Newt Gingrich and George Will on Paul Weyrich

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Dec 18, 2008 11:48 AM
At  recent dinner honoring Paul Weyrich, two of the most moving tributes were given by Newt Gingrich and George Will. They really spoke to who the man was and the degree to which he impacted our politics. Both statements are well worth your time, so I have decided to post the full transcripts here. Please take the time to read them.

Newt Gingrich:

No single person, other than Ronald Reagan, has done more to create the modern Conservative Movement than Paul Weyrich. Paul Weyrich learned in the late ‘60s how the left was operating, what it was doing so effectively, and he methodically and systematically began applying those lessons to create a Conservative Movement which was inconceivable in the early ‘70s.

[# More #] From the Right to Life Movement, to the Free Congress Foundation, to the Heritage Foundation, to a generation of activists, to developing television that was broadcast as the first conservative channel I know of - again and again, Paul Weyrich had the courage, the determination, and the leadership skills for two generations to study under him, to work with him, and to learn from him. Paul’s always been tough. You know, he believes passionately in what he’s doing. He’s worried about America. He believes in the cause of freedom. He believes that all of us are subordinate to God and have an obligation to humble ourselves to learn from the Lord. And Paul doesn’t mind taking folks head-on, no matter who they are - from the President of the United States to the newest intern who happened to walk in the door. But I can tell you from my experiences, going all the way back to 1976, that every time I had a chance to work with Paul Weyrich, I learned something new.

We accomplished a fair amount together. I’m not sure there could have been “Contract With America” without Paul Weyrich’s leadership. There wouldn’t be today a Heritage Foundation. There wouldn’t be today all the various things, that we’ve seen come to fruition, that are modern conservatism. So, Paul, I want you to know, as one of your fans, how much I believe you’ve contributed to America and how much I believe all of us owe you for the kind of freedom that we have and that our children will have because of your hard work, your deep faith, your courage, and your commitment

George Will:

Someone once said that the history of philosophy is nothing but a series of footnotes to Plato. Well, the last 40 years of Washington politics is, in a sense, a series of footnotes to Paul Weyrich. Paul has made the running in our politics, he’s been on the front lines of the culture wars – as well he should be, because he started a number of the skirmishes in those wars – and Paul will be there to finish them. [It] takes a while, but in the end, the good guys usually win in this time – and Paul Weyrich is one of the good guys.

I came to Wahsington in 1970 to work on the staff of a senator of whom I had not heard six months earlier, Gordon Allott of Colorado. The other Colorado senator at the time was Pete Dominick. His press secretary was Brian Lamb. Allott’s press secretary, of course, was Paul Weyrich. We worked together in what is now called the Dirksen Building, and that is interesting to me for two reasons. First, it was Dirksen’s death that caused the Republicans to rearrange their leadership and elect Gordon Allott Chairman of the Policy Committee, but also, Dirksen bore no resemblance whatever to Paul Weyrich. Dirksen once said, “I stick to my principles, and one of my principles is flexibility.” Flexibility is not, I think, in Paul Weyrich’s vocabulary. Paul understood, long before most people did, the truth of this axiom: “the culture of a society, more than the politics of the society, determine the success of that society, and if you’re not careful, the politics of the society will have a deleterious effect on the culture.” 

Paul, I remember very well May 1972 when my first child, John, was born. He was born with Downs Syndrome. He’s now 36 and doing fine. You took me to lunch in the Senate Dining Room and said, “There is a tradition within the Christian religion that says that people like John are as angels in that they do not know sin.” The more I’ve gotten to know John, the more I have come to understand A, your wisdom in saying that, and B, to appreciate your kindness in saying it then. Thank you.