First Place: Buckley High School Essay Contest

By: Emma Weinheimer

The following essay was the winner of the Buckley Program’s spring semester high school essay contest. The topic was “What can we learn from William F. Buckley, Jr. today?”. 

William F. Buckley, Jr., certainly was a strong, conservative political mind with much to offer to the world. One could meander for hours through his commentaries and learn what he believed about many controversies of today’s world or how he could cleverly refute liberal arguments. From the same readings one can also learn that one can add wit to an argument and still make sense. However, I personally feel that we can learn a lot about gratitude from Mr. Buckley. After perusing his writings for inspiration, I stumbled upon the following quote: “To fail to experience gratitude when walking through the corridors of the Metropolitan Museum, when listening to the music of Bach or Beethoven, when exercising our freedom to speak, or … to give, or withhold, our assent, is to fail to recognize how much we have received from the great wellsprings of human talent and concern that gave us Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, our parents, our friends. We need a rebirth of gratitude for those who have cared for us, living and, mostly, dead. The high moments of our way of life are their gifts to us. We must remember them in our thoughts and in our prayers; and in our deeds.”

When we were young, we learned that “what you say” is “thank you” when we’re given something, even if we don’t particularly care for it. As we grow older, our “thank yous” develop more meaning. Often in speeches, the honored individual takes a moment to acknowledge meaningful people in their lives – parents, friends, fiancé(e)/spouse, team members, and mentors – who helped him/her reach the point where he/she is today. I’ve had the privilege of providing the music at many funerals. Often during the eulogy, the speaker is overcome with emotion when he/she talks about how much the deceased did for him/her. But why do we only give our loved ones thanks in large moments like this? Buckley calls for a “rebirth of gratitude”, a reenergizing of how thankful we are. I believe that this quotation is a call to give thanks for all things, particularly people who have helped us, on a regular basis.

When we love someone – when we genuinely want the best for someone else – of course there are times in which we carry out a grand gesture, such as a husband taking his wife out to dinner “just because”. But how many “little things” that people do for us get overlooked? How often does it not even occur to us to say “thank you” to those who build us up, or built us up in their lifetimes? I’m sure that I couldn’t even come close to counting those times. If we cannot give thanks for the little things, how can we be truly grateful for the big things? Habits, be they good or bad, build up gradually and progressively. If we make everyday gratitude a habit, we can more easily appreciate all the gifts we have been given.

Buckley clearly states that the world has been gifted with such creative minds that have given the world a bit more color, a bit more music, a bit more laughter, and a bit more sage wisdom. Although some people speak to us differently, we all look to some person of the past to give us inspiration for the future. Some of such great minds are G.K. Chesterton and Mother Teresa; yours may be C.S. Lewis and Mozart. Whomever you look to, no matter their era, we have been generously and abundantly blessed with wisdom both from people we knew and people that have been dead for centuries. Wisdom begets wisdom; without the vast amount of knowledge we have today, where on earth would we be today?

What can we learn from Mr. Buckley? To be grateful for all we have been given and to express that gratitude to those who have given so much to us. Let us go out to the world as more generous, more grateful people, inspired by great men like William Buckley, Jr.

Emma Weinheimer is a homeschooled junior in high school.