Russell Kirk (1918–1994) was one of the twentieth century’s foremost men of letters and one of the principal founders of the modern conservative movement. In fact, he gave the movement its name with his landmark book The Conservative Mind (1953). Dr. Kirk wrote more than thirty books, including The Roots of American Order, The American Cause, Eliot and His Age, and The Politics of Prudence. He also founded the conservative quarterlies Modern Age and the University Bookman. Over the course of more than four decades, Dr. Kirk limned a conservative vision based on tradition, order, the moral imagination, and the “permanent things.” That vision has influenced generations of conservatives—not least Ronald Reagan, who awarded Dr. Kirk the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1989.
Liberal education is intended to help us understand what it is to be fully human, and to order the human soul.
To protect the principles you hold dear, you must be able to defend the good things intelligently. Are you studying enough?
The principal cause of some people’s revolutionary mood is the decay of community—the decadence of academic community, and the decadence of urban community. In the phrase of Miss Hannah Arendt, “The rootless are always violent.” Until community is restored, certain students and considerable elements of our urban population will continue to detest the existing order. The university is not a prison or a fortress, but a community of scholars—and not a community of one generation only. If you would reform it, understand its past greatness and its surviving promise—and, to quote Joan Baez (her words in the first turbulence at Berkeley), “Do it with love.” . . .