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    Thursday, March 22, 2007

    Educating for Liberty University

    Tonight, we held an ISI soiree at Liberty University - yes the Bapitst school founded by Jerry Falwell. An ISI Campus Representative, Nick, who is still a bit new to ISI put the soiree together in less than two weeks and it was very successful. About 30 people showed up, and about 7 of them were faculty.

    I gave a presentation about ISI and tried to talk about the purpose of higher education. Nick and his professor have been trying to get a "Great Books" program off the ground here. Nick is a 26-year old first year student. He spent the past 5 years in the Navy and did some community college, but really wants a "Great Books" education. He wanted to go to St. John's College in Annapolis or Santa Fe, where that exists, but he was called to go to Liberty. He now wants to make it his purpose here to start and lead a Great Books program, where students like himself are immersed in the canon of the Western tradition.

    I think there was a lot of interest at the soiree, for both ISI and the Great Books program. About 15 new members signed up and they gobbled up the sandwiches and the free literature that we provided, including the ISI Student's Guides series, which are themselves a way for students to get their own Great Books education - as we introduce them to the best of what's been thought and said in each field.

    A few of the professors (long time ISI professors) in the Jesse Helms School of Government at Liberty took me by the government department. It's one of the nicest departments on campus, very spacious offices and a really nice "roundtable" for meetings. They also have a timeline on the wall of memorable moments from the life of Jesse Helms.

    Liberty is a good school, but not a great school. These folks all want to make it great. It has the potential, as it has the desire to seek truth through Christ. But, it needs to understand what John Henry Newman preached - that faith and reason compliment each other. For if reason brings us to the truth, then it will surely guide us to the truth of Christ. There's no reason to be afraid of reason - especially if you have such a well-cultivated foundation to think from.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Hangin' with the guys at Hampden-Sydney

    So tonight I had dinner with our ISI Group at Hampden-Sydney College. The school has about 1100 students - all male. It's only one of two all-male colleges in the country (that I know of - the other is Wabash in Indiana). They seem to be very well educated and they brought their faculty advisor along.

    It was a good, fun group and they seem really excited about ISI and the intellectual side of conservatism. Their school is almost all conservative, they say, "except the faculty." Go figure. We had dinner at a local place called Charlie's on the Waterfront in Farmville, VA (about 5 miles from their campus). I never actually did get to see the campus. And come to think of it, I don't thing Charlie's was actually on any waterfront.

    They just hosted a speaker last month, Anthony Esolen, who spoke on Manliness, but I think the group, which has been around for less than a year, is really just beginning to take its own form. Almost all the guys that showed up were sophomores, the other was a freshman, so they have a lot of time to grow the group and develop it into what they want it to become. You'd think they have a big challenge with a campus that is almost not in need of more conservativism, but in a way, it is. They have the real opportunity to challenge the faculty and show the rest of the campus what it means to be not just a conservative, but an intellectual one. They're off to a great start and are very motivated. I look forward to seeing some of them at the ISI conference in Charlottesville this Saturday.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Scenes from Virginia Tech

    Today, I took a really scenice drive down from Lexington, VA to Blacksburg, VA. Half way down or so, I stopped in Roanoke and ate lunch in the historic central market. Neat little town. I had a meatloaf sandwich and some fries topped with cajun flavoring. Good stuff. Bill Kauffman would be proud. I ate local and enjoyed it. Although I can't remember the name of the place. oh well. maybe that's a good thing. If it was Starbuck's or McDonald's, I'd remember right?

    Then, I got down to the campus of Virginia Tech. Let me reiterate how beautiful the drive down was - mountains, pastures, cows grazing in them, just beautiful. Almost something from a movie. And the roads just seemed to glide through them with ease. No traffic, no buildings. Just God's country. It may have been one of the most scenic drives I've taken and I can't imagine when spring is really blooming or when the fall leaves are changing colors how this must look.

    Well... the campus of Virginia Tech is very pretty as well. I took a 2-3 mile run around it this afternoon. I'm staying at "The Inn at Virginia Tech" which is right on campus and is a great place. Very accessible, affordable, and comfortable.

    Tonight, I met up with 8 students from VA Tech. Only 2 of them were members before the meeting - the rest didn't really know much about ISI before. But, now they do and now they're members. I was a bit nervous about this visit down here for the past week as we were going to attempt an ISI soiree, but we couldn't get a room secured and I wasn't sure what the turnout was going to be tonight. But, to my surprise, the turnout was great and the students were very enthusiastic and bright. Sometimes ISI is hard to explain or to understand, but they seemed to really get it.

    One student, who is an ISI Campus Representative and only a sophomore, might just start a group and he wants to keep it separate in focus from the College Republicans (of which he is not a part). 5 of the students that came are a part of the CR's here, but they also seemed to be very open to the idea of an ISI chapter and keeping it distinct. Before this visit, ISI had very little presence at VA Tech, but I am hopeful that some of the students I met with tonight are going to change that. Sometimes days will turn around on you unexpectedly - and sometimes in a good way. This was certainly one of those days.

    I wasn't expecting the good turnout and the enthusiastic spirit among them. I also wasn't expecting such a scenic drive (even though I sort of was, but it was much more than I had hoped for!) Days like this confirm for me that there is a God. He is the one that brings people together, puts purpose in our lives, and provides so much natural beauty for us to enjoy. He gives us joy - and that is something that can't be appreciated enough.

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    ISI soiree at Washington & Lee

    Tonight, we held an ISI soiree at Washington & Lee University. Three ISI professors put it together! Two of them collaborated on a lecture during the soiree on the subject "The Politics of the Great Books." It was fascinating.

