This article originally appeared at FrontPage Magazine, on February 28, 2008.
In November 2005, National Review celebrated William Buckley’s 80th birthday and the magazine’s 50th with a big party in Manhattan. David Horowitz was unable to attend, but sent this birthday greeting to Mr. Buckley –The Editors.
It’s been twenty years since we both went up to Dartmouth to speak in support of the Darthmouth Review students whose battle was an early harbinger of the conservative tide that it is sweeping the campuses today. I recall vividly how you arrived in the evening after a full working day, and spoke for two hours to a thousand Dartmouth youngsters and then hung around until late at night with the Review conservatives whose idol and inspiration you were. In the morning, you flew back to New York with us in that tiny commuter plane where you sat crammed between Peter Collier and me in the narrow back row. While we wiped the cobwebs from our eyes and tried to shake off our travel weariness, you banged out your next day’s column on what must have been one of the early lap tops perched on your knees. The conservative campus movement which has now grown so large, was planted from seeds you more than anyone else sowed a half century ago with your book on Yale and the organization you launched — the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. I also recall the days in the Sixties when you were the only conservative figure known to campus radicals like myself.
Writing inspiriational prose is one thing (and you have always set the standard for the rest of us in this); creating a successful living institution like National Review is quite another — in many ways a far more daunting task. You must be very proud to have created not only the flagship publication of the new conservative movement fifty years ago, but a magazine that half a century later is still youthful and still a flagship of the conservative movement, which is itself a force now shaping the politics of America and the world.
I remember how a few years ago, during your retirement ceremonies, people wondered whether a magazine so identified with one man, could do without him. But they need not have been concerned. A man who is inspirational but also has the graces of patience and humility can create such an institution, and you did. We are all in your immense debt because you are not only a great intellectual leader but a mensch as well.
I cannot tell you how touched I was that you noticed my absence from the guest list for your 80th birthday party, and that you thought to send a special invitation for me to come. How typically thoughtful and gracious that was. Even though I will be in the Pacific Northwest speaking on another college campus that day and therefore will be unable to attend I will be with you in spirit and you will be in my heart. I know I speak for millions of Americans when I say that you are always with me in spirit, and have been ever since I watched you go to bat for those young Darthmouth kids so many years ago. As you celebrate this milestone birthday, know that that you are a beacon to all of us who are not able to be with you, but who appreciate what you have done for this great country and for each of us individually.
God bless you, and happy birthday,