Long road trip this week, which is why my dispatches have been light. But much to recount. Perhaps a few of you have tuned in to the some of the installments of CNN’s documentary series on The Sixties or The Seventies. They employ a unique style: rather than have an omniscient Ken Burns-style narrator, they let interview subjects tell the story and stitch it together over video footage and images. Tom Hanks is the executive producer. I’ve enjoyed a few of the episodes I have watched. In any case, the next installment on The Eighties is currently in production, and on Tuesday I was interviewed in Los Angeles for two and a half hours about Ronaldus Magnus. The final product won’t be aired until March of next year, and we’ll just have to see how it turns out.
On Wednesday I got to reprise my annual duties as master of ceremonies for the Pacific Research Institute’s annual dinner in San Francisco, and host to this year’s honored speaker, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I knew Ayann some when we were both in Washington a few years ago, and it was great to catch up with her and talk about her new book Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. Ayaan still faces active death threats, and the event had heavy security.
Here are a couple of observations I offered in my introduction:
In thinking about how to introduce our honored guest this evening, I could do no better than to run back to Aristotle’s discussion of courage in the Nicomachean Ethics. For I can think of few people who embody courage, and its associated virtues, more fully than Ayaan Hirsi Ali. . .
The courageous person, Aristotle teaches us, sets off purpose against fear, and thereby becomes noble as well as brave. Unlike others I won’t name who, facing Islamist death threats, retreated from public view, Ayaan stepped up to say: The truth must be told. Unpleasant facts must be faced. Serious things need to be done. . .
A Power Line reader who operates the pseudonymous blog Bookworm Room offers a more copious account of the complete content.
After hopping the red eye to New York immediately afterward, I’ve spent the last three days at Yale, leading a series of student seminars hosted by the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale. (If you’re a Yale alum, or just like to help stir up useful mischief at elite campuses, you should make a tax-deductible donation.) The participating students were terrific, and several of them were curious liberals, which made for terrific discussion and argument. The Buckley Program is housed in an old house on Whitney Street that was once owned by William Howard Taft, which seems appropriate.
Two typical politically correct controversies are ongoing at Yale at the moment. (Or at least two that I talked about with people. I’m sure there are more.) First, there is the move to strip Calhoun College of its name, because Calhoun (Yale class of 1804) was a supporter of slavery. We’ll have to see how this unfolds.
Secondly, each of the sub-colleges at Yale have a resident “master.” Well, guess what word the forces of sensitivity want changed? Apparently “master” makes some students feel “unsafe” or something.
This got me to thinking: When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, he scandalized liberals by taking down Thomas Jefferson’s portrait in the White House cabinet room and replacing it with . . . Calvin Coolidge! Was there a Republican from a previous era that enlightened opinion held in lower regard? Liberals and many news media figures were aghast, especially that Reagan would put Coolidge in place of Thomas Jefferson. Surely this was proof, as if further evidence were needed, that the government had been taken over by hopeless reactionaries.
Mark Shields was appalled at the substitution of Coolidge for Jefferson: “Jefferson, it can be said, gave America its citizenship papers. His Declaration of Independence has touched more people, moved more people than all the words of Marx and Mao. . . [D]on’t try and tell me that Calvin Coolidge could ever substitute for Thomas Jefferson. That’s almost a national sacrilege.”
You may have already beaten me to the ironic punchline: with Democrats scurrying as fast as they can to repudiate Thomas Jefferson (we’ve covered the number of Democratic Party events, such as in Connecticut, that have dropped “Jefferson-Jackson” from the name of their traditional annual dinners), if Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton are elected as our next president, they’ll take down Jefferson’s portrait this time.
And speaking of Coolidge, Power Line readers in the vicinity of Manchester, New Hampshire, may want to take in the debate I’ll be participating in at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College on Tuesday evening. The topic is “Coolidge Versus Reagan: Which President Is a Better Model for the GOP Today?” It’s the brainchild of Amity Shlaes to have this intramural debate, and it should be great fun. (Click on the link here for full details. The event is completely free.) I’ll be paired with former NH Governor John Sununu, and Amity will be paired with former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. If you’re not in the area, I’m told C-SPAN is planning to tape the event, and I’ll let you know later when it is rebroadcast.
Finally, last night at dinner at a fine Spanish restaurant in downtown New Haven, someone popped for my very nice bottle of tempranillo. The restaurant was very crowded, and my server wasn’t able to get the name of my generous sponsor, but if it was a Power Line reader, thanks!