Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Insights from Ronald Reagan

    I have recently been reading yet another biography about President Ronald Reagan -- this one is from the eyes of one of his young speechwriters, Peter Robinson. In How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life, Robinson offers a first-hand look into the man who changed the history of the twentieth century. In ten chapters, Robinson delivers about ten major insights into Reagan's personality and how Reagan's outlook on life became the outlook which ultimately shaped his approach to policy.

    In Chapter 5, Robinson posits Reagan as having the outlook of your average American opposed to the outlook of an educated technocrat elite, or as Robinson simply puts it, "the experts." During Robinson's own time at Dartmouth, he watched the university turn to "experts" to define policy and the university's continued turn toward "specialization" of fields. In the past half-century in particular, universities claim they are turning out more "sophisticated", "specialized" "professionals" who will each specialize in one area of society. Sound Marxist to you?

    Robinson, like myself, was uneasy about this while he was in college and after he observed an "expert" like Carter mishandle the economy, the Cold War, and America's foreign policy, he saw the upside to having someone like Reagan, who never claimed to be an expert, but had a sharp and broad knowledge of the things that count.

    On page 133 of his book, Robinson grasps one of the important perspectives he learned from Reagan: "Our history and ideals are accessible to anyone -- that, I realize now, was one of Ronald Reagan's most important insights." Reflecting on the knowledge of American history he thinks everyone can have (and anyone can have), Robinson continues, "The accessibility of the American story -- the way you can almost touch it -- represents a central portion of our inheritance, right along with self-government and the Bill of Rights. Ronald Reagan enabled me to see that."

    Reagan related to the American people because the American people and our history are accessible. Some call Reagan a "populist" in this sense -- a populist is a leader who can relate to the common man. This doesn't mean that Reagan was a "dunce" or that the common American is a dunce. It simply means that there are shared values that most Americans relate to based on our shared history -- and this history is relatively short, yet worth defending, because it is the most important experiment perhaps in human history. Ronald Reagan understood that and he communicated that message effectively to the American people and to those living behind the Iron Curtain.

    As Robinson explains it, it doesn't take an Ivy-League expert to be a great leader, anyone can do it: "You don't have to be an expert to participate in American life. All you have to do is read some history, follow the news -- and think for yourself. You have a head. Use it."

    If only college presidents could communicate that message to the students on their campuses. You don't need to be an expert in a specialized field. You just need to equip yourself to learn, to learn to think, and to learn to think on your own.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    It Takes a Family at CPAC

    Here I am with Senator Rick Santorum, and two of my colleagues from ISI, Caitlin and Colin. The Senator stopped by the ISI booth at CPAC to take a picture with us and his ISI Books title, IT TAKES A FAMILY: CONSERVATISM AND THE COMMON GOOD. Posted by Picasa

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    CPAC 2006

    It was a blast. I came away exhausted after 4 days of being exposed to nothing but conservatism -- well big tent conservatism that is. The libertarians were there to tell us that we should legalize marijuana and other hard drugs. They call the current policy "prohibition." So, they had an open bar. And, I attended. And, they have me almost convinced that their position might be the best way to fight drug abuse and the crime that comes with it. However, I still can't come to the fact of allowing government to "condone" it by legalizing it.

    Then there were the paleo-conservatives, such as George Will (who I'm throwing in that "paleo-con" camp). He opened up the first day of CPAC with a tough talk that told conservatives that they better be alert because the "conservative" majority isn't THAT large of a majority and just because the Left is in shambles, it doesn't mean conservatives are going to succeed. He then talked tough on the interventionist foreign policy and "nation building" adventures that the current Republican administration is pursuing. Without condemning the war in Iraq, he said conservatives need to advocate a "prudent" foreign policy. He used the word "prudent" at least 5 times... in the same sentence. (I think). Anyways, it sounded very Kirkian. As much as I follow Kirk's political thought, I'm still a huge supporter of the adventure we've taken in Iraq because I do think it was prudent, given our national security concerns in the wake of 9/11.

    The best part of CPAC was being a part of ISI. There are over 200 conservative organizations that take part in this event each year and I believe I am part of perhaps the very best one of those. I think every organization and "branch" of the conservative movement has their role. But, I think ISI plays one of the most important roles and stands out as one of the most principled in the movement. While ISI leands more "traditionalist", it's "godfather" is Russell Kirk, and its all about learning ideas, and then helping to put those ideas into action through things like the Collegiate Network and our Campus Lecture Program.

    Another great part of CPAC is all the people I get to meet, particularly the students who come out in force to see what the entire movement is all about, how they can get more involved, and it's a place where they can meet other like-minded conservatives when their campuses seem somewhat desolate places for conservative thought, particularly in the classroom. At CPAC, as "watered down" as the ideas can sometimes get (example: Ann Coulter spouting off how crazy the Left is, and then coming off a bit crazy herself), CPAc is still a nice retreat from the decadent culture and the Leftist ideologies that plague most college campuses.

    I get to meet students I have known for a while, some I have known but get to know better, and still others that I just met for the first time and look forward to working with in the future through the many adventures of ISI.

    John Zmirak, the Editor of the ISI College Guide gave a great talk to the students about the curriculum, the campus culture, and how they should pursue a better education. Luke Sheahan, an ISI Campus Representative and CN Editor at Oregon State University gave a great talk on his experience at OSU, and how he has worked with ISI, CN and other conservative organizations to further the conservative cause on his campus.

    Newt Gingrich closed out the conference with an UNBELIEVABLE speech. I was IMPRESSED. This guy will either make a run for the presidency in 2008 or be standing by the side of the next President and work closely to futher some of the very fresh ideas he advocated - yet they were fresh ideas built on a strong conservative intellectual tradition. Everyone at this conference seemed to quote Reagan, which is never a bad thing and a sign that it is Reagan's ideas that this movement still rallies behind, ideas cultivated long before Reagan ever took office in the White House. But, I think Newt really sounded more "Reaganesque" than anyone else I saw or heard. Limited Government, a strong foreign policy and innovative ideas for social security, school choice, and campaign finance reform were the biggest strong points he touted. And, he certainly made a case that he is all about "Winning the Future" as the title of his new book says.

    I think the conservative movement showed the diversity of ideas it holds just within the movement and the insecurities it feels as it becomes more popular and the government still grows larger. The young conservatives keep getting younger and keep the crowd growing larger. With all these factors, I'm confident this movement will impact this country for many decades to come. The ideas are still fresh and the competition for the best ideas is keeping it alive.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Alito Confirmed: Catholics dominate Supreme Court

    Can you say "Justice Alito"? All confirmed just in time the President's State of the Union address. That's 5 Catholics on the court, 4 of which are conservative. Give me one more. Posted by Picasa