Walter Berns, professor emeritus of government at Georgetown University and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, died Saturday, January 10, 2015, at the age of 95. Commentators have noted that the coincidence of his death with that of Harry Jaffa, a fellow Straussian with whom he often disagreed, evokes the providential timing of the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. For me, however, Mr. Berns — as all his students respectfully called him — was a providential figure for altogether different reasons.
On the morning after Christmas, James B. Edwards passed away. Few Americans under the age of 40—unless they are South Carolinians—had probably ever heard of Jim.
Here’s the official biography: James B. Edwards was President Reagan’s original Secretary of Energy. At the age of 17, in 1944, Jim joined the U.S. Maritime Service to serve his country during World War II. Several years later, while still a Navy Reserve office, he became an oral surgeon.
In the mid-sixties, concerned about the direction of our country, he got involved in politics, first behind the scenes, then serving a term in the South Carolina State Senate. He surprised the experts in 1974 by becoming the first Republican governor of South Carolina since Reconstruction.
Limited to one four-year term by the state constitution, Jim worked to promote the presidential candidacy of Ronald Reagan. After Reagan’s election in 1980, he tapped the oral surgeon from South Carolina to be his Secretary of Energy with the mission of shutting down the Department of Energy.
When I was growing up the draft was an ugly rite of passage for young men. During the 1960s and early 1970s getting a low lottery number could mean death in Vietnam. Nothing seemed likely to change in the midst of the Cold War.
But when I turned 18 in 1975 no “Uncle Sam wants you” notice arrived in the mail. The United States was defending itself as a democratic republic should defend itself: through the voluntary efforts of a free people. America had created the All-Volunteer Force—which, despite a rocky start, quickly became the finest military on the planet.
I hadn’t followed the political battle leading to the AVF, since I had been attending a small high school on a minor U.S. base in Great Britain, a bit out of the loop, so to speak. When I returned to America I didn’t know who to thank for the freedom to choose my future, though I was indeed thankful. But I met the man responsible three years later while attending Stanford Law School.
Last month, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis made some headlines by basically asserting that there is no American dream. It’s a myth. He crunched the numbers, supposedly disproving it. Hmm. My dad used to always say, “Did you ever hear about the statistician who drowned in a river, the average depth of which was 6 inches?”
KOVR-TV interviewed professor Gregory Clark about his findings. He declared: “America has no higher rate of social mobility than medieval England or pre-industrial Sweden.… That’s the most difficult part about talking about social mobility is because it is shattering people’s dreams.”
Yet America has many “rags to riches” stories. The rest of this article is dedicated to one such case.
Leo Raymond was born in a Faribault, Minnesota, farmhouse Sept. 24, 1921. That town is about an hour south of the Twin Cities. He was one of six children — three boys, three girls. The farmhouse didn’t have electricity when he was growing up, nor did it have indoor plumbing.
The Rt. Honorable R.G. Withers, Privy Councillor to the Queen, who has died in Perth, was the major figure in bringing down the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975 and saving Australia from the Whitlam’s “21 Bills” which, if passed, would have destroyed the Australian Constitution and created a statist dictatorship.
Despite his cynical and larrikin image (he was nick-named “The Toe-cutter”) Withers, who during the war had served at sea as a naval coder, was a deeply learned man with a profound knowledge of history.
This helped him see the menace to democracy of Labor’s bills and made him an advocate of impressive power. He went on to become Minister for Administrative Services but his achievement in putting backbone into the opposition to Gough Whitlam’s shambolic socialist government was probably his finest hour.
The voluminous tributes from a leftist media to Whitlam, who died a few days previously, completely failed to mention these bills, which Withers in 1975 roused the Opposition in the Senate to block.
Novelist and life peer P. D. James, since 1991 Baroness James of Holland Park, died peacefully at her Oxford, England home Thursday at 94. It’s fitting that she should leave us on Thanksgiving Day. Readers and friends of civilization everywhere have reason to be thankful for her long, productive, and well-examined life. And thankful for the literary riches she leaves behind.
Lady James’ chief claim to our attention and appreciation is her 18 elegant crime novels that have attracted millions of readers across the world from Cover Her Face in 1962 through Death Comes to Pemberly in 2011. Yes, I chose that adjective carefully. Mrs. James proved that crime fiction can be elegant. Also intelligent, insightful, and humorous. (Please excuse this American for using the civilian form of her name, titles in the U.K. having been greatly debased now that every superannuated rocker has Sir before his name.) Her stories not only make good reading, but good viewing as well. Eight of her novels have been made into television dramas.
Vincent van Gogh is one of the most renowned painters in the history of the world. His paintings are worth tens of millions of dollars. Unfortunately for van Gogh he would never live to see this good fortune. His renown would come only after his death by suicide. The life of van Gogh was one of full of suffering, and his gifts were not sufficient to alleviate that suffering.
It is an axiom of long standing that Jewish blood is cheap. The moral equivalence displayed by President Obama in the wake of a brutal massacre of Jews in prayer — “Too many Jews have died; too many Palestinians have died” — is despicable but not surprising. What possible difference could there be between Jews murdered in a holy place during an act of religious devotion and suicidal homicidal maniacs turning themselves into human bombs to kill women and children?
One might have thought that when those Jews are American citizens their President would accord them respect. But even that hope for change was in vain. Three Americans and an Englishman were killed in the Anglo expat neighborhood of Har Nof in Jerusalem, but clearly that toll did not rank high enough to eclipse the formulaic pap — “Too many Jews have died; too many Palestinians have died.”
This dystopia of myopia is a murky place where decency, compassion, and ethical thinking come to drown. Sadly, we are beyond the point of being rattled by this snakiness.
S. Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A founder, died Monday at age 93. With hard work, discipline, and dedication, he turned a single Atlanta diner into a popular restaurant chain and household name. He rose from poverty to riches.
Cathy opened his first restaurant in 1946, just after returning from serving his country in World War II. Today, Chick-fil-A has nearly 2,000 outlets in 39 states.
All along, the man was faithful to his business, his family, and his God. You would think that his life’s story would elicit nothing but praise. But if you think that, then you don’t live in modern America — that is, today’s fundamentally transformed America.
Cathy, you see, was a devout Christian, a Baptist, as is his son, Dan, who inherited the chain. They’re so faithful to their Biblical precepts that their many restaurants are closed on Sundays. That’s what they believe their Bible commends. The Cathy family has faith-based principles, and sticks to them.
I was saddened to wake up the morning of July 4 and learn that Richard Mellon Scaife, Pittsburgh billionaire, conservative philanthropist extraordinaire, and spearhead of Hillary Clinton’s ominous “vast right-wing conspiracy,” died at age 82. How appropriate that this patriot bid goodbye on July 4. It’s fitting, too, that his death comes within a year of the deaths of his two principal lieutenants at his foundation, Dan McMichael and Dick Larry. Together, these three men established numerous conservative programs, institutions, and even individuals. They made a huge impact.