Antonin Scalia on Russell Kirk

The late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a letter to Annette Kirk on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of The Conservative Mind in 2003.

Also see the 2016 tribute to Antonin Scalia in the University Bookman.

In the summer of 2003, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was invited to celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the publication of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind at the White House. Although he was unable to attend, Justice Scalia sent Mrs. Kirk a letter expressing his appreciation for Kirk’s influence on his life and thought. The following is an excerpt from this letter:

Dear Mrs. Kirk:

In paying tribute to Dr. Kirk, I acknowledge my indebtedness to the man who first opened my mind to conservative thought. That occurred when I was in high school, working at a summer job that involved a lot of sitting-and-waiting, during which I read the very book whose publication date is marked today. For many years after that I was nourished by his other books, and by the scholarly journals The University Bookman and Modern Age that he edited. I once enjoyed the pleasure of visiting both of you—in connection, I believe, with a seminar sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute—at your famous Piety Hill home.

No one has had a greater role in the formation of American conservative thought. And no more courteous (indeed, courtly) a gentleman, nor one more devoted to the United States of America, could be imagined. I rejoice in the well deserved honor conferred on him today.

The moral imagination is the principal possession that man does not share with the beasts. It is man’s power to perceive ethical truth, abiding law, in the seeming chaos of many events. Without the moral imagination, man would live merely day to day, or rather moment to moment, as dogs do. It is the strange faculty—inexplicable if men are assumed to have an animal nature only—of discerning greatness, justice, and order, beyond the bars of appetite and self-interest.

Russell Kirk, Enemies of the Permanent Things, 1969

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Highlights

Budziszewski Lecture in Grand Rapids

The Society for Law and Culture is joining with the Christian Legal Society in sponsoring a lecture by J. Budziszewski titled “Natural Law: Why and So What?” The event will be held at Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids, MI, on Thursday, November 2, 2017, beginning at 5:30 p.m. A professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Prof. Budziszewski is an engaging speaker, perceptive social critic, and prolific author on natural law and other topics. Download the event flier for more details and contact information.

Oct 2017

Historical Marker Project

Thank you! In preparation for the upcoming centennial of the birth of Russell Kirk, friends have successfully funded a historical marker for his birthplace of Plymouth, Michigan. We are grateful to all who participated. Here is a video of Annette Kirk and Andrea Kirk Assaf celebrating the end of the campaign. For more details, visit the GoFundMe campaign site. The project is being coordinated by Bart Smith, a former Wilbur Fellow.

Sep 2017

Kirk’s ongoing influence

We recently updated our page tracking people’s responses to the life and thought of Russell Kirk. In 2015, then-Governor Mike Pence noted that he hasn’t “taken a vacation in the last 25 years without a Russell Kirk book under my arm.” Seems like a good idea. (If you have other links to recommend for that page, please contact us.)

Jul 2017