tv Paolucci Award Dinner CSPAN October 16, 2016 9:30am-10:16am EDT
people, but there escape was the fact that whiteness needed to reproduce itself to form strongholds so that they could be embraced in that fold to assure that blackness is always at the bottom. there is a need to flatten those identities and demonize, to make invisible blackness the humanity of black people to the minstrel shows, postcards that depict black men being lynched, watermelon and exaggerated features, calling us lazy and all these different things are the work that the humanity of black people, need to be seen in terms of housing during slavery,
owning them as a status and have it be domestic with the measure of one's worth within society and there is always that tension of the actual act of being seen, what we are getting at. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. >> this year's book award presented to bradley -- bradley birzer. he wrote about russell kirk. this is presented annually to a nonfiction book that advances conservative intervals.
>> ladies and gentlemen, if i can get your attention, please. if i can get your attention. thank you. i know some of you have your dessert and encourage you to continue eating. we would like to get the program back on schedule. what i am most humbled by is the team we have been able to assemble over the 5 years i have been president and mentioned nick reed, senior vice president jack nelson, please stand up. [applause]
>> they do a tremendous job day in and day out getting the word out to conservatives on college campuses and having a big impact on all the young people they are able to interact with. another member of the management team is jed donahue. he came to isi after a successful publishing career in washington and new york and when i run into the many authors he has worked closely with, they always come up to me and they are you chris walker from isi? i say yes. they say please tell jed donahue thank you, he has been the greatest editor i ever worked
with. [applause] >> i heard the same thing from our most recent offer larry reed, president of the foundation for economic education, most recent book is real heroes, getting a lot of attention on talk radio and other places and larry is pleased, i encourage you to get several copies, a tremendous book with 40 examples of real heroes whose show courage and integrity to share with college students and share with high school students and middle school students if you have children or grandchildren, a wonderful book, take a look at real heroes. i am also excited about the decision in recent days to publish lee edwards's memoir. very excited to have lee edwards here. [applause] >> and jed working to publish this book and i look forward to
that coming up in coming months and also how isi officers in the room were here for the philadelphia society, john devine is here tonight, ian crowe, sai bunting, matthew pauli, a round of applause to all of them. [applause] >> we publish 200 books in the last 63 years, with isi authors. i am extremely excited because, all the other publications, jeff nelson and others, really the guiding force behind modern age and looked through a process to a new editor of modern age, and
incredibly amazing finalists many of whom would certainly have been at least as good as the wonderful editors we have had over the last 6 years of modern age, excited to tell you we selected peter lawler who many of you know, he is extremely excited to work with the other finalists and we hope to raise a significant amount of money in coming months to relaunch modern age and ensure it returns to russell kirk, the ambition of being the preeminent journal of american conservatism. we hope to do more marketing, decreased circulation and continue to increase the significance, that are included in modern age and jeff will be
leading the charge. and expanding, having dinner like this that we are all able to enjoy, and listen to the 2016 award winner. and the book award recipient. [applause] >> thank you for being here. i run the publications program at isi. i am grateful to the leadership chris has brought for the last few years, and charlie copeland
is the new president. [applause] >> we are here tonight, the book award honors with advances conservative principles. i want to say a quick thank you, russell kirk, american conservative, among 5 excellent finalists. two of those judges are here with us this evening and i want to thank matthew pauli. thank you for the care and effort you and the final judges, very grateful. they recognize it is a masterful
biography, what you will encounter, and exhaustively researched, the strength of this book, share certain things in common with the namesake you can read about in your program, brad is a professor who teaches at hillsdale college. in the best sense of the term, authored several books that found wide readership, from the new york times, the wall street journal, the "national review," a wonderful website imagining the conservative, russell kirk has done a great service of providing insight into
conservatism. brad doesn't -- he writes what he calls the timeless lesson we can draw from his life and writing. i take a similar approach. we ground some people in foundational conservative principles precisely so they are equipped to supply those intervals to the great question of the hour. kirk offers some lessons that are timely today, especially relevant today. at the beginning of this book brad writes in the early 1950s when kirk emerged on the scene conservatism was seen as, quote, black, blue, beaten, adrift. sound familiar? historian bill the clay captured the important message of "russell kirk: american conservative" reviewing brad's book in "national review," wrote the following, given the
confused state of american conservatism, it is high time for a russell kirk revival, bradley birzer's exhaustively researched biography of kurt might provide the catalyst needed to set it in motion. it is fair to say the judges made a fine choice. please accept the 2016 paolucci book award. [applause] >> very, very, nice. so thank you all very much. this is an incredible honor. when i kept getting emails