    One professor, Eduardo Velasquez (and ISI author of a forthcoming title, The Consumer's Guide to the Apocalypse) claimed he was "a liberal with something to conserve." He urged the students to take up a study in the great books, in a broad liberal arts education because what we ultimately have to preserve is liberty, but that liberty is something that has to be learned. As "the governed" we are told we "consent" to the government - but we really weren't asked for our consent. Rather, we learn how to work within the system of government that was passed on to us - or we emigrate (if we can).

    Professor Lucas Morel compared the view of education by two prominent African-Americans, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. Washington has expressed a more utilitarian view of education at the turn of the twentieth century, mostly the education for survival (training). DuBois on other hand said something like, the university is not a place to make men into carpenters, but rather carpenters into men. Morel stressed the importance of diving into the great books and getting involved with ISI for these reasons - to form oneself. Velasquez agreed but more in terms of how to liberate oneself through books and ideas.

    About 20 students attended and there was a lot of enthusiasm for ISI and the great books. A few of the students there were also from the Spectator, the Collegiate Network publication here. They seem to be doing good work but just need to publish more frequently. Most of the students on campus, they say, are conservative, so it's tough to get people writing about issues (not enough liberal bias to write about I guess). But, they have a great group of professors that are dedicated to the cause of preserving liberty through education. It sounds like a great school to go to... and it is an absolutely beautiful campus here in Lexington, VA.

    Saturday, March 10, 2007

    My CPAC panel on C-SPAN 3

    On Saturday, March 3rd, I appeared on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which as I noted in my last blog is the largest annual gathering of self-described conservatives in the country.

    The panel was called "Storming the Last Bastian of Liberalism" (in reference to the univeristies). I was the moderator and my fellow panelists included Ron Robinson, President of Young America's Foundation; Morton Blackwell, founder and President of The Leadership Institute; Elizabeth Kantor, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature; and Professor Mike Adams, of UNC-Wilmington and a regular columnist for

    On Monday, March 5th, the panel was aired on C-SPAN 3. You can check it out here:

    The panel lasted about 45 minutes, and I speak during the first 5 minutes and a little bit during the Q&A at the end, but C-SPAN cut off part of the Q&A.

    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    CPAC: Conservative Poltical Action Circus

    Another CPAC. This was my fourth year in a row attending CPAC, and third year in a row while working for ISI. Each year, ISI is a co-sponsor of CPAC. Yes, we are part of what has become a "circus" of conservative activits and a number of looney toons mixed in. Very few intellectuals are represented at CPAC these days.

    The ACU touted this CPAC as the "most successful ever" based mostly on the numbers. Over 6,000 people attended this year's conference. But as I remind students, numbers aren't everything. In fact, David Keene reminded us that at the first CPAC in the 1970s, when Ronald Reagan spoke, only 125 people were there. I bet the discussion was much more elevated.

    This year, the high turnout is likely the result of all the GOP Presidential hopefuls speaking - all but John McCain. He claimed he didn't need to be there, that his conservative credentials are unquestionable. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney made it known that he needed to be there - to try to persuade the conservative movement that he is conservative. Well, some people are drinking the kool-aid. And Rudy Giuliani basically stated he didn't agree with many conservatives on some of the core issues (life, family, marriage, guns), but that they should elect him because he knows that it takes to defend this country against Islamic fascists.

    I have to give a shout out to some real conservatives that showed up: Sam Brownback, who made a very impressive showing in the CPAC Straw Poll and now appears to be gaining some steam. There were also Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, James Gilmore, and Mike Huckabee. As far as I can tell, these are mostly men of principle and their conservative credentials, unlike some of the "top tier" candidates are unquestionable. But we'll see if the activist base will go back to the base or keep drinking the "I am so scared of Hillary I'll vote for anyone that will win" kool-aid.

    And then, there is Ann Coulter. Why does she still get standing-room, line-out the door crowds? She's a nut. And she blew it again. Late last year she said that certain widows of 9/11 were "enjoying" their husbands deaths too much, this time she called a former Senator and current Presidential candidate a "faggot." Yes, this movement has stooped to name-calling.

    Where are the Kirk's, Hayek's, Weaver's, Meyer's, or even Reagan? This movement needs to return to a more elevated level of dialogue and still be able to communicate with the average American. Well, ISI tried to elevate some discussion at CPAC and one student told me afterwards, "ISI seems to be the only group that cares about the intellectual (and not just political) life of the movement."

    On Friday at 4pm, at the precise time Ann Coulter was speaking in the Regency Ballroom at the Omni Shoreham, ISI held a "State of Campus Conservatism" lecture by the Senior Editor of ISI Books, Dan McCarthy. While the "barbarians" outside the gates (or rather door) were screaming at the top of their lungs, "We Love Mitt! We Love Mitt," McCarthy's point about being more concerned with the intellectual rather than the political side of the movement was hitting home with the 70 students that attended.

    On Saturday morning at 10am, about 50 students came to a session of "Conservatism 101" with Mark Henrie, in which he described the history of the intellectual conservatism. He broke down the differences between traditionalists, libertarians, anti-communists, and neo-conservatives and talked about how "anti-communism" was the "glue" that held the different factions of the conservative movement together. He also talked about how different it is to fight against communism than it is to fight against a terrorism fueled by Islamic fascism. Communism is of the Left, Islam is of the Right.

    On Saturday at 1pm, I was on a CPAC panel called "Storming the Last Bastion of Liberalism." I'll blog about that on its own in my next entry. And the last act of the day was Newt Gingrich. He was incredible and the crowd was so electric during his speech. Despite his personal flaws, this man could and should be President. He's a intellectual conservative that can communicate ideas effectively.

    While there were some hopeful things at this year's CPAC, it all just seemed to be one big circus that housed self-described conservatives inside. If the movement doesn't get itself together, it will either cease to be or cease to be of any relevance.