To commemorate the 50th birthday of the print edition of National Review magazine – or NRODT, the acronym for National Review on Dead Tree – today, many leaders of the new media shared their most cherished memories of the publication that inspired the modern conservative movement.
When I think of National Review, I thank my mother. Like President Reagan, my mother was an FDR Democrat whose discovery of William F. Buckley’s writings changed her life. To my beloved mother and the inestimable Mr. Buckley I owe my love of conservative politics and my love of reading.
Beginning at an early age, I would sit with a Buckley magazine or book in my hands and a dictionary at my side. After my mom would finish reading her latest issue of National Review, the first thing I always did was flip through the pages to find the verses of W. H. von Dreele. Often enigmatic, always wry, his generous use of historical references drove me to the World Book encyclopedia set my parents bought especially for me, not a small investment considering our household budget.
Reagan and Buckley were such momentous influences in my family life that we gave them affectionate nicknames: Uncle Ronnie and Mr. Fbuckley. The latter was coined by Lily Tomlin’s character Ernestine, the snorting telephone operator, on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, an often-raunchy TV variety show in which Reagan and Buckley, as well as Richard Nixon, got to display their self-effacing wit as special guest stars.
Buckley’s more notable and lasting contribution to television was the PBS program Firing Line, which debuted 40 years ago, making him the first conservative multimedia superstar. As the most distinguished intellect America may ever produce, Bill Buckley has also been its most persuasive proponent of civil discourse.
Like its print forerunner, National Review Online is one of my regular favorites but only a small piece of Buckley’s legacy. In truth, all conservatives, all consumers of political writing, all bloggers owe William F. Buckley our respect and gratitude for opening the door and inviting us to his elegant debate.