saying sign up for this dinner, no one is coming, i started getting worried about that and didn't know what was going to happen so this is really nice. my wife deirdre and i actually got up at 6:00 this morning and drove from michigan so we left at 6:40 and got here about 4:38, had messages from winston elliott wondering where i was and i can tell you i met my wife 19 years ago this week, don't know if she remembers that but it was this week 19 years ago and she talked to me in the car for 81/2 hours straight. i had no idea she could do that even after knowing her for 19 years. the stamina was astounding. not sure i could tell you everything she talked about but it was great. thank you so much. i have been involved with isi
1989, first time through campus magazine, and realize chris was the founder of campus magazine but they were stocked up at notre dame and i assume that that point the world was conservative and that we all thought that way but i remember how great it was on campus and the same year, my senior year of college when the wall came down as well and that was the first year i read the conservative mind. it really was an important year for me and so glad i was affiliated with isi this long, spectacular and very humbling in all kinds of ways. i would like to thank a number of people. if i added everybody here, when i originally wrote this i had this convoluted thing how and it
baptized me and not the was emerging on the heretical but getting way too long. i will do a speed reading here, for trusting me with her husband's paper that legacy, a very serious honor in every way and was nothing in those papers that i found the didn't make me a better person and one of the great delights of reading, getting to know him in ways -- thank you very much for that. i want to thank other people as well, and jeff nelson who by the way is extremely mischievous. as i was walking up here he started trying to intimidate me and tell me i was not going to do a good job. it was pretty funny actually. it was not a side of him i knew.
i think my boss back there, jed has been a huge influence, patrick, john woods and instant and my other wife, deirdre. thank you very much. and i want to keep it to 20 minutes, i would like to talk about three things important about russell kirk, 1953-1954, jed quoted from the beginning of the book it was obvious conservatism was in a bad way, probably only existed as the legacy of a few people, albert j knox would be one of the most important figures we know, not only was william buckley, russell kirk as well, isabel
patterson, others who were gone at this point, conservatism didn't have a voice. if you wanted to look for conservatism you would find it in the science-fiction work of ray bradbury more than you would by mainstream publisher. i remember looking initially at how doctor kirk approached the subject of the conservative mind. it is essential to understand his form of conservatism, i talk about this three years ago but if you look at the conservative mind it is essential to understand it is a hagiography. it is a series of disparate persons and understand as persons there are different ideas, they don't look to the human person for perfection but their ideas. one thing doctor kirk did so
well, let's not divide and subdivide like progressives do, and who that person is. and i'll tear down the bad, we can do that very quickly. and put john calhoun next to abraham lincoln, they both have abilities and excellence and they couldn't be equal. excellence can never be equal so kirk saw that and saw in those human persons 29 of them in the conservative mind, he saw elements of dignity and each of them. in many ways -- looking at the conservative mind, did so much
to understand nuanced nature of the human person. i want to give you a quote. kirk wrote this, he could get enough feisty mood which is fun because our image is a stoic personality in many ways but as a young man was full of energy, the most intelligent person in the room but he was humble about this, i love looking at the ideas he gave to his master's thesis, he ran circles around his advisers. he had also written that very quickly. he had written it in the spring of 1941. in the span of six weeks, many
of you trust me about this but looking at doctor kirk's letters, and it wasn't that bad. if you look at the letters it is overwhelming. one of every thousand, i am not exaggerating. bill buckley said this repeatedly. and in the first paragraph, why am i writing about john randolph, no one really knows. it is an act of piety to call him up from the shade. think about what this is. they have thrown in great mythological understanding and
they were rather confused. excuse me? what are you trying to say? that is what he did. he made people better than what they were and there is nothing wrong with that. it is something we can all look over and over again, how easy to tear someone down. what about finding the expert thing, the thing that makes him great? let me give three points that are essential to understand doctor kirk. number one, when we look at his conservatism, he struggled with this. what term do we call it, the title of the conservative mind, is it going to go over and we often forget kirk was a major celebrity from 1953 to 1964. he was a household name in the newspapers, on the radio, on tv, we followed what he was doing. pretty amazing figure. he had no idea.
when he was writing this, it was his master's thesis. who knows what is going to happen? he did it over and over and over again against incredible odds. i would like to point out it is important for all of us as we look at the growing populism in the conservative movement one of the most important things to remember about russell kirk is the human person has dignity, a simple thing but not many people were talking like that in 1953. a very young person at that point, like t.s. eliot, gabriel marcel, what we might think of -- it is not quite the language eisenhower was using and yet that is the language that gave birth to the movement no matter how shattered it might have become afterwards, the languages the human language of dignity.
