27 February 2008

William F. Buckley Jr., RIP

William F. Buckley Jr., father of modern conservatism and another of our heroes, passed away today. We cannot do justice to Mr. Buckley's personal history and accomplishments. Our personal experience with Mr. Buckley through the written word and ideas will have to suffice.

Our first encounter with Mr. Buckley was through one of his spy novels. We can't now remember the name of the book, but it was a gift from our dad. We remember thinking that the simple cloak and dagger of Mr. Buckley's books was more entertaining than the superficiality of 007.

We also remember watching or at least being in the room when our father was watching Mr. Buckley on Firing Line, his PBS political debate show. For a long time, he was the only conservative on TV.

We grew up in a largely conservative community, but most of our politically savvy friends and teachers were Democrats. Whether it was on a debate trip or in our senior government class, we were often the only person arguing the conservative side of the debate. Looking for good material, we remember coming across a series of articles by Mr. Buckley. He and they were smart, understandable, and conservative (not Republican).

As a freshman at BYU, one of the first books we bought at the bookstore fall sale was The Right Word, by William F. Buckley Jr. We didn't actually read the book until after returning home from a 2-year church mission, but this book taught us a love for the English language. From it we learned a love of words and crafting of coherent sentences (yes, we leave something to be desired).

This November, we will have been subscribed to William F. Buckley's magazine, National Review, for four years. Mr. Buckley's sections "Notes & Asides" and "On The Right" have always been our favorite reads. His intellectual and principled approach deeply affected our approach to politics.

Mr. Buckley formed the foundation of modern conservatism. It's a lot healthier now than it was when he got his start with God and Man at Yale over 50 years ago. We and other conservatives may not always agree with Mr. Buckley, but because of the intellectual heavy lifting he has done for the movement, we must all acknowledge and refer to his conservative political doctrine.

Our final memory of Mr. Buckley is of our shared love--Alta. We happened across an account of Mr. Buckley's annual visits to Alta, Utah for a week of skiing at the center of the skiing universe. We've had a season's pass at Alta for 5 years. We worked in Alta's Alf Engen ski school. For years Mr. Buckley would take his family to ski at Alta. He would often meet another of our political intellectual heroes, Milton Friedman at Alta for a few days of skiing and Alta conviviality (link: scroll to the bottom).

We wish we could have ridden a chairlift with those two. Tomorrow, when we head to Alta, we'll be sure to ski a run or two in memory of both those great men. We feel fortunate to have something in common with Mr. Buckley--we're both conservatives who love Alta.

*UPDATE 3:55pm MST: For a collection of all the best on WFB, check out The Corner at National Review Online.

**UPDATE 10:48pm MST: A further collection of NRO reader-responses to WFB's passing.

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