and on and on.
In its way, the book provides a history of American conservative politics, as well as a witty primer on what those politics are all about. One example: "Politics, it has been said, is the preoccupation of the quarter-educated, and I do most solidly endorse that observation, and therefore curse this century above all things for its having given all sentient beings very little alternative than to occupy themselves with politics. It is very well to say we will ignore the Great Society. But will the Great Society repay us our courtesy by ignoring us?" In another speech, delivered shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and at a time when many Americans turned stoutly pessimistic about their own country, Buckley turned matters on their head: "That is the salient datum in America: not that we bred the aberrant assassins of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, but that we bred the widely shared and the most intensely felt sense of grief: such grief over the loss of Mr. Kennedy and Mr. King as is felt over the loss of one's own sons." The statement is vintage Buckley: the old-fashioned use of the word datum, two colons in a single sentence, and a comforting faith in the United States. There's also an insightful and hilarious essay, which first appeared in The New Yorker, describing a life on the lecture circuit, complete with tips on how to make sure undergraduates driving you to the airport the next morning arrive at your hotel on time. This is a simply wonderful book by one of America's premier public intellectuals. --John J. Miller [via]