the uniqueness of each individual person but i would give a second point that i think we too often forget especially those of us who tend to be on the more conservative side of the spectrum. we forget all of conservatism arose as a screen, a cry against mass conformity of the 1950s we talked about things like morays and norms and tradition and we honor our fathers as they honor their fathers and all of that is good but only to the good when we understand credentialed judgment that what we inherited is a dignified thing. if something is given to us by our fathers or grandfathers simply as is, we have the duty to judge it. is it good? is it bad? is it good and can be reformed? this is what every generation has to ask. kirk saw with leftist figures of
his day and age and figures like robert newton that we have to fight against conformity. we cannot allow america to become when mass homogenized tapioca. we have to fight against that. we do that not through a radical individualism but through true individualism or what humanists light kirk might say real personal wisdom, understanding the human person and recognizing each person does bring something different but we forget that and allow the left too often to claim art and originality. that is bogus. they have no art or originality, they haven't for almost a century. we have been the ones, we have t.s. eliot, ray bradbury, russell kirk, name someone that significant on the left. we are the artists, we are the thinkers, we are the ones who hate conformity and we have to remember that.
the growing populism we see in the movement and the divisions we have, we can't this rally behind one school against every other school. kirk said we have to think about who we are probably. we have to defend one another even when we disagree at times, even when the religion is not ours or ideas are not ours there is a necessity in finding that common humanity. if we don't find it it is lost, it is gone. the third thing i would note that i think to me is the essence of kirk, don't want to be too autobiographical about this but as i think about my own professional career and the things edmund burke would have said, russell would have said or kirk would have said grace ultimately. absolutely right about it. i had time in my career to look at a couple figures very deeply. i looked at j.r.r. tolkien
partly because after i got done, what do you want to do? i called jeff nelson, let's run with it. couldn't be here without that but i think about j.r.r. tolkien. i have been getting him since i was 11. i am sure there are aspects i don't understand but i love figuring out who he was and i look at christopher dawson, mind-boggling. there was a time i was in the notre dame library looking at his letters and had to leave, starting to hyperventilate. it sounds crazy but through. there were so many ideas coming off of that and i had a chance to write about the founder charles carol. never totally understood him. there was something about him, his personality, his character. i have been reading russell kirk since 1989. look at the papers. as doctor kirk would say it was like a soul talking to us all.
it was humbling. you realize when you are writing a biography you are holding their legacy, their most intimate thoughts in your hands. how did he deal with people? treated them with dignity. was he quirky? yes. that is one of the things we love about him. he dealt with people with a level of dignity, looked at them and saw who they were. he was in many ways a great race didn't matter, religion didn't matter, you look at a person, doesn't matter if they don't look like you. they have the image of the creator in the. let's find out what that is. it is beautiful. very important for all of us whether we are libertarians or conservatives, one of the things we like, one of the most important things to be a good libertarian is make sure you don't judge too much about the future. one of the greatest things about
freedom, you don't know what tomorrow will bring. we like uncertainty in a weird way and that is important. it wasn't just adam smith or edmund burke. we see it with kirk. it is order, liberty and justice. all those things have to go together. there is no justice without the right to choose what we believe is good and true in people. there are no virtues, kirk understood that. it is not liberty, not order, not just us but all of these things have to come together. let me end with one thing we a few years ago, thanks to annette we were able to republish this great book, kirk's third book, his answer to his critics from the conservative mind. a book he wrote which he called appropriate for conservatives.
no program, there is no program. we like a little bit of chaos and disorder at some intellectual level but he later changed it because the term was lost, a lot of people, he called it progress. i want to read to you, not too long, i told you about my wife talking earlier. here is what she said. sorry. doctor kirk. at the end of his book process for conservatives, he said the grand question for us is really this, men and women are to live as persons, formed in god's image with the minds and hearts and individuality of spiritual beings or are they to become creatures less then human, herded by the masters, debauched
by the indulgence of every appetite, deprived of the consolation of religion and tradition and sense of continuity drenched in propaganda, the flood of sensual triviality which is supplanting private reason and could have been dead by zeno, clea anthony, could have been said by st. john, saint augustine, thomas moore. this is russell kirk in 1954. as all of us listen to those words in this room, it could be 2016. this is part of conservatism. it is not preserving everything that is old, it is through prudential judgment, what is good, true and beautiful, what can be reformed and what cannot and this is what doctor kirk reminded us of and the interesting thing about kirk is he was not original and yet he was utterly original.
