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My Dinner with William F. Buckley, Jr.

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

William F. Buckley, Jr. died last week at his home in Connecticut. He was 82.

Known as a founder of the modern conservative movement, Buckley had a great impact on many people over the years, both through his books, articles, National Review magazine and Firing Line television show that ran for 33 years, the longest-running public affairs show in TV history with a single host.

I first read him in high school and clearly remember his suggestion that if a person were to be truly effective arguing his case for any position, he must know the issue well enough that he could take the other side in a debate – and win!

I also clearly remember his shortest magazine editorial. After Barry Goldwater lost the presidential election in 1964, Buckley wrote simply: Aargh.

I met Bill Buckley only once, when a group I belonged to invited him to speak at Oregon State University in 1968. Just before he arrived for his talk, news broke that North Korea had captured a U.S. naval vessel, the USS Pueblo. I was the one who broke the news to Buckley over dinner. It’s not often one can tell someone like Bill Buckley news that he doesn’t already know.

Buckley called himself a libertarian journalist, although his philosophy was more traditional conservative than libertarian. Nevertheless, Bill Buckley will be long remembered by those who knew him, and those who heard or read him. He influenced generations of Americans to think and engage in the battle of ideas. He will be missed.

Steve Buckstein is founder, Senior Policy Analyst and Director of the Oregon Economic Opportunity Project at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market think tank.

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