Imagine a university where you could hear some of the best and brightest minds on a regular basis. Your faculty would include generals and attorneys general, public intellectuals and best-selling authors, dissidents and former political prisoners. In your classroom, you could question prime ministers and Nobel Laureates, members of Congress, cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices. Occasionally, the president and vice president would come by to make major policy statements.
And it wouldn’t cost you a penny.
Too good to be true, you scoff. I don’t blame you for being skeptical. But the “university” described above is real. I should know -- I work there. It’s The Heritage Foundation, and for my money, it trumps any Ivy League college for sheer intellectual firepower. As historian Lee Edwards recently noted, in 2006 alone Heritage produced 203 papers that delved deeply into the issues of the day, both foreign and domestic.
A sizable portion of these papers were lectures -- and they deserve special attention. Heritage recently passed a real milestone with the delivery of its 1,000th lecture.
It all began on June 4, 1980 when author Russell Kirk, one of the most notable intellectual heavyweights in conservatism’s history, came to The Heritage Foundation to speak on “The Conservative Movement: Then and Now.” Considering how large a role Heritage has played in conservatism, it was particularly apt. Dr. Kirk offered a cautiously optimistic vision. It takes about 30 years, he said, for ideas “to be expressed, discussed, and at last incorporated into public policy.” It had been about that long since F.A. Hayek and other leading lights of conservatism had produced their seminal works, so the nation was “entering upon a period of conservative policies.”
Bear in mind that at the time Dr. Kirk said this, Ronald Reagan had not yet been formally nominated to run as the Republican candidate for president, and his landslide election over President Carter -- hardly a sure thing -- was months away. Even if Reagan won, Lee Edwards notes, who knew how much he could move the nation’s policies to the right? Well, Dr. Kirk had a good idea how things were moving -- and so, as a result, did anyone who attended his lecture that day. Already, Heritage was establishing a reputation for being ahead of the curve.