The influence of his magazine, his name, his style, his ideas on American thought and politics cannot be overestimated. Historians of ideas will debate his influence for decades to come. His PBS television show, "Firing Line," fed a generation of conservatives starved for any media reflection of their views decades before the age of Rush, Focus on the Family and Fox News.
But the influence of William F. Buckley Jr. extends far beyond that. A friend of mine, no conservative, responds warmly whenever Bill Buckley's name comes up. "A young classmate of mine in high school wrote a letter to National Review," he explains. "Can you imagine how proud he was when he received an actual letter from the famous Bill Buckley in reply?" The courtesy of a personal response to a high-school kid -- who knows how many budding citizen-activists in this country have been bucked up by Bill over the years?
I owe a lot to Bill Buckley, and this does not make me anything special: I am just one of scores of thinkers and writers whose careers were launched by a man whose private integrity matches his public image, and whose graciousness and generosity exceed both. My first job out of Yale (as a 26-year-old unwed mother) was as an editorial assistant at National Review. Within two years, I was given the responsibility of editing the article session.
Years later, when I wrote "The Abolition of Marriage," William F. Buckley graciously agreed to read it. What he wrote in response buoyed me then and for years:
"Maggie Gallagher has written a most extraordinary book, the axiom of which is that marriage should really endure. In thinking this, and writing about it so cogently, she affronts (almost literally) one-half of modern Americans. She does this without any trace of condescension or smugness, giving us instead the illumination that comes from hard thought eloquently distilled."
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.