what he told us were timeless things. what he believed was timeless and at the end as he told us one of the principles proliferating variety, one of the principles of conservatism, we believe every individual is individual, we believe that every person is unique. we understand that excellence as he put it, this is the principle of proliferating variety. .. [applause]
>> thank you. [applause] >> brad, that was magnificent. as you can see from a standing ovation and now you can all see why brad do such a popular professor and while he is so popular among isi students and all the audiences he gets in front of. he's also in addition to delivering a beautiful and eloquent short talk, he's actually also on time which is just incredible. which allows us several minutes for questions or if you have some questions, i think matt and jacob will have microphones.
i should've mentioned earlier this is being taped and will appear on c-span. we are very happy to c-span here. we need you to speak into the microphone to make sure questions are captured for c-span. who would like to be the first person to ask a question? don't be shy. we've got a question right over here. >> what would russell kirk say about our current situation? >> thank you for that. my wife told me that would be the first question. [laughter] and it could probably answer that better. it is interesting to go back and look at his voting record. it's clear, where i can find in newspapers, he like norman thomas, i think would be shocking to a lot of us. he loved barry goldwater. that's a whole nother topic and the interesting relationship.
he like other people that we wouldn't necessarily think of, eugene mccarthy, a people -- a couple people have great admiration. he liked reagan. his voting record was personal from what i could tell. he enjoyed, very much enjoyed the lively conversation. at least watching. it wasn't quite his character but he certainly enjoyed it and thought it was important and delight discourse. regardlesregardles s of whatever our politics are today i think you would be pretty shocked. in some ways he would think this is naturally where we would be with the sound bites and yelling in the graphics everywhere. i think you would appreciate having some really good conversation and dialogue. for me, this is something we been doing as much as possible, trying to live up to what he would find. i think it support to get back,
to having series discussion and having long discussions, not just the soundbite things. i think dr. kirk would approve of that. in many ways to ask us to go back to first principles. a lot of what he was said is, this resonates with us 60 some years later. we see these are timeless questions in so many ways. i think he would still be calling us back, first principles i will discussion. there are certain people, and look at certain a radio personality who do that. certain tv personalities who do that. not just because i'm on booktv right now but booktv, this is good stuff. let's haven't our conversation with the author. let's ask questions. things like macneil/lehrer. no matter what the politics itty-bitty in the way they could want another. i think that we are important for dr. kirk. you would have to ask mrs. kirk or maybe lead about where he
would vote this year. i think it would be pretty disciplined with the way politics have gone. not necessarily with the candidates but with the way the candidates are behaving. i think he would be pretty shocked. how's that for a non-political political answer? >> brad, thank you. you said that you started reading dr. kirk in 1989, and i was just one as you're going through his papers, far from the absence of typos in his correspondence, was the biggest surprise that you encountered? >> i don't embarrass mrs. kirk too much. dr. kirk and mrs. kirk got married in 1964, and when did you meet? 1960? 1960. even though russell had many very innocent relationships, they did have a lot of relationships, and i wasn't expecting that come and that's
not a very interesting discussions about dates, going to movies. he used to judge his dates by have responded to certain movies. he was a huge fan, and very interesting. some dates are walking around the liberal arts campus and he would try to see well, what it is potential, welcome his girlfriend, what did she think about the liberal arts. wonderfully nerdy. [laughter] and very innocent. what i would tell a net, i would get embarrassed and say this person and this person and the response was well, i one. [laughter] i hope that was okay. i'm sorry. [applause] but seriously, that was all serious by the way, but his letters are incredible from the very beginning. there was a moment i did get a chance to talk about this a little bit in the book but there was a moment where you can see he became a man. he always had the intellect. it was there from the beginning,
his first essay. he was publishing book reviews in high school in the local papers and so forth. he had been involved in debates and other things and that was important but there was a letter he wrote in 1942 when he had just arrived, he'd been there about a month out in utah after he'd been drafted. he was out at a chemical weapons testing facility and he was an avid hiker and love going out into the desert on his own and challenging himself, how far could he go. what he go. would peak he go. what pete could decline parks where could he go? there was one moment where he got a little off under the camel's back into talked about this in reflections in the gothic my pretty talked about that. a moment, you can see in the letter. his attitude changes and he's not will we would call orthodox christian movie up until about 1953 and not committed into 1964. you can see even when he was mostly an atheist, agnostic stork in 1982.
something happened on that hike. his writing style changes. it's pretty extended to see the depth of the. he was always good but you just see it go so much more poetic level after that hike. it never really goes back. it just grows from there. he's a master prose writer. if you pick up this book, nothing i think, this was the mumbai outside of his fiction, this is his best book. it's not that they're all not good and worthwhile but it was where his writing became something that was truly original and yet very much within the context of american letters i think beautifully so. >> brad, congratulations on winning this distinguished prize. russell kirk wrote a short book called the american cause which i had the opportunity to talk with russell and annette about once a foot and was very important book because it set st out what it is we as americans should all believe and
understand about what makes us exceptional. did you learn some about that in your book and could you comment on that short book of his? >> of course, the most and the best on the book in particular, especially with this edition of it but that book was written for the armed services originally. making deals with the armed services and seeing what they could do in order to get american principles out of special after the korean war. and the facsimile pows, they taken -- accepted it and render challenge, what does it mean to be an american? they had no real answer. the american cause was a response to that. dr. kirk kind into what does it mean to be a small r republican, what does it mean to live in america? it's in that book i think he still exceptional but not in the way we use that now. he talked about the american nation. it would be no different than a
mission anyone of us have individually. essentially whatever it is we're good at we are supposed to use that for the common good. he thought america in the committee of nations or at least as a republic that we have a certain duty to uphold certain things and i want to be careful about this but i will try to be a cyclist possible as well. off on a people who don't like dr. kirch writings and a lot of people who do like dr. kirch writings thinks he was against natural rights. he was not at all. it's a netbook heat stress is so clearly what a natural right is and what it isn't. his objection was not cannot do right. it was to the idea that we as humans could do except to what a natural right was and what it was not. he had no problem with the concept. teachers was fearful of declarations of these rights for those rights. it's a federalist argument in the way you look at this but that's anyways a great book simply because kurt is linked out in ways he never does in any
other book. his political views as bush would need to live in a republic. one of the best, and you speak to do so much better than i could but one of the best chapters in that is a book on what is a republic which was published by national review in its early days and was issued as a pamphlet to a women's organizations. his definition of what a republic is, he's a little more economic than i think we would see in a later kirk. much more concerned with a role of free enterprise and economic. he's always in favor. an applicant does but other than that that's a beautiful book the meaning of a republic. have a look at that. >> brad, thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to dr. kirk, and what attribute to you that you're able to pull this off. i've always said that bradley birzer's book on russell kirk was the breakout book on this great seminal thinker, so thank
you for your gift to all of us. my question is, you were steep in the literature, the archives, and you other early in your remarks to how it changed you. could you please share with us a particular poignant story about this changed your life, to work in the kirk archive? >> there are a lot of things but i think it was really his charity that just hit me so hard. and again that's comparing i think tolkien was actually charitable. i think, he was so harassed at times but many of his colleagues it was hard for them. he was running around. charles carroll was charitable in a very kind of old stuffy, aristocratic way. i think that certainly christopher dawson, suffer from severe depression, he was charitable i think within limits of his personality. there was something in kirk and think part of it was the fact he
always lived life exactly what -- acyclic we thought it was. whether we agree or not he did live as he preached. that's their come in his letters. i may you and i talked about this personally but his letters prior to, going to bring this up, before they met, i can just as kirk was giving money, money was coming in from the conservative mind and the money was coming in from his fiction much better than his politics actually. when the money was coming in from his fiction we have peopl, hungarian immigrant who are writing them, people that you all know. i won't mention names but said i've arrived on american soil, i have nothing. i read your conservative mind, and kirk would put a lot of money in an envelope and send it off. i would guess he probably, i'm sorry, and that, you could speak to this, what i know, doesn't look like use of the best money manager in the world. that was incredible.
partly i tell the story or i tried to at the end of the book, and faster with a lot of his charity, it's going to look absurd and it will shut this off because it's too much. but it's there. it's all there and i never once found any letter from kirk asking for money back. assad people offering back. he wouldn't take it. this was a gift, not a loan. it's a gift. you see that. i am very blessed. doctor jordan, we are very blessed to work with the great economist. one of my closest friends at the college. easier because dr. kirk and mrs. kirk got their family out of former yugoslavia. i know that the kirk daughters would wake up in time for breakfast and you wouldn't know who always going to be eating breakfast with you because how many know showed up. that's incredible. if nothing else, honestly, i hope remember his words but in
the end for me it was his example of how he lived, what he believed. incredible. so thank you. [applause] >> thanks again very much, brad. and brad has graciously agreed even though he just has this tremendous long drive to sit for about an hour and sign books. so we have enough copies i think if you like to purchase copies and have it signed, encourage it to do that. so thank you all for coming and join the rest of your evening. [